t f
_

Problem 1

Most regions, particularly developing countries are experiencing significant energy demand growth which puts pressure on global fossil fuel consumption.

Problem Dimensions

Introduction

Problem 1 lays the overarching framework for the 10 “Unsolvable” Problems. Improving standards of living is tied to energy demand growth, which is currently satisfied with fossil fuels, thus contributing to environmental degradation. Supplying these needs with renewable energy solves this problem. We decompose this broad framework into the other 9 Problems to show that a multitude of barriers impede this seemingly simple solution.

Demographic Changes

  1. Population growth.
  2. Growing disparity in distribution of wealth within many countries.
  3. Growing middle-class in the advanced developing nations like China and India.
  • Consumer preferences shifting to emulate developed nations.
    • Demand for beef.
    • Markers of social status like luxury cars.

The existing Energy Ecosystem entrenches fossil fuels

Current methods of producing and consuming energy are supported by economic market, social values, policies, lifestyles and institutions.[1]

Economic Welfare

 

Economic wellbeing is very heavily tied to the cost of energy.[2]

  1. Developing nations want the lifestyle of developed nations and their economic growth is driven mostly by fossil fuels.[3]
  2. Growth in energy and depletion of conventional reserves of fossil fuels will drive increases in prices.
  3. Fossil fuels are the cheapest forms of energy in developing nations, especially in regions where large populations that do not even have access to electricity.
  • Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies, $312 billion in 2009 for 25 countries, are distorting price signals.[4]
  • Many of these countries were developing economies.

Environment Degradation

Continued reliance on fossil fuels, especially from unconventional sources, will have greater negative impact and risks to the environment.[5]

Perceptions

Although interruptions to economic growth bring immediate alarm from the media and population, warning calls of “Peak Oil” and “Climate Change” have yet to pierce through the majority view of “Not My Problem Yet.”[6]

  1. Preferences of individuals determine the type of products businesses supply. Public perception in turn influences policy makers who regulate the actions of producers.
  2. Society is increasingly aware of climate change issues, but there is a declining acceptance of the implications.[7]
  3. Developed nations have begun to promote renewable energy and implement energy efficiency programs.
  • The public has yet to fully embrace the urgency of climate change protection.
  • Economic incentives alone are insufficient to alter behaviour.

Policies

Current world policies will lead to 45% growth in energy demand by 2030 and a fossil fuel future. We have the technological ability to meet 75%[8] to 100%[9] of the world’s energy needs with renewable by mid-century, provided the right policies are in place.[10]

Policies signal to all economic agents the commitment of governments to support the transition to renewable energy.

  • For instance, Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) programs for solar energy make it competitive with conventional fuel sources in many regions like Germany.[11]
  • Politicians remain popular by not jeopardizing the lifestyle of their constituents.
  • Political fickleness and regime changes create risk and uncertainty which prevent consumers and producers’ decision making process. E.g. The government of New South Wales, Australia cut the rate for its FIT program.[12]

Lifestyle

Energy, mostly derived from fossil fuels, enable residents of developed nations to maintain their standard of living.

  • Goods and services
  • Transportation
  • Daily activities

Technology

A) Allows fossil fuel suppliers to extract from sources that were previously inaccessible.

  • But this might prolong our dependence on fossil fuels.

B) Improves the efficiency of energy production and consumption.

  • Currently there are many barriers to these initiatives.[13]

C) Facilitates the transition to renewable sources of energy.

  • Currently there are many barriers to these initiatives.[14]

Solutions

Conventional Solutions

Foster the growth of alternative transport technologies.

Predominantly transportation accounts for oil consumption, 60% of global oil, and the price of oil is likely to continue rising from the 130% increase we have experienced over the last 15 months.[15]

Foster the growth of renewable energy technologies.

E.g. Bioenergy has a significant role to play based on views of 164 modelling groups.[16]

Promote energy efficiency measures.

Two-thirds of the world’s abatement of energy-related CO2 emissions will result from improving energy efficiency.[17]

Progressive Solutions

The dimensions of Problem 1 are encompassed in the remaining 9 “Unsolvable” Problems.

Economic Welfare: Problems 3, 4, 7, 8, 10. Environmental Degradation: Problem 2 and implicit in all the problems. Perceptions: Problems 3, 6, 8, 9, 10. Policies: Problems 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10. Technology: Implicit in all problems.

Thus, to solve Problem 1 we must transform our existing Energy Ecosystem by overcoming all of the other 9 Problems. ISES challenges stakeholders to sign the ISES 2011 Pledge

 
Step 1: Read the remaining Problems to gain an understanding of the bigger picture.

Step 2: Choose at least one “Unsolvable” Problem to tackle and sign the ISES 2011 Pledge.

Step 3: Recruit other stakeholders to your cause. The list of 10 “Unsolvable” Problems shows that the competing interests/perspectives between stakeholders constitute a major barrier to a sustainable energy future. Collaboration will be critical to implementing solutions.

 

 

 

  1. [1] Deluchi & Jacobson (2011): http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/DJEnPolicyPt2.pdf
  2. [2] John Walker, President and Chief Executive Officer FortisBC and speaker for the Economic Outlook of Global Energy Markets session at ISES 2011.
  3. [3] Dr. John MacDonald, Co-founder of MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, CEO of Day4 Energy Inc. and speaker for the Renewable Leap Forward session at ISES 2011.
  4. [4] Dr. Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy and Director of the Centre for Energy Research at Massey University, New Zealand and speaker for the Economic Outlook of Global Energy Markets session at ISES 2011.
  5. [5] Expanded in Problem 2.
  6. [6] Dr. Mark Jaccard, Professor at the School of Resource and Environment Management at Simon Fraser University and Keynote Speaker at ISES 2011.
  7. [7] Economic Outlook of Global Energy Markets session at ISES 2011
  8. [8] Dr. Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy and Director of the Centre for Energy Research at Massey University, New Zealand and speaker for the Economic Outlook of Global Energy Markets session at ISES 2011.
  9. [9] Dr. Mark Z. Jacobson, Stanford University Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and speaker for the Renewable Leap Forward session at ISES 2011.
  10. [10] Expanded in Problems 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10.
  11. [11] Dr. José Etcheverry, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and speaker for the German Experience session at ISES 2011.
  12. [12] http://www.smh.com.au/environment/energy-smart/solar-industry-hits-roof-over-plans-to-slash-power-rebate-20110513-1embd.html
  13. [13] Expanded in Problems 8, 9 and 10.
  14. [14] Expanded in Problems 3, 7 and 9.
  15. [15] The Future of Transportation session at ISES 2011.
  16. [16] Dr. Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy and Director of the Centre for Energy Research at Massey University, New Zealand and speaker for the Economic Outlook of Global Energy Markets session at ISES 2011.
  17. [17] Dr. Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy and Director of the Centre for Energy Research at Massey University, New Zealand and speaker for the Economic Outlook of Global Energy Markets session at ISES 2011.

Share

Twitter Facebook Del.icio.us Digg LinkedIn StumbleUpon

Reply