Energy of the Future
The whole world is faced with a huge dilemma: sustaining our current energy consumption without the effects of climate change. The pursuit of endless growth is inevitable until degrowth policies begin to take their rightful place in our legislation. As a result, we must consider the energy of the future.
As I write this article the UK is currently generating 23.2GW of energy. (last update 2020-12-24 03:35:00 GMT https://gridwatch.co.uk/demand/percent) This is at a time of day with low consumption, this figure would likely be higher if I was writing this at 5 pm. Roughly half of this is renewable and a quarter is nuclear. However, 13% is still being generated from the combined Coal and Gas Turbine plants. This is unacceptable in and of itself. But more importantly, the sheer amount of energy we use is not sustainable. Degrowth must happen, immediately! While I would recommend you do all the usual things, I won’t. The real enemy is corporations that waste energy in pursuit of more profit with no consideration of the environment. Companies like EDF, barely break even on their consumer packages, their money is made from private corporations, who drain power without consideration. Regulations must be tightened, forcing these companies to assess their impact, reduce consumption and invest in eco-friendly research to ‘off-set’ their harms. Without this, we will destroy our planet to the point of no return. Does every feature on a new train or manufacturing plant need to be smart? It doesn’t! They can easily opt for mechanical alternatives but they don’t because that wouldn’t be cost-efficient. Until environmentalists, go to the root of the problem, capitalism and consumer culture, all the eco-friendly bulbs you buy won’t make one iota of difference.
There’s a lot of buzz about renewable energy currently. People are talking about it like it’s currently the solution to our problems, it’s not. Plain and simple. I’m not against renewables, on the contrary, I think they’re brilliant. All newly built houses should be required to have solar panel roof tiles, effectively making that house, largely, energy independent and have electric boilers installed. However, what happens to your solar panels on a particularly dark day? What about your wind turbines on a day when there’s no wind? They simply can’t keep up with current demands, especially corporate demands. The recent government committee proposal for the UK’s energy to be 70% wind is laughable. The figure in of itself is achievable, but not reliable. There has to be a stored material to make it reliable. Renewable energy also has its costs. Solar panels use lots of materials, further depleting the earth’s finite resources. Wind turbines, massacre birds causing untold damage, hydroelectric can destroy natural waterways and so on.
I’m going to take the opportunity in this article to promote nuclear but first a word on renewables. Solar power is my preference, simply because it’s easy to implement and effective. We now have the technology to put it into roof tiles and this would make the majority of houses energy independent for most of the year. This would save vast amounts of energy. As mentioned it does have the negative effect of using more finite resources but the cost is minimal compared to traditional fossil fuel-based energy. While wind turbines currently offer us large amounts of clean energy, they need to be closely monitored for their impacts on bird populations, it’s well known they kill birds, who are a vital part of our ecosystem. Another possible avenue we could take is hydro electrics, as stated above, they can have quite significant effects on natural waterways and wildlife. We should however invest in ways to minimise these effects. It seems perfectly logical to me that we could develop hydroelectric plants that work with the natural environment and not against it, as they often currently do. Energy plants that help protect our environment, not destroy it. These methods of generation all require vast amounts of research and we should be looking for new methods. Reliability through diversity.
Nuclear Energy, given current growth trajectories, is our best option. It’s very low carbon and as a result, eco friendly. Unlike renewables, nuclear energy can meet the huge demands of modern society with reliability. Fear around nuclear is largely overstated, in my opinion, nuclear is incredibly safe. There has only ever been one serious event. The dreaded Chernobyl, which occurred due to known unsafe operation by the USSR. The safety systems and procedures were ignored, to force unsafe conditions as the USSR wanted to prove they could produce large amounts of energy. This is despite warnings from the operators due to political pressure from the USSR. The reactor was shut down and turned on too quickly. Reactors build power, by pulling out rods. Generally, the rods can be pulled no more than a third out of the reactor. At Chernobyl they were entirely pulled out, this then blew the lid off the reactor, which when it landed on the material blew particles in the air. Fukushima wasn’t a nuclear incident, most people that died, died from the tsunami, warnings of insufficient flood barriers for a known coming flood (once 100 years) were ignored and the Government moved people from safe areas into dangerous areas. It wasn’t a nuclear event.
As you can see, the fears around nuclear, are largely overhyped. After each of these events the entire nuclear industry worldwide, also took significant measures to ensure neither happened again. What isn’t mentioned is the many deaths and natural disasters that happen year on year from crude oil shipments. This is ignored, in part, to demonise nuclear energy. It’s ridiculous!
As the energy sector needs to be so heavily regulated, especially nuclear. Nationalisation is the only logical option, take our energy sector out of the hands of global private companies and into the hands of the public. Currently, we have many regulatory bodies in the energy sector deciding what types of generation can be used, how people must generate, dictating safety standards, when people can generate and so on. This all takes huge amounts of taxpayers money, due to the expense of building plants, the government heavily invests, with taxpayers money, due to the lack of profitability of new technologies like nuclear fusion once again the government invests taxpayers money. This is because by itself the energy sector requires very large investments, the private sector isn’t always willing to make and the government has to ensure a constant stream of energy production for the country. As a result, nationalisation is our best bet. We must take our energy production out of global corporations that thirst for constant profits, out of the hands of the ‘Nation Grid’ that is not national and is a globalist company that largely operates in the US with its headquarters in Hong Kong. Yes, our national grid could not be further from national. It’s being profited off of by globalists once again. All of this must be placed in public hands, globalisation of your energy supply is not a good thing. Not only does it encourage corporate greed but as these corporations already have global supply networks, they tap into these markets, rather than supporting our businesses at home. In a nationalised system, we could mandate that where reasonably practical all products must be manufactured and purchased at home. This would boost our home industries and reject the greed that’s become so commonplace in the industry.
The energy of the future is going to be complex and difficult but in the meantime, we need to push for degrowth, investment in clean energy sources and attempt to remove the obscene amounts of globalisation from our energy generation and reclaim our ‘National Grid’ . The future of energy isn’t certain, we must however fight for the future.