Every single person on the planet uses energy to some extent. Those of us in wealthier countries have big power stations connected to our homes and offices by huge electricity networks. Many other people exist with much less infrastructure and some exist with almost nothing at all, but we all need energy to light our homes, cook our food, heat or cool our houses, our hospitals, and our schools. There are several billion people in the developing world that need power even if they don’t yet have it, they still need it to lift themselves out of poverty.
The traditional way of producing energy has been to build big expensive centralised networks connecting everyone to the grid. In parallel we have built transport networks fuelled by petrol and diesel to carry us about our business and along the way we have burnt so much fossil fuel that we have released a vast store of CO2 that has been locked away for the last 300 million years.
But today we are facing several fundamental issues, climate change, air pollution, and rising fuel costs that mean we are having to change the way we generate and consume energy. It won’t have escaped your notice that there has been something of a revolution in energy generation over the last decade. We are seeing increasing numbers of wind and solar farms and solar panels on people’s houses and this revolution has barely begun. Now the next phase of the revolution is unfolding, Energy Storage.
Energy Is Human
Most of us take energy for granted, we flick a switch and the lights come on, the water is heated, the house is warmed or cooled and the fridge and cooker keep us fed and watered. We drive our car, take the train and fly on holiday without ever thinking about how any of this is possible. It is possible because for those of us who can consume energy it is there at the touch of a button.
We take energy for granted and we waste it because it’s too cheap- we don’t value it for what it really is.
For some people energy is expensive. Fuel poverty affects over 2 million people in England. These people still rely on energy but they don’t take it so much for granted.
Globally, over a billion people can’t just press a button or flick a switch. They have no access to energy, they have no light other than the sun unless of course they burn kerosene oil lamps which are a major cause of lung disease and cause all sorts of other illnesses. These not only affects those breathing the fumes but everyone connected to them. It costs their communities and countries dearly.
The real cost of energy is more than the number on the bill or the number at the filling station or the jerry can of diesel or kerosene, the real cost is our environment and our health.
Burning Fossil fuels accounts for 85% of our energy generation
Burning fossil fuels causes atmospheric pollution, it releases Carbon Dioxide as well as a smorgasbord of other chemicals, most of which are not conducive to good health. Diesel emissions are particularly bad as they contain high concentrations of particulates, which irritate the lungs as well as Nitrous Oxides which are carcinogenic.
We get most of our fuel oils from countries who at best don’t pay such close attention to human rights as we would like. Some even use fuel as a geopolitical tool to exert their influence. Cheap oil has underpinned the shape of the world for the last hundred years and has many upsides and many downsides. Today we stand on the brink of a global revolution that will change our world in ways we can only guess at. One thing is clear though: cleantech energy is very different and much like the mobile phone telecoms revolution (we make no apology for repeating the use of the word revolution, it really is appropriate) renewables are already changing the shape of energy strategies in countries all over the world.
If we used less we would be better off in many ways. Not only would it make for a cleaner world, but in fact it will be cheaper to produce energy in this way, cheaper in immediate cost and cheaper over the medium to long term. Overall, cleantech is a more sustainable solution.
Energy is Changing
The old way
- Switch it on, use it, switch it off, maybe. Or more likely just leave it running, wasting energy because either you don’t know, you don’t care or whoever is responsible doesn’t appreciate why they should care. Or maybe you do care but you’re not able to do much about the situation? You don’t know how to solve it so you don’t, you’re stuck doing what you’ve always done.
The new way
- Switch it on, use only what you need, automatically switch it off, question why you needed that much at all, do something about it, switch it on for less time.
- Tell everyone that by getting smarter we all benefit.
- All together a much smarter way of managing energy and you get to effect change that you can build on, because you can do something and you can measure it, you can change attitudes and behaviours.