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Thursday, 24 March 2011

Japan Energy impact

Winds of Change

Will Nuke Phase-Out Make Offshore Farms Attractive?

A station and wind energy plants at the offshore wind energy park Alpha Ventus in the North Sea.
A station and wind energy plants at the offshore wind energy park Alpha Ventus in the North Sea.
Sudden fears about nuclear power are causing Germany's government to hasten efforts toward green energy. An unpublished plan calls for a major boost in support for offshore wind farms, but the plan's financing arrangement would mean that any profits enjoyed by companies and banks would come at consumers' expense.
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In the wake of the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan, Germany's federal government is working on a new plan for increasing energy efficiency and for the use of renewable energies, with a particular focus on offshore wind farms.

According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, under the plan massive turbines will be erected far away from the coastlines, where the wind blows more consistently than it does on land, and where the turbines' enormous rotor blades won't bother the inhabitants. The plan aims to decrease the country's dependence on energy derived from coal and nuclear power plants. But the wind-energy industry has recently gone through some hard times. In 2008, a record number of wind turbines, with a capacity of 11 gigawatts, were installed in Europe. But, after that, a dramatic decline in demand ensued. Investors lost all hope that the industry would see further growth. Although the German Environment Ministry and the wind sector had proclaimed it the energy market of the future, the offshore sector made headlines for technical problems and financial scandals.
Now, suddenly, a gold-rush-like feverishness to support wind energy appears to be taking shape. The accident at Japan's Fukushima I nuclear power plant has triggered an aggressive debate in Germany about phasing-out nuclear energy. Politicians and lobbyists are scrambling to come up with the best plan for rapidly expanding the use of renewable energies.
The federal government hopes to increase the amount of energy coming from renewable sources, as a percentage of all energy generated, from 17 percent to 40 percent, and it foresees most of this increase coming from huge offshore wind farms. By the end of the current decade, government officials hope to have wind turbines on the high seas generating 10,000 megawatts per year -- enough to cover about one-eighth of peak demand in Germany. "Offshore (wind energy) is the technology that runs up against the least political resistance," says Thomas Goppel, a former state environment minister for Bavaria.
A Financial Injection for Wind Energy
Still, the government has to make up for some major failures. In recent years, very little progress has been made with wind farms at sea. "The expansion of offshore wind energy is massively behind schedule," says Hermann Albers, president of the German Wind Energy Association (BWE).
But now those projects that have already been planned are going to be fast-tracked. According to a draft paper outlining the main points of the project made available to SPIEGEL ONLINE, the government is planning the following measures to accomplish this goal:

