Humanity has always turned to the sun for its energy needs, directly or indirectly. We started using “current” sunlight with firewood for cooking and heating and wind power – also a form of solar energy – to move our ships.
When we discovered coal, oil and gas – “ancient” sunlight, formed hundreds of millions years ago – we entered a new era. The fossil fuels proved such a powerful energy source that it transformed our global economy at an unprecedented speed.
Today we increasingly realize the finite nature of the fossil fuels, the geopolitical risks and the negative effects on our climate caused by its CO2 emissions. To avoid catastrophic climate change, we must limit global warming to 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. This translates to a remaining carbon budget from 2011 onwards of around 485 billion tons of Carbon (PgC) and implies that around 3/4 of proven global fossil fuel reserves must be kept underground. This will cause significant so called “stranded assets” from an investment perspective.
The development of nuclear fission energy is a dangerous distraction. It involves enormous monetary investments in order to create an energy system dependent on yet another finite resource: uranium. In the process, it both physically (resources) and mentally (sense of urgency) hinders us to transition towards a smaller and truly renewable energy system. It’s safety problems around operations and radio-active waste could be significantly exacerbated when climate disruption induced sea-level rise becomes a reality. The unfolding nuclear disaster in Fukushima should provide a stark warning of this scenario.
Nuclear fusion energy – which aims to mimic the sun by merging atoms – seems to be in a long-lasting development stage and is likely to be too late to provide a solution to the current climate crisis. The good news is we don’t need to mimic the sun on earth since we already have one. To move forward towards a positive future, we mainly need to refocus on harvesting “current” sunlight. And this is very well possible since in just one hour the earth receives as much energy from the sun as humanity uses in an entire year.
The sustainable solutions we look for concentrate on initiatives that save energy, generate renewable energy, create energy independence, stimulate energy cooperation within communities, or showcase technological innovations.
Click here to see our solutions on sustainable energy.
Picture: Community-owned plant on Samsø, Denmark turning solar and biomass energy into district heating