Renewable Energy and the Energy Transition

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I met a delightful lady over the weekend who happened to work in PR for the government. We spoke very briefly on the issue of fracking and her response annoyed me – mostly because it was partly true. In her mind, the government had too much to think about and the issue of fracking was below the issue of jobs and failing hospitals. Secondly, the people who oppose fracking had not really managed to support the anti-fracking protests with a campaign for alternatives. She’s right in a way and there does need to be stronger lobbying for long term alternative energy solutions that does not involve injecting the earth with potentially damaging chemicals.

Our conversation also irked me because she was unable to see how a strategic long term outlook on energy generation/use could actually help deal with the hospital situation. While chatting to Dr. Emma Neuberg last week as I was trying to work out my PhD proposal, she mentioned the effects that air pollution shortens lives knocking two years of citizens in Bucharest, 6 months in Paris while killing 50,000 UK citizens per year. The pollutions levels in London is about a third of that in Bucharest. There are also a multitude of breathing issues that come from high levels of pollution which in turn puts a lot of strain on hospitals.

The anti-fracking issue is not just about energy but it’s also about health, jobs and having a viable long term strategy. The video below explains that strategy.

A key missing element in this whole debate is that rate of innovation in these new industries. We have only just begun to see the potential and once the issue of storage is solved, there will be another leap in the viability of renewable energy. As an example, an exciting new turbine design by GE has the ability to store energy for later use in batteries which helps to deal with the fluctuating energy demand problem. Coupled with the UK’s vast potential for both onshore and offshore wind, it become rather difficult to understand this obsession with fracking.

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