  • a financing package, including venture capital, from Germany's KfW state development bank,
  • optimized planning of the power lines connecting the deep-sea wind farms with the mainland, and
  • shorter, but therefore higher, feed-in tariffs for the energy fed into the power grid from the wind farms.
None of these measures are new. Germany's ruling coalition only plans to back the list of measures it included in the energy plan it proposed in September 2010. At that time, one element in the plan involved promoting the construction of 10 offshore wind farms with €5 billion ($7.1 billion) in low-interest loans made available from the KfW. Some thought was also given to a unique program for financing special ships that would be crucial for erecting wind farms on the open sea.
There was also already discussion of shorter, and therefore higher, feed-in tariffs for offshore wind energy. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, the government plans to raise the feed-in tariff paid to the operators of offshore wind farms from €0.15 to €0.18 per kilowatt hour (kWh). In return for this higher rate, the subsidy's duration will be pared down from 14 months to nine months. The energy industry, at least, is adamant about this last point.
This would entail the second increase in subsidies for offshore wind energy within just a few years' time. For their electricity, wind farm operators would receive more than three times the going rate for energy on spot markets.
Risky Investments
Those who argue for these increased subsidies believe it will encourage banks to help finance capital-intensive offshore projects. The management consulting firm KPMG estimates that profits for the operators of offshore wind farms would rise from about 7 percent today to up to 12 percent.
But although this would be a boon for investors, it would only mean additional costs for consumers over the long term. The electricity lobby argues that the money companies would get upfront from the higher subsidy rate would leave the total cost to the government and taxpayers unchanged due to its shorter duration. But the money for these wind-energy subsidies comes from surcharges on the utility bills of German households, known as a Renewable Energy Act (EEG) assessment. Since that money would be taken out of consumer pockets and put into company pockets earlier, the latter would reap the benefits of having that capital on hand.
Likewise, the guarantee of higher profits does not reduce the massive risks investors assume in setting up an offshore wind farm. "Building a wind farm often gobbles up more than a billion euros," Albers says. For investors, insecure terms are often the rule. The technology has yet to be proven. In recent years, major electric utility companies, such as E.on, RWE and Vattenfall, and smaller builders of wind-turbine facilities have been forced to suffer a number of setbacks.
One of the major problems for Germany companies trying to set up offshore wind farms is that they have to be located so far from the coastline. In order to protect fragile wetland ecosystems and keep the tourism industry from mounting any protests, the federal government requires a buffer zone of at least 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the shoreline, which is considerably larger than those required by other EU member states. In these regions, the seafloor can lie up to 40 meters (131 feet) below the surface.
Connection Problems
Wind-farm builders are currently erecting towers on the swelling sea that are 150 meters tall and weigh several thousand tons. To do so, they first had to develop ships that could position highly sensitive rotors and nacelles weighing tons with extreme precision while withstanding waves several meters high themselves. Storms and cold weather have often caused the work to be interrupted. Projects such as the Bard I wind farm in the North Sea have seen their estimated finish date pushed back several times.
What's more, the manufacturers of offshore wind farms often have a hard time getting a guarantee that their facility will be connected to the power grid soon after it has been completed. In fact, they are often stuck in a Catch-22 situation: Although operators of the power grid are legally obligated to connect the wind farms, they often won't guarantee a connection until the wind-farm projects have secured their financing. And the banks often want to see a connection guarantee before they agree to extend any financing.
"The government has made an effort to come to grips with this problem," Albers says. "But, so far, with only modest success." For example, although Baltic 1, Germany's first wind farm in the Baltic Sea, was completed in the fall of 2010, it wasn't able to secure a connection to the power grid until January 2011.
Boon for Some, Bust for Others
In the short term, at least, low-interest loans from the KfW and higher subsidies are hardly going to solve these kinds of problems. For this reason, Albers is skeptical about the government's new announcements. "The government is trying to sell the expansion of offshore wind energy as a miracle solution for its nuclear phase-out," he says. "But it is still going to be a few years before the technology can deliver significant amounts of energy. If you want to have a rapid expansion of green energy, it would be more efficient to have new land-based wind farms. There are still several regions that would be suitable for onshore projects, particularly in southern Germany."

Even so, the banks that have often balked at loaning money for offshore wind farms can look forward to an investment boom. Small and medium-sized companies and public utility companies, on the other hand, might be hurting for cash. Such a lack of funding caused the financing plan for Bard I, Germany's largest wind farm, to be put on ice since the summer of 2010. In 2008, consortia made up of more than 100 public utility companies guaranteed HypoVereinsbank, the project's primary lender, that they would take over the costs of the 400-megawatt giant wind farm. Since the summer of 2010, however, a financing decision on the €1.5 billion ($2.13 billion) project has been pushed back several times.
Given recent events in Japan, there are now rumors that HypoVereinsbank might void its current contracts with the public utility companies and sell the Bard project to the highest bidder, now that it suddenly might be attractive again. Boris Palmer, head of the supervisory board of one of the consortia of public utility companies, would neither confirm nor deny the rumors. Instead, he simply says: "We continue to assume that existing contracts will be honored."
Translated from the German by Josh Ward

