The benefits of alternative energy around the world
Without energy to power devices and machines, society would grind to a painful halt. Whether we are filling our tanks or plugging in our computers for a night in watching Netflix, the distribution of energy resources matters to us all.
But when it comes to sourcing our energy, the status quo cannot continue. This article will look at how governments and businesses will have to act to find a way to replace the fast-depleting stock of fossil fuels.
The end of fossil fuels
Traditionally, the world’s energy demands were met by three big hydrocarbons – oil, coal and gas. But time is running out for these fuels, as they are non-renewable: once they’re gone, they’re gone.
What makes this problem worse is that the demand for energy is rising at the same time as the supply is dropping.
With each passing year there is a new spike in world population statistics, with the number of people in the world growing by 1.1% in 2017 alone. And with many people around the globe becoming richer and more ready to play an active role as a consumer, there is a greater demand for energy to power smartphones, cars and other consumer goods.
There is not enough non-renewable energy to supply the growing number of consumers. Coal, for example, is expected to run out by the 2080s, while natural gas is also non-renewable.
And as oil companies are forced to dig deeper and deeper to extract high-quality energy, many of the world’s oilfields have already reached peak production levels – and it’s becoming less and less economical to dig.
Alternative energy on the rise
Leaders in business, government and science are starting to realize that they need to adapt to create a new energy infrastructure and to prevent the immense social and geopolitical problems associated with resource scarcity.
Solar power, for example, is a hot-button topic receiving a lot of study and attention. Of course, the climate has to be right for solar panels to work – which is one reason there is enthusiastic experimentation with implementing solar systems in regions with high levels of sunshine, like Sub-Saharan Africa.
It’s also believed that solar panels would suit the developing world well for economic and political reasons, as a lower dependence on oil could pose a threat to the dominance of oil industry leaders in many governmental positions.
Other countries have also experimented with solar systems – to great success. The German government, for example, provides subsidies to businesses and homeowners who install solar panels under a system known as the “feed-in tariff”.
Wind technology, too, has been touted as a solution. Power generation from wind farms around the world quadrupled between 2000 and 2006, and it is believed that if current growth levels continue, wind energy will be able to satisfy over 30% of the worldwide demand for energy by the year 2050.
Hydropower, famous for its ability to quickly raise or decrease output smartly based on changing demand, is also commonly used, particularly in China, Canada and Brazil.
Future of alternative energy
Few of the world’s geopolitical concerns are as pressing as the need to secure a strong energy supply.
Without a comprehensive replacement for fossil fuels, there is a risk that supplies of energy will have to be rationed. Access may also become restricted based on factors like wealth, power and class status.
And even as replacements get developed, if they are not cheap or able to be scaled at speed tensions may flare over distribution and access – to the point of riots and war.
It’s clear that the problem is pressing, but scientists are working hard every day to find sustainable solutions. Cold fusion, for example, could provide the answers that the world needs.
Being developed by Italian entrepreneur Andrea Rossi, cold fusion devices create nuclear reactions that occur at room temperature rather than under conditions of extreme heat. That means there is optimism about the design’s potential to churn out huge amounts of energy at a cost much lower than traditional thermonuclear reactors, which makes the devices appealing to governments and financial backers who are conscious of set-up costs and feel determined to keep efficiency levels high.
As fossil fuel use declines and a nervous world looks for more sustainable, cost-effective solutions, it’s reassuring to know that energy production innovation is taking place in laboratories every day. An alternative energy future seems, for the first time, within reach.
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