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Our life style impacts the environment!

Humanity’s environmental footprint has been deepening rapidly in the past decades placing our generation, and the ones to come, in great environmental risks and ‘ecological debts’ requiring immediate actions.

The uncontrollable exploitation of natural resources in a continuous industrial, technological and structural development that has been proved ‘unsustainable’, have placed great deteriorating pressure to the environment – leading to the depletion of natural resources and deterioration of climatic equilibrium.

The global energy consumption has been increasing dramatically in the past years; the majority of energy requirements of modern civilisations, mainly for the production of electricity and transportation, are primarily sourced from fossil fuels, such as oil and gas. This has lead not just to the depletion of natural resources but also to the erosion of the ecosystem; consumption of fossils increases concentrations of harmful gasses, such as SO2, CH4 and CO2 into the atmosphere which lead to global warming through green-house effect.

In our era, we are eventually being bombarded with tons of environmental solutions aiming to meet with, long-ignored, contemporary environmental challenges. So called ‘green’ solutions include shifting towards renewable energy resources through renewable technologies, increasing energy efficiency and adopting alternative practices that do not harm the environment – ‘that much’!

In order to facilitate this shift, nations worldwide, and primarily EU member states, have cooperated for the formulation of a new economical and political system that will transform future global systems towards environmental, economical and social sustainability. Examples of such initiatives are the Kyoto agreement and other legislative measures that EU member states are implementing either to penalise – monetarily – environmental misconducts, such as CO2 emissions, or to provide economical incentives for investments in green solutions – some examples are subsidies on electricity produced from renewable energy sources, capital subsidies for construction of green buildings, funding for environmental technology research, etc.

Apart from devising measures and solutions aiming to place the environmentally preferable practice in a position to be also ‘economically preferable’, people need to develop a new sense – intuitive environmental awareness. In this respect, we start with a simple, memorable environmental equation with two variables and one result:

Simple Energy Equation about environment

By reducing our energy demands we reduce consumption of fossil fuels thus reduce our harm to the environment. In addition, by using renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydro energy in place of fossil fuels (non-renewable) we reduce further our consumption of fossil fuels (harmful emissions), thus further reduce our harm to the environment.

Further analysis of these variables shows that reducing our energy demands can be achieved by adopting energy-saving practices such as, promoting green buildings, increasing energy performance of buildings and appliances, shifting towards a more efficient electricity network through distributed power supply and minimizing energy-waste.

Similarly, reduction of fossil fuel consumption entails increasing penetration of renewable energy sources within the global energy mix; natural resources can substitute fossil fuels in the production of electricity whereas ‘next generation technologies’, such as fuel cells and hydrogen, can be the environmental solution for both utility power supply and transportation.

The EU has already set specific targets in all areas of energy conduct based on a broader energy vision and policy – an important milestone is 2020 by which time EU member states aim to fully commercialize renewable energy technologies (including next generation techs) and to increase penetration of renewables to a share of 20% of total energy production. By 2020 member states additionally aim to increase energy efficiency in all sectors and to achieve a reduction of the primary energy use by 20%. In an effort to accomplish the EU energy objectives, member states are adopting measures, policies and directives to involve and influence all levels and stakeholders, private and public sector, in meeting with these objectives. In their effort to accomplish EU energy targets, including RES penetration, EU member states are adopting and incentives to involve the private sector in meeting with these objectives.

Through this blog I wish to discuss on EU renewable energy practices such as acknowledging targets and the degree of conformance, identifying RES technologies, assessing the appropriateness of different RES technologies, influence of subsidies and tariff levels amongst EU member states, etc.

Constructive, critical comments are always welcome!

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Comments

  1. Your basic premise is incorrect. Our usage of natural resources is very sustainable, and it’s easy to prove. In addition, fossil fuels do not cause nearly as many problems as are ascribed to them; and the cures (renewable energy) don’t live up to the claims made for them. As an example, bio-fuels actually increase fossil fuel consumption! Again, the proof is easy to find and understand, it’s high school science.