Friday, 11 March 2011

Game Changer for Carbon Capture

The idea of carbon capture isn't new. But add the word "economical" to the phrase carbon capture and the ears of investors will no doubt perk up.
Click to Enlarge
Photo: Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal
Scott Walton, president of Enovex, holds material that is used in the carbon capture system for coal. Walton and his partners are finalists in the Breakthru competition and the winner will be announced next week.
Building the world's first economical carbon capture system is exactly what Scott Walton and his colleagues are attempting to do. The idea behind carbon capture and storage (the latter is also referred to as sequestration in industry parlance) is to mitigate the effects of fossil fuel emissions by capturing the carbon dioxide from fossil fuel power plants and storing it so that it never enters, and therefore never pollutes, the atmosphere.
A typical coal plant emits one million tons of carbon dioxide every year. Carbon capture technology can remove 90 per cent of the CO2 found in flue gases but the problem with the systems that exist today, Walton says, is that they force coal plants to consume an extraordinary amount of additional fuel just to capture the carbon dioxide. And then there's the issue of cost.
"So if you have a coal plant that's outputting one megawatt of energy," Walton says, "today's systems would force that plant to consume an additional 70 per cent of fuel, on top of what they're using to produce the one megawatt. If you look at it from a cost perspective, it's very intense for coal-plant owners."
In addition, existing systems cost a lot to buy and implement in the first place. Walton estimates they can cost up to 40 per cent of the value of the coal plant as a whole.
"A typical 800 MW plant is roughly $1 billion to build and assemble," he says.
"Carbon capture systems would be an incremental $400 million to buy and install. It's extremely expensive for an operator."
Walton's company, Enovex Corp., plans to change that with the world's first "hybrid membrane-adsorbent system." The system is based on the chemical absorption process, or chemical scrubbers and strippers, and the company is one of six finalists in the New Brunswick Innovation Fund's Breakthru business competition. A winner will be announced March 16.
"Ours is a mechanical-based separation system that uses two unique components: One is a membrane material and the other piece is what's called 'adsorbent' material," Walton explains. "Basically we're developing new materials that have never been built before that separate CO2 from other flat gases. It's an entirely new process and if we're able to hit the target we say we're going to hit, it'll completely change the game for carbon capture."
In the end, he says, the annual cost to coal plants using his system should be less than the taxes those plants pay on their carbon emissions.
Key to the company's success is the fact that governments all over the world are implementing carbon-capture regulations. Coal is the most abundant, albeit dirtiest, source of energy on the planet but it's also the cheapest source, Walton says.
"So there's a lot of hard-pressing variables and yet we don't have an economical carbon-capture system to implement," he says. "Over the next few years, a lot more countries will adopt these regulations and won't have an economical solution. We're hoping by the time the regulations are implemented, we will have proven this system and have an economical solution they can implement.
"There's an extraordinary opportunity to hit this market first and if you look at the target for this, between the U.S., China and India, there's close to 1,500 coal plants. Right now, China's building two to three a week, so it's not like coal is dying away."
Walton, 24, founded the company and later brought in partners Jon Wopling, vice-president of business development, and Srikanth Narayanan, chief technology officer. Narayanan, 35, has a master's in chemical engineering and has worked in plants around the world. Wopling, a 43-year-old U.K. native, has 25 years experience in business development. Walton studied business and went into this after working for Bell and deciding he wanted to be his own boss.
Once they were comfortable with their design, the team approached UNB for some additional expertise. They're now working with two scientists who've commercialized clean-energy technologies in the past.
The company put together initial capital last year, and secured a partnership from a supplier for core material used in their system. And, they've secured a Regina coal plant where they'll test their pilot prototype this year.
Their plan is to prove the system works and then license it. "That's just being realistic in terms of what our management competencies are. We're very small and these projects can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. We want to become a company that commercializes clean-energy technologies.
"For us, the excitement would be commercializing the technologies, maintaining a small size and working with different university labs to extract technologies and take them to market."

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Is Space Solar Power a game changer for New Energy

  • Unlike oil, gas, ethanol, and coal plants, space solar power does not emit greenhouse gases.
  • Unlike coal and nuclear plants, space solar power does not compete for or depend upon increasingly scarce fresh water resources.
  • Unlike bio-ethanol or bio-diesel, space solar power does not compete for increasingly valuable farm land or depend on natural-gas-derived fertilizer. Food can continue to be a major export instead of a fuel provider.
  • Unlike nuclear power plants, space solar power will not produce hazardous waste, which needs to be stored and guarded for hundreds of years.
  • Unlike terrestrial solar and wind power plants, space solar power is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in huge quantities. It works regardless of cloud cover, daylight, or wind speed.
  • Unlike nuclear power plants, space solar power does not provide easy targets for terrorists.
  • Unlike coal and nuclear fuels, space solar power does not require environmentally problematic mining operations.
  • Space solar power will provide true energy independence for the nations that develop it, eliminating a major source of national competition for limited Earth-based energy resources.
  • Space solar power will not require dependence on unstable or hostile foreign oil providers to meet energy needs, enabling us to expend resources in other ways.
  • Space solar power can be exported to virtually any place in the world, and its energy can be converted for local needs — such as manufacture of methanol for use in places like rural India where there are no electric power grids. Space solar power can also be used for desalination of sea water.
  • Space solar power can take advantage of our current and historic investment in aerospace expertise to expand employment opportunities in solving the difficult problems of energy security and climate change.
  • Space solar power can provide a market large enough to develop the low-cost space transportation system that is required for its deployment. This, in turn, will also bring the resources of the solar system within economic reach.
    Disadvantages of Space Solar Power
    • High development cost. Yes, space solar power development costs will be very large, although much smaller than American military presence in the Persian Gulf or the costs of global warming, climate change, or carbon sequestration. The cost of space solar power development always needs to be compared to the cost of not developing space solar power.
    Requirements for Space Solar Power
    The technologies and infrastructure required to make space solar power feasible include:
    • Low-cost, environmentally-friendly launch vehicles. Current launch vehicles are too expensive, and at high launch rates may pose atmospheric pollution problems of their own. Cheaper, cleaner launch vehicles are needed.
    • Large scale in-orbit construction and operations. To gather massive quantities of energy, solar power satellites must be large, far larger than the International Space Station (ISS), the largest spacecraft built to date. Fortunately, solar power satellites will be simpler than the ISS as they will consist of many identical parts.
    • Power transmission. A relatively small effort is also necessary to assess how to best transmit power from satellites to the Earth’s surface with minimal environmental impact.
    All of these technologies are reasonably near-term and have multiple attractive approaches. However, a great deal of work is needed to bring them to practical fruition.
    In the longer term, with sufficient investments in space infrastructure, space solar power can be built from materials from space. The full environmental benefits of space solar power derive from doing most of the work outside of Earth's biosphere. With materials extraction from the Moon or near-Earth asteroids, and space-based manufacture of components, space solar power would have essentially zero terrestrial environmental impact. Only the energy receivers need be built on Earth.
    Space solar power can completely solve our energy problems long term. The sooner we start and the harder we work, the shorter "long term" will be.


