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Marrying energy demand and supply

Roger Harrabin, BBC
“We have moved into a new energy world. The volatility of the global oil price has had a major impact on the world economy at the same time as we are obliged to make major cuts in CO2. It no longer makes sense to have one department responsible for energy demand and another for energy supply.”

This is how a senior UK government insider explained the widely praised decision on Friday to create a new Department for Energy and Climate.

Three factors were in play, the insider said: uncertainty about future energy supplies and prices; the Climate Change Bill becoming legally binding with an expectation that it will point to an 80% CO2 reduction by 2050; and the need to secure an international climate agreement.

“Our only response to the combination of these is to bear down on energy demand,” the source said. “So we have had to bring demand into the same place as supply.”

The new department to be headed by Ed Miliband will bring under the same roof the energy team from Berr (Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) and the climate team from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). The decision was welcomed by organisations from the CBI business group to environmentalists like Friends of the Earth.
(3 October 2008)

Back to the Dark Ages: National Grid raises the spectre of blackouts this winter

Sam Fleming, Daily Mail
Homes could be plunged into darkness this winter as the nation faces the shocking prospect of power cuts.

The warning, following the release of grim industry figures yesterday, will dredge up memories of the last electricity crisis in 1974.

Then, households had to manage with candles, factories were put on short-time and TV broadcasts ended at 10.30pm.

The figures from the National Grid suggest that the country could be crippled by energy shortages when the colder weather bites because there is so little spare capacity.

The loss of only one of our 38 biggest power stations at times of high demand could lead to breaks in supply, bringing factories to a halt and leaving many homes in darkness.

‘We should be very worried – this is reaching national crisis proportions but the response is piecemeal and inadequate,’ said the industry watchdog…
(29 September 2008)

Europe faces the challenges ahead

Kjell Aleklett, Aleklett’s Energy Mix
Why European cities, regions and nations urgently need to convert to local sources of sustainable energy.

The world can be divided into four centres of power; The USA, China, Russia and the EU. Despite economic problems in the USA it is apparent from all statistics that greatest economic power is held by the USA. If we study in detail the underlying factors that contribute to a nation’s economic, political and military strength then we find that the decisive factor is energy. Under the current economic system, where more than 80% of global energy production comes from fossil fuels, access to fossil energy is decisive for a region’s economic strength.

In terms of the total access to fossil fuel reserves in the four power centres there are stark differences between the USA, China, Russia and the EU. Because of its large reserves of coal the USA tops the list followed by Russia, China and the EU. When we consider only oil then Russia leads while the USA, EU and China are forced to import large volumes. This means that three of the four superpowers have a future that is very vulnerable. We in the EU have a large “energy debt” and those that are in debt are not free.

In terms of production of oil and natural gas only Russia is self-sufficient and will continue so as far into the future as we can plan. Chinese production is levelling off and that means that all future increases in consumption must be imported. Discovered volumes of natural gas in China are quite small but production is still increasing. Oil production in the USA is falling and is expected to continue to do so.

Production in Europe’s two largest oil producing nations, Norway and the UK, is sinking like a stone. Total gas production is also declining. Every year the EU becomes more and more dependent on energy imports and our freedom declines. It is this energy trend that is the EU’s greatest challenge and every nation, every city, every village and every person in the EU must understand how serious our situation is and that we must act on this immediately.

When we plan the future we must study how energy is used in our communities and how we, ourselves, use energy in our everyday lives. Since ancient times we make approximately four long journeys per day. As an example we might move to and from our workplace and to and from the shops. Today these movements are much longer than they were 100 years ago and they are performed mainly with the assistance of fossil fuels. We must break this trend.

Our houses are larger than they were 100 years ago and they are now both warmer and cooler than the temperature of the surrounding environment. Here there is great potential for energy savings.

Finally we must examine our food. Rich and poor alike both need to consume approximately the same amount of energy in food. The energy that exists in food is markedly less than the energy that exists in the oil that is needed to produce the food. “We eat oil!” At the Liverpool Management School they have studied the contribution of oil to the cost of production of milk and have concluded that 70% of the cost can be related to the price of oil.

Our calculations show that global oil energy production is about to reach a maximum, Peak Oil. Today we produce around 85 million barrels of oil per day and, in the best case (if high production is good) we can reach 93 million barrels per day around year 2015. In the worst case we are at maximal production just now, i.e. we will be on a production plateau for some years.

Every additional device for production of renewable energy is a step in the right direction. The future needs many steps but today we are gladdened by the steps that are done here at this moment.
(1 October 2008)
Kjell Aleklett is president of ASPO-International and is Professor of Physics at Uppsala University in Sweden. The original post is titlet “Minewater heat in Heerlen” and describes the circumstances in which the talk was given. -BA