    If you are really concerned about humanity, and why else would you take up environmentalism, please read more in a new book: Kids Before Trees, download it here https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/80505

    1. Thank you for commenting.
      Current fossil fuel consumption, as a percentage of total global energy consumption, is not sustainable based on the projected global energy demand – apart from depletion of fossil fuels, emitted green-house gasses are currently estimated to contribute to a 2 deg.C temperature rise every century – and this rise is currently on a positive slope. Renewable energy sources constitute an alternative to fossil fuels that need be exploited and incorporated into the global energy mix – Of course, obtaining desirable result and effectiveness from RES usage is, indeed, a function of many variables that remain on the hands of….’the beholders’, stakeholders, policy makers, political initiatives, investors and, perhaps most importantly, the society!
      Appropriate stimulation and usage of RES can affect the end result and should be considered when assessing the potential of RES – In any case, the article ‘Intuitive environmental awareness’ aims at stimulating this awareness through a simplistic way – However, if you believe this is incorrect, please share some proving evidence.
      D.G.

  2. I think it’s worth remembering that for any enterprise either SMEs, large industry or building sector, investing in containing energy bill, reducing consumptions and using energy more efficiently, are among the most convenient measures in terms of return of the investment whose payback is almost guaranteed within 4 yrs. In most EU countries, (with some good exemptions in Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria and some regions across the union) there is still a large room to greatly reduce the energy consumption. White certificate along with financing scheme through the ESCOs, may provide good way to reduce dramatically energy demand with no immediate esboursement from costumers. Despite the clear economic gain offered by such mitigation actions, lobbies of almost sector are making heavy pressure to water down the legislative proposal to set EU compulsory targets on energy reduction. Similarly, with economies in recession, feed-in tariff schemes to support renewables are under threat when not already drastically severed. On the top of all that, I think it’s even time to reevaluate whether market driven solution (ie ETS) offer the best and most effective way of addressing the reduction in GHGs. Up to now the system hasn’t worked as expected with large amount of hot air filling the market and causing high price volatility. Somebody is proposing to somehow dope the market in order to ensure a more stable quotation, closer to the value upon which all the impact assessments of the so called climate energy package in 2008. While all forecasts at that time pointed to a market value for the CO2 of around 30€/t , it is just 8€. The only sector that has to be very glad of the system put in place is the brokerage that speculate on transactions. Well I think that this is a luxury we can’t afford as we must pretend the polluters to pay but with must ensure that the revenues will be entirely spent to support real, active, concrete mitigation actions. A good command-and-control system with a politically fixed CO2 price paid to member States to support their national mitigation measures would be probably be a better solution. This will ensure that not cheap money is make on the back of a collapsing system that needs any single euro to strive. Not only such scheme could reduce the burden on the already agonizing public finances to cope with EU targets of CO2 reduction and renewables increase, but it will also create jobs, the very same now threatened by the budget cut to feed in tariffs.

    1. Thank you for your comments – indeed many of these are, to a great extend, true – would also add that there are two different situations running in parallel: On one hand we have Environmental reality, which reflects our actual environmental impact, in real terms, and on the other, we have economic-evaluation-justification, on which we base our decisions based on artificial man-made, financial, criteria. The two are actually non-comparable, nor of any equal importance; yet, our environmental actions and initiatives (feed-in tariffs, green budgets, financial incentives, etc.) are governed by ‘artificial’ financial criteria.
      D.G.

  3. Thank you for your comments.

    One small mistake – which you have probably also noticed – is in the fourth paragraph second to last sentence ….””of harmful gasses, such as SO2, SH4 and CO2..”” we presume that you mean SO2, CH4 and CO2, since we do not know of the compound “SH4” being formed under natural chemical conditions.

    We for one on our part have always considered that when we view the “Energy” terminology we should think carefully and potentially rethink what we mean. The collective term embodies Dry Energy (those that are for example Electrical or Heat) and then those that are presented as liquids (as for example oil and the fuels) and dare we also say the fluids (the gases such as the fossil-fuels that are described as “Natural Gas” which is truly a misnomer, and those which are artificially produced.) Your article seems to isolate the position towards the sources of making Dry Energy – preferentially. That is fair and one which is reasonable.

    Considering though that one of man’s greatest issues is King Oil (the Emperor Coal still exists and should last longer than Oil) its use is still mixed and a large proportion is still directed towards transport uses because it can be neatly packaged and carried around in a container which allows man to sit in a box and decide where to go and what to do independently – this is the personal transport system which we all have become used to since the times of Daimler-Benz and Ford-Kettering-Olds with the production of the Horseless-Carriage or simply put the Car!