    NSS web pages devoted to SSP
    Other web pages devoted to SSP
    Audio (mostly from The Space Show)
    • Hubert P. Davis, former Manager of the Advanced Systems Office at NASA Johnson Space Center, talks about SSP. August 6, 2010. 86 minutes. [Info] [Program]
    • Peter Sage of Space Energy with sage advice on the business case for SSP. December 8, 2009. 96 minutes. [Info] [Program]
    • Ralph Nansen, author of Sun Power. October 18, 2009. 94 minutes. [Info] [Program]
    • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report on the Space Canada International Symposium on Solar Energy from Space. September 19, 2009. 25 minutes.
    • Darel Preble, Chair of the Space Solar Power Workshop at Georgia Tech. Audio only from forthcoming video. June 11, 2008. 60 minutes. [Info] [Program]
    • Col. M. V. "Coyote" Smith, USAF, Director of the Space Based Solar Power Feasibility Study for the National Security Space Office. June 10, 2008. First 40 minutes of program. [Info] [Program].
    • LtCol. Paul E. Damphousse, USMC, Chief Engineer for the Communications Functional Integration Office of the National Security Space Office. October 19, 2007. 2 hours 10 minutes. [Info] [Program]
    • The Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy Will Pursue Recommendations of New NSSO-Led Study - audio of press conference, October 10, 2007.
    • Col. M. V. "Coyote" Smith, USAF, Director of the Space Based Solar Power Feasibility Study for the National Security Space Office. August 1, 2007. 90 minutes. [Info] [Program].
    • Darel Preble, Chair of the Space Solar Power Workshop at Georgia Tech. March 9, 2007. 2 hours. [Info] [Program]
    • John Mankins, President of the Space Power Association. October 17, 2006. 1 hour 50 minutes. [Info] [Program]

    Global energy requirements are likely to triple by 2060.

    Mankind Has Always Craved Energy

       An insatiable hunger for energy has been mankind's constant companion. Over the course of history, new forms of energy have repeatedly been discovered and applied. But in each case this has had serious consequences for wider human and social development.

    First it was fire. Man learned to tame fire and then to use it. This set him clearly apart from other animals and ushered in a rapid period of development. Numerous sagas and legends surrounding fire have evolved over the course of history. From Greek mythology we know of Prometheus, who played a trick on Zeus. Angered by this deceit, Zeus proceeded to withhold fire from man on earth as a punishment. However, Prometheus lit a torch from the fiery sun chariot of Helios as it sped by, hurried back down to earth and set fire to a pile of wood with his blazing cargo.

    But fire anyway found its way to earth – and most likely it was through a bolt of lightning. Without this provider of heat, our fore-fathers would have remained in the "warm zones" of the Earth and would never have been in a position to migrate northward. Nor would the melting of metal and the firing of clay have been possible.

