I gave the name of “The Sower’s Strategy” or “The Sower’s Way” to the idea that we should use our remaining fossil resources to build the renewable energy infrastructure needed to replace them. The calculations by myself, Sgouridis and Csala show that it can be done: after all, this is what our farmer ancestors did when they saved some of the crops of the current harvest as seed for the next harvest.
For some reason, the idea that we should wisely invest the energy we have, while we still have it, seems to be incomprehensible to some people who maintain that fossil fuels are evil (which is true) and that for this reason anything you can make with fossil energy is evil, too, including renewables (which is not true). So, the penetration of the “Sower’s meme” has been modest, up to now. But from a recent trip of mine to Norway, I noted that the Norwegians put this strategy into practice, even though they probably never heard of the name I gave to it!
Norway, as you surely know, used to be among the largest oil-producing countries in the world, the largest in Europe. The peak was around 2002 and by now production has declined to about half of what it was during the glory days. (data below from Rune Likvern)
The gas production in Norway has not yet peaked but it is plateauing and it is time for the Norwegians to think about a future without oil. So, what did the Norwegian government do? They followed the Sower’s strategy using the revenues from oil sales to build up a more and more energy independent system. (and zero dependence on nuclear energy!)
Right now, Norway produces about 100% of its electrical power from renewable sources, mainly hydroelectric power. About one-third of all vehicles bought today in Norway are electric, a continuously growing fraction, with a total of about 13%. Adding the plug-in hybrid vehicles, we get a grand total of 24% of the circulating vehicles. It seems reasonable that it will be possible to achieve the target of 100% of electric vehicles in Norway by 2025.
The Norwegian system is not yet 100% renewable power as a fraction of the total consumption, it is at present around 60%, but it is already a great result if compared with that of other countries: the UK, with a similar climate as Norway, lags behind with less than 9%. Italy, with all the sun it has, doesn’t do better than about 16%. So, Norway is well placed to be the first developed country in the world to achieve the great transition to a fully renewable energy system.
There remains a lot to do, of course: after having eliminated fossil powered cars, the internal heating of buildings needs to be electrified — it is possible. Then, there is a need to reduce plastic use, not counted as energy consumption but still a product of fossil fuels — also that can be done. Finally, there is the issue of agriculture, right now completely based on fossil fuels. The challenge is difficult, but not impossible. Electric machinery can replace dieselpowered machines in agriculture, while the Norwegians are well placed to develop the manufacturing of fertilizers using electric power, bypassing the cumbersome and polluting Bosch-Haber process (look at the site of N2-Applied, it can be done!).
Surely, you may say, it has been easy for the Norwegians: they have made so much money with selling oil! Not so obvious: think of Saudi Arabia, they made even more money with their oil and do you know what fraction of their energy consumption comes from renewable sources? 0.01% according to the World Bank! Apparently, it is not enough to be rich in order to be wise — but that seems to be part of the way the universe works.
To finish this post, here is me (Ugo Bardi – left in the picture) in Norway, together with Jorgen Randers (right in the picture), one of the authors of the first “Limits to Growth” report of 1972. As you can see, we catastrophists are not sad!