    We are continually attempting to reduce our uses of these Fossil Fuels (Coal Oil and Gas) and we are striving to make them cleaner (whatever that means?) and we hear about attempts to eliminate noxious emissions from the burning of same but these are in the main a sop to reality. Progressively we have reduced the emissions of some of the most noteworthy from being discharged to the atmosphere and the ecosystem and the results have been welcomed. The demise of the Northern Arboreal Forests in the Nordic Countries and the Acidification of the Lakes resulting from the uncontrolled mass burning of Coal (starting from the early Industrial Revolution has been much welcomed: but we still burn millions of tonnes of this fossil fuel coal to make electricity. Professor Svante Arrhenius who presented a paper “ On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground “ in 1896 was the first to place Fourier’s work and others into context, and despite the issue of accuracy the effects are still within reason of being real. Now when we hear of the attempts to develop “Clean Coal” technologies! (a dubious interpretation of the effects of burning coal to make Electrical Energy) the issue is still there. We will still create the Green House Gas Carbon Dioxide by the hundreds of millions of tonnes per year. Attempts at trying to store it (the farcical CCS – Carbon Capture and Storage) an as yet untried event is a very expensive experiment being foistered on the Tax Payers to soften the issues in the energy sector.

    So your argument is predicated on the use of less energy which is more than acceptable as a statement but how far can we go. If the World’s population reaches 9,000 million by 2045 and the average consumption of energy drops by 10% the issue does not go away, since we would still use more source fuels than we do now, and that doesn’t take account of the likely betterment of the people in the PRC the R of India and elsewhere who would be fully justified in trying to catch up with the Western World. Didn’t we hear that the President of the PRC suggest that he could foresee being able to provide 1 car per family by 2030! Add to that India and you can then see that even without other countries getting near that would bring the total numbers of cars in the World up from its current 1+ billion to over 2 billion. Then you need to add in the needs of energy to supply the growing urban population which by then, it is suggested, could approach 70% of the World’s total.

    Countering this thrust for energy and fuels is going to be a major issue. Cutting back to preserve quantities for the future is but part of the issue. Maximising the availability of renewable energy sources and then using up all the available resources of plant matter without redressing its significance is not going to be the full answer. We cannot continually cut down arboreal and tropical forests without thinking of the consequences. Marco Polo recorded in his visits to China that in almost every direction he could see a tree within 5 paces, which may not be the same now! And as if that wasn’t enough we have not treated the North American Arboreal forests, they were decimated within a century of the great exploration of the USA.

    If as it seems therefore that we have to consider the needs of providing both Dry Energy and Fuels to meet the needs of the World and we have to consider the issues of sourcing these then it has to be horses for courses. Fossil fuels will remain until there really becomes an issue of Peak oil and Peak Energy. It is inevitable that these ideas are around but the reality is that they may not occur within 2 generations. This does not mean we should ignore them. Conserving sources of making Energy and Fuels is always going to be a must. However if we accelerate their use we must be wise to looking at the other sources. Renewables are a way forward but they must be obtained from sustainable sources. Wind Solar Photo-Voltaic Sea and Hydro-Energy and Hot Rocks give us a source for Electricity. And even here with the new developments of spray-applied paint-film-finish ultra-thin P-V systems that can be applied to any surface the issue is getting this into service as quickly as possible. The current projections from the manufacturers suggest that this innovation will reduce P_V systems to less than 25% of the current Thin-Film plates! So not all Renewables need be expensive. This is exceedingly good news for the EU and the World!

    However whilst Biomass can equally be used for the same purpose it has a better use to make the liquid Fuels for transport. However we should remember that using Food-based Biomass (or Flora that protects the balance of the Ecosystem) is not the way forward here. It is in this area that the exciting developments in using Biomass from truly Non-Food sources (Waste and Residues and Phytoplankton (Macro and Micro Algae) has such a benefit. These Non-Food sources offer the real chance of making the alternatives to oil-based fuels gasoline/petrol and Diesel etc. by being flexible enough to be tailored to their final use fairly easily. However we should also be aware that some of these that firstly extract and then turn the raw constituent chemicals into the chosen Fuels are more expensive in terms of energy input to output energy. They arte not all like that for we are seeing exciting developments within the EU with companies like ST1 (in Finland) and Genesyst (in Holland, Malta, UK and Morocco) go further and develop programmes that can make these fuels from such Biomass sources at costs lower than the equivalents made from Sugar Cane (in Brazil) or Corn (in the USA.) whereas an Incineration plant that could treat 500,000 tonnes of waste per year and make Electricity currently costed at €300++ Million might have been the course before such a procedure for converting this same quantity of material to the Renewable Fuels at €120 Million is here and now. This is again exceedingly good news for the EU for it shows that the new technologies are here already and they are very competitive.