    Full Steam Ahead

    It was as early as 100 B.C. that the Greek physicist Heron of Alexandria described a form of propulsion which relied on steam as its source of energy. The decisive breakthrough, however, fell to Scottish engineer James Watt, who improved the steam engine design by English inventor Thomas Newcomen and had his own design patented in 1769. Indeed, it was the serial manufacturing of steam engines that marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It was thanks to the use of steam power that locomotives could be built, a development that at a stroke changed the entire nature of human transportation and thereby had a decisive influence on the economy.

    Oil Lubricates the Gears of the Economy

    Crude oil has been one of the most important suppliers of energy to human civilization ever since industrialization. Without the "black gold," things just don't work. The first ever crude oil refinery dates back to 1859, when the American Edwin Drake extracted substantial quantities of oil from the ground via a drilling procedure. When the electric light bulb was introduced, oil initially lost its appeal. But when the automobile was invented, it reannounced itself with a vengeance, as this new form of transportation made gas (for the Americans) or petrol (for the British) a highly sought-after commodity. Ever since, it has been difficult to imagine living without this source of energy. More than a third of the world's energy requirement is met by oil, making it the undisputed number-one energy commodity. Although oil is very practical and easy to use at its final point of consumption, be it for heating or for automotive refueling purposes, transporting it to the end consumer is not unproblematic. This is brought home to us time and again whenever an oil tanker accident makes the headlines.

    The Dark Side of Black Gold

    One of the greatest tanker catastrophes in Europe occurred on December 12, 1999, when the single-hulled tanker Erika, sailing under the Maltese flag with a cargo comprising 30,000 metric tons (33,069 tons) of heavy oil, broke apart in heavy seas just off the coast of Brittany. As a result, 400 kilometers (249 miles) of coastline were polluted and around 75,000 birds perished in the unforgiving oil slick.

    But on April 20, 2010, an event occurred that dwarfed the horror of any tanker accident. The Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded following an uncontrolled oil leakage and sank promptly. The subsequent pollution in the Gulf of Mexico caused by the leaking of oil on the seabed at a depth of 1,500 meters (0.9 miles) led to the worst environmental catastrophe of its type in the US. Following the accident, just under 10 million liters (63,000 barrels) of oil is believed to have spewed out into the sea in the first three months alone.

    Merely One Hour of Global Oil Requirement

    But as colossal as this oil pollution may sound, the oil spill of these first three months would cover precisely one hour of mankind's current global oil requirement. Even though this oil spill dominated the headlines around the world for a long period of time, it would be a great mistake to believe that large amounts of oil are only released into the sea as a result of tanker accidents or spectacular disasters of the Deepwater Horizon type. The oil that leaks out in numerous places around the world due to ramshackle drill heads and leaky pipelines adds up to a quite staggering tonnage.

    A sad chapter in this respect is the history of oil drilling in the Niger delta. For the last 50 years, foreign multinationals have been busy extracting Nigerian oil in this area as it is extremely easy to refine. Experts estimate that approximately two billion liters of oil has so far flowed into the Niger delta as a result. Every year this leads to oil pollution on a par with the Exxon Valdez tanker accident. As a result of this notorious incident back in 1989, in which 40,000 metric tons of oil was released into the sea, 2,000 kilometers of unspoiled regional coastline in Alaska was polluted.

    Driven by Water

    Together with wind power, hydropower is one of the oldest applied forms of energy. Back in antiquity, the Greeks and the Romans used water wheels for the milling of flour. In the Middle Ages, large water wheels made of wood were used to power machinery in mines, smithy workshops, sawmills, grinding factories and cloth-fulling mills. Hydropower also played a crucial role in the development of the first industrial towns of Europe and the US. The first hydropower stations for generating electricity were built in 1880 in Northumberland in the North of England. The techniques used in major hydroelectric power stations today may have been perfected, but conceptually they have changed little, with various types of turbines and generators still used to produce electricity.

    Around a quarter of the world's entire supply of energy is generated through hydropower. Water is, after all, clean and natural. But the hunger for electricity leads to the building of ever-larger reservoirs and ever more productive power stations, which has its costs.

    China's Longest River Dammed

    Although we know far more nowadays about the consequences of major dams, they continue to be built on an ever-larger scale. For example, the Three Gorges Dam in China is one of the largest river dams anywhere in the world. Work on its construction began on December 14, 1994, with a workforce numbering up to 18,000. The project involved the impoundment of the Yangtze river, and the body of the dam was finally completed on May 20, 2006. This resulted in the creation of a reservoir near the three gorges of Qutang, Wuxia, and Xiling. With a total length of 6,380 kilometers, the Yangtze river is the longest river in China and the third-longest in the world. This colossal project has inevitably led to the elimination of entire towns as well as countless villages, farms and factories. In total, just under two million people have to be relocated as part of the project.

