Ages in chaos
There is a lecture on our website that I gave to the members of the Royal Dublin Society on 19th November. It sets out my vision for a sustainable future. In summary we say:
• Electricity demand will have doubled by 2050;
• CO2 will be reduced by 80% from its 1990 level by 2050;
• There will be no more fossil fired power stations built after 2030;
• All private transport will be in pure electric vehicles, probably as early as 2035
• House design will have changed so that all heating will be by solar and geothermal.
Cities will be laid out to facilitate a work-life balance more rational than exists now. Suburbs will have become ex-urbs and people will live closer to where they work.
The principal solution to the world’s energy will be renewable, wind, ocean, solar, geothermal and hydro.
Nuclear has a very limited role to play. We need to recognise that such a vision will not be achieved with the current kit of technologies.
Let me give an example of what we have in mind. The electricity grids which we used to bring power from power station to the customer for the past 100 years are no longer adequate for the new sustainable future. You can move fossils around the world and burn them at will. We must take the renewable energy from where they occur naturally. So we need completely new transmission grids. At the very least it means that current grids need to be extended massively into remote areas and particularly into the sea.
When we go into the sea the grids will have to be in DC as distinct from AC as exists now. This is new technology in so far as it is now necessary to build grids as distinct from merely building point to point connections. A DC grid offshore would have to have the same reliability as the AC one onshore.
There will be massive new costs associated with building these new grids. As with wind energy we will add cost in the short-term so that we can access free basic energy for the entire future.
It is doubtful if the customer will even perceive a short term increase in price. New grids will connect up Europe and movement of cheaper electricity across the grids will help reduce costs to the customer.
The main point is that we can’t meet the target of an 80% reduction in CO2 without a revolution in the way we make and distribute electricity. This age is in chaos but for the plant it is a creative chaos. A large percentage of economic activity on the planet over the coming 30 years will be given to organising our energy for the coming centuries.