2013 will certainly be an important year for changes in the way we generate, deliver, and use energy. The most important energy initiatives in 2013 will need to curb the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and also address customer needs and concerns. Here are some pivotal developments we hope to see this year.
Energy Policy Changes
Policy changes around the world will be necessary if Earth is going to avoid potentially catastrophic climate change. The IEA’s recent World Energy Outlook projects dismal progress on climate change if radical policies aren’t enacted. This years’ UN climate talks have shown us that world governments, including the United States, are extremely reluctant to take any drastic action on policy that would regulate carbon emissions. President Obama signed energy efficiency legislation into law last week that will require new research and efficiency practices in the industrial sector, but this is only a modest step in the right direction. It will take worldwide cooperation, and phasing out fossil fuels to improve the climate change forecast. If current progress continues at a snail’s pace, the IEA’s “Outlook” predictions will be our future energy crisis.
Sustainable Urban Development
Cities are home to the vast majority of the US population, and the amount of pollution generated from cars, industry and waste will increase as urban populations increase. Globally, a projected 70% of the world population will live in cities by 2050. This unprecedented population density will require more sophisticated urban planning and smarter design. This means using resources such as solar panels, as well as creating more green spaces, energy efficient skyscrapers and transportation options that consume and pollute less than gasoline or diesel engines on the road. Improved public transit, along with bike and pedestrian friendly streets, can help reduce emissions.
Infrastructure all over the US is aging and in need of repair, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the case of our electric grid. Parts of our current electric infrastructure date back almost 100 years. Smart grid technology is part of the solution. Smart meters have the potential to revolutionize the way we manage our power grid by transmitting real-time data and pinpointing the location of problems and outages. Such information would allow service to be restored to affected areas much more quickly. Recent extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy have highlighted the importance of fast response to power outages.
Energy storage technology such as batteries, flywheels and hydrogen fuel cells will be the most important focus in the coming year and beyond. A constant problem with renewables in the past however, has been the intermittent generation of electricity due to natural fluctuations in wind and solar output. Energy storage has the potential to fill the gaps in generation inherent with renewable resources and supply a constant stream of electricity. Energy storage is the missing link that will enable renewable resources to be used to their full potential. This developing technology could mean a future electric grid free of fossil fuels and carbon emissions by 2050.
Without question there are many energy management challenges facing us in the near future. In order to successfully address these issues, all nations, developed and developing, must seriously confront the way energy is used. We have heard a lot of talk in 2012 about climate change and environmental policy, but we have seen very little progress by any country. As the New Year arrives we can hope that governments take initiative to overhaul management of natural resources and greenhouse gas emissions. It will take substantial investment in infrastructure and a separation from the fossil fuel companies that have powered the world for over a century. But, support for renewable energy is increasing, and new technologies are emerging that make renewable resources more practical. With enough government and technological investments, 2013 can be the year that revolutionizes energy worldwide.
Energy Curtailment Specialists, Inc.