    We have a chance to address the needs for reducing our impact on the planet and it need not be that expensive. All that we need to do is put our mindsets behind the issue.

    1. Thank you for your kind notification on the SH4 mistake – CH4 it is! – will be corrected!
      Your comments come as a real, valuable contribution to my article – well documented with scientific information and analysis. The issue of increasing population and rapidly increasing global energy demand is indeed a top priority issue. Please also refer to the other comments posted.

  4. You may have probably read in EurActiv relating to PFI/PPP/PPPP/DBFO programmes which have been foistered upon many EU and World-Wide countries under the pretext that this is a good way forward for delivering prize infrastructure needs. Well the comments about the Collusion between the three French Water (Mega) Companies and how they manipulate the market for their tri-partisan benefits, is not in isoltaion. It is not limited to just the Water Industry as it pervades the Energy Sector as well as the Waste and other Infrastructure areas.

    We have major Cartels of Companies and Consulting Engineers who generally live in the Western-Orientated World who carefully manipulate these issues and then dictate to the Financial Institutions that the best way forward is to follow this PFI/…./DBOT route as it defers buying through these concession agreements. What folly this is. All that happens is these big Consulting Engineering firms who report on Water or Energy or Waste opt to specify a limited non-inovative programme that generally costs way above the means by which the recipient country can afford and because of the tie-up between these Consulting Engineers and the Companies selling their services the outcome is pre-ordained before the ink is even dry and approved by the lenders.

    What does this mean to your issue here? Well simply put it deprives the World of inovation. So we have for example a massive drive to Eind Energy that is subsidised to the hilt through Renewable Energy Tarriffs and then hear that even before these sites are producing electricity they are sold off because the Energy Tafriff deals are so lucrative. We see the same with the CSP in Spain (now thankfully dropped) and the repeats elsewhere across the EU including “Green Denmark!” We see the lucrative deals to use Biomass to make Energy (burning) and now see the EU realising that companies like ALCOA (Italy) and EDF/E-On/RWE/Scottish and Southern Energy being pilloried for seeking development grants to build these facilities and then reaping huge Renewable Energy Certificates for producing energy from these Biomass sources. It is no wonder therefore that these plants are sold off for two to three times their build values even before they contrinute any energy to the Eectrical Grids! Now we also read about the parallels of the Waste to Energy/Energy from Waste plants that take Municipal Solid Waste and burn this to make energy. Logic says that this cannot be at all sensible since the raw material is wet and thus it consumes around 35% of the energy it makes -sometimes over 60% – because of the water contained therein. So not only are these facilities the most expensive of all treatment systems they then need subsidiing to the hilt through “paraded PFI Credits” and they reach deals to keep their huge treatment gate fees and they are given double if not triple Energy Tarriffs. However – and here is the twist – if a facility such as those we read about in the EU use 40% of their electricity (take a look around the EU and the recent offerings in the Uk Spain Denmark and Southern Europe or wider still in the PRC or Malaysia) they are rewarded at the same full rate tarriff even if they were not to export any energy to the Grid! Is this right? Think about it. A Waste to Energy facility we read of that treats 500,000 tonnes per year of recovered waste at 40% water content may generate 30 MW of Electricity and use 14 MW to maintain the process but it is paid for the whole ammount! This is fraudulent and it deprives other developments such as those we had previously mentioned. The Energy Companies have a lot to be concerned over for they have too much economic power and the EU should really have a go at them in this study review.

    This ought to be added to your discussion.

  5. The uncontrollable exploitation of natural resources continues supported by tthe EU which is inexplicably supporting the industrialisation of our seas through extensive offshore wind farms..Sorry …of course its not inexplicable , its sadly explicable and due to powerful Big Wind lobby in Brussels which sees its market on land drying up as communities research the facts and oppose the degradation of their local environment. by huge wind farms for negligible impact on global climate change. . .

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