“It cannot be done.”
“It’s too expensive.”
“We need more research.”
“It’s not enough.”
These familiar refrains plague any discussion of the possibility of switching from traditional fossil fuel sources to renewable energy alternatives. We’ve all been told that solar and wind do not, and cannot, generate enough power to supplant oil and gas. We’ve all heard how renewable energy is too expensive, needs more R&D, or is just not feasible for large-scale deployment. But many times, these naysayers are focusing on everything that they perceive is “wrong” about renewable energy without seeing what can work or acknowledging that our current energy sources are not sustainable over the long haul.
In fact, we’ve probably paid too much already in terms of life-cycle costs by continuing to depend on fossil fuels for the majority of our power needs. Particularly while the rest of the world—most notably China—are girding their belts, gritting their teeth, and taking the plunge.
According to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute, countries are spending higher and higher portions of their GDP on fossil fuel, while also paying the costs associated with the environmental ramifications of GHG emissions and climate change. The solution, according the report Sustainable Energy Roadmaps: Guiding the Global Shift to Domestic Renewable, is to transition from traditional energy source to clean energy alternatives.
“Communities around the world are demonstrating the possibility of moving toward energy systems that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable,” declares the reports summary.
The report lists the four important steps countries can take to successfully transition from their current power supply to a more sustainable energy source:
* Capitalize on the synergies created by switching to renewable energy or employing energy efficiency protocols: Reducing demand can reduce dependence on fossil fuels and make it easier for renewable energy to supplant oil and gas as a power supply. Additionally, because renewable energy can be generated onsite, less energy is lost to distribution through the grid.
* Combine renewable energy sources and locations: One source at multiple locations (i.e., wind turbines placed in various locales so that each turbine can capitalize on that area’s optimal wind conditions) or multiple sources at one location (i.e., wind, solar, and biomass all working together to supply consistent and reliable energy.
* Employ smarter energy planning decisions: The first step is to analyze current policies in place to determine which are most effective and then fine-tune those policies—or add additional frameworks—to create a long-term vision for sustainable energy.
* Determine both the real life-cycle costs of current energy source and capitalize on financing opportunities: When all long-term economic and societal costs are calculated, fossil fuels are not as inexpensive as they originally appear (in comparison to renewable energy). In addition, subsidies and tax benefits muddle the numbers, putting renewable energy at a disadvantage. The real costs of each energy source need to be determined and highlighted in order to lure investors to finance renewable energy projects.
So what do you think? Is the report’s four-step process too intense for implementation? Could casting a clear eye on current energy policy, absent all political rhetoric and influence, in and of itself lead to a more defined shift away from fossil fuels and towards more sustainable alternatives? And are any of us ready to calculate the real life-cycle costs of our current energy sources and behaviors?
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
April 5th, 2012
for Surface Water Quality (new date added)
Constantly influenced by natural eutrophication, direct human impact, and a changing climate, surface water is a scarce natural resource needing effective protection. Join Shahram (Shane) Missaghi to explore the function and benefits of BMPs in protecting surface water, and examine three key criteria to insure their successful implementation: water, soil, and climate Read more...
April 12th, 2012
Water Auditing 101
Reduce your water waste and cost! Join Troy Aichele, LEED AP (O+M) of Aichele and Associates LLC to explore the key attributes, uses, and efficiency/cost opportunities of water audits. Aichele will lead a discussion of what a water audit includes, who performs the audit, where and when they should and can be performed, and the opportunities that exist in performing a water audit. Join us and gain an understanding of the potential savings possible, rebates available, and how quickly this unobtrusive work can be implemented from audit to installation to optimize your water use and minimize your cost. Read more...
April 18th, - May 25th, 2012
Sediment and Erosion Control
Master Class Series
Join industry expert and bestselling author Jerald S. Fifield, Ph.D., CISEC, CPESC and Tina R. Evans, PE, CISEC for a comprehensive 6-part online master class and workshop series (0.9 CEUs / 9 PDHs) exploring the ins and outs of effective sediment and erosion control plan design and review based on Fifield’s recently released 3rd edition of the bestselling manual Designing and Reviewing Effective Sediment and Erosion Control Plans (included in your Master Class Series package).
April 26 th, 2012
BMP Nutrient Sources and Transformations -
How to Optimize Nutrient Removal in SCMs
Are your Stormwater Control Measures (SCMs) effectively removing nitrogen and phosphorus from runoff? Join Bill Lucas to explore how to select and design SCMs to improve nitrogen and phosphorus retention. After an overview of nitrogen and phosphorous forms, sources, and transformations, Lucas will discuss how nitrogen and phosphorus transformations can be optimized in SCMs; how to select and design SCMs for settings; and how to tailor these programs to meet TMDL requirements more cost effectively.