    Energy Derived From the Building Blocks of Matter

    Nuclear power stations have played an important role in energy generation since the 1960s. The process of nuclear fission was first discovered in 1938 by the German chemists Otto Hahn und Friedrich Wilhelm Strassmann. The splitting of atoms leads to the release of heat energy that can then be converted into electrical energy by means of turbines and a generator.

    That process typically involves the fission of the radioactive heavy metal uranium, which is stored in the nuclear reactor's fuel rods. One kilogram of uranium is enough to produce 350,000 kWh of electricity. This figure can vary a lot, as it depends on the degree of isotopic enrichment and the efficiency  of the nuclear power station. By contrast, a kilogram of oil releases about 12 kWh and produces about 5 kWh. The proportion of global energy generation accounted for by nuclear power currently amounts to around 16 percent. Germany generates 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power, Switzerland 39 percent.

    Whereas in the early days of atomic energy nuclear power stations were seen as clean, efficient and cost-effective, this confidence was badly rocked by the reactor disaster at Chernobyl on April 26, 1986. Some 600,000 people were exposed to strong radioactive emissions as a result of this accident. The exact number of fatalities is not known even today, but is likely to have reached several thousands. Another major headache for nuclear power stations is the final disposal of the radioactive waste that poses a threat to mankind for almost an eternity. Plutonium-239, for example, has a half-life of 24,110 years – in other words, its radioactive emissions only halve in potency once this period has elapsed.

    Carried by the Wind

    Without the power of wind in a ship's sails, it is likely that the discovery of America would have had to wait a considerable while. Back in the early Middle Ages, people used wind energy to drive windmills, which were mainly used to grind grain. But whereas these windmills were ponderous small towers with cloth sails, today's wind power machines are tall slender masts with three-bladed rotors. These convert wind energy into rotation energy, which is then used to produce electricity via a generator.

    In 2009 alone, new wind power facilities with a total capacity of 37,466 megawatts (MW) were installed around the world, of which 13,000 MW of capacity was installed in China, 9,922 MW in the United States, 2,459 MW in Spain, 1,917 MW in Germany and 1,271 MW in India. By the end of 2009, total installed wind power capacity around the world amounted to more than 150,000 MW.

    World's Energy Appetite Becomes Increasingly Insatiable

    The world's annual energy requirement currently stands at around 107,000 terawatt hours (one terawatt equals one billion watts), a figure that remains very much on the rise. Experts predict that energy consumption is likely to rise to around 160,500 terawatt hours per year by 2030. Global energy needs will once again double to 321,000 terawatt hours per year by 2060. The main drivers of this development are likely to be the emerging markets and developing countries, whose average standard of living will by then have risen to closely match that of Western industrialized nations. According to the latest data released by the International Energy Agency (IEA), China's energy consumption in 2009 actually exceeded that of the US by 4 percent.

    Since the beginning of the industrial era, human society has based the lion's share of its working economy on the use of fossil energy sources. Given the latest state of our knowledge, experts believe that known reserves of crude oil will last for around 40 years, with uranium lasting for 50 years, natural gas for around 60 years and coal for a rather longer 220 years or so.

    Energy Supply on the Brink of Major Changes

    The energy supply situation of mankind stands at a crossroads, and a number of far-reaching changes lie ahead. New discoveries and technological advances will bring about a number of targeted changes. But another likely scenario is that climate change and the dramatic growth in population – together with the corresponding increase in appetite for energy – will force a radical rethink. From today's standpoint, two trends in particular appear to be emerging: on the one hand energy savings and more efficient usage, on the other tapping into alternative energy sources such as solar energy.

    The contribution to global electricity production made by photovoltaics may still be considerably below 1 percent, but its growth trajectory is steep nonetheless. Since 1988, newly installed photovoltaic capacity has increased by an average of 35 percent annually. In 2009 alone, new photovoltaic installations were put in place around the world with a total capacity of some 5,000 MW.

    The fundamental question that arises, however, is whether a continual increase in energy consumption is desirable at all. Because as his energy consumption needs grow ever greater, man is interfering ever more in the workings of global ecosystems.

    Energy Gluttony
    Global energy requirements are likely to triple by 2060. The most ravenous countries of all will be those of the developing world and emerging markets, where standards of living are set to catch up with those of the industrialized nations.

    terawatt hours in 2010

    terawatt hours in 2030

    terawatt hours in 2060