by Laurence Pernot
We are facing a revolution, a global energy revolution, the third one in our recent history. The first took place in the 19th century, featuring coal and steam; the second flourished during the 20th century and was dominated by oil and electricity. Today, factors of the third revolution are:
- Limited fossil resources;
- Strong economic growth in emerging countries;
- Demographic growth, with 3 billion additional people by 2050; and
- Climate change.
In revolutionary times, you always have the option to choose the right side or the wrong one. As far as the current energy crisis is concerned, choosing the wrong side means giving up. Considering that inertia to make right choice can appear so great when we talk about energy issues that the fight is lost in advance. It often means making the easiest choice, even if it is the worst one.
The right side, for sure, is not so attractive. It involves tackling very tricky problems, such as the future of our transportation habits. We’ll also have to fund R&D programs for power generation, for example on Carbon Capture and Storage, and to pursue R&D on electricity transmission, responsible for large energy losses, and on advanced storage capabilities, to better take advantage of renewable generation. Those solutions are not yet here, and may be years away, and R&D is certainly a key to solving the energy crisis, but it is not enough! And we must act now!
It is often forgotten that the main contributor to CO2 emissions is power generation, not road transportation. In a way, this is good news! While decisions on transportation mainly depend on individual choices that are difficult to influence, power generation is an issue on which we may have control. Only a few people – governments, large companies – have the reins in hands on this matter: when they make the right decisions, the required investments – however huge and long-lasting – solutions should follow.
Making decisions, but which ones? Investing, but in what?
Competitiveness and environmental sustainability for all will require resorting to all possible means: increasing energy efficiency; optimizing the use of energy; promoting R&D in new energy technologies; and developing CO2-free energy sources such as renewables and nuclear energy. And if nuclear energy is certainly not the solution, there is no solution without nuclear energy.