Fostering a Renewables Revolution!

Fostering a Renewables Revolution!

Greenpeace just released a very interesting report on the world’s renewable energy future. In the organization’s words, “to successfully combat climate change, we urgently need a revolution in the way we produce, consume and distribute energy.” The report, which was prepared by a team from the German Institute of Technical Thermodynamics and other scientists from around the world, has many interesting and provocative things to say about our energy future and renewables in particular. Did you know that computer servers worldwide use more energy than the entire demand from the country of France? That as computer use doubles over the next decade the amount of wasted energy (consisting of the difference between best practices datacenters vs. the norm) could satisfy all of the needs of Australia? Enforcing an energy efficiency standard just for servers reportedly could avoid 48 coal-fired power plants and 140 million tons of CO2. That is indeed sobering information.

The real revolutionary aspect of the report is the proposition that our energy future could lead to generation consisting of 95% renewables (vs. oil, coal and other conventional fuels) by 2050. That’s an amazing leap forward from the roughly 2% where we are today. What is required to get there from here are many of the same things Applied Materials has been advocating in the clean tech area for some time now: innovation; policy changes; price signals and other economic tools; and committed, long-term investments in the needed infrastructure to get the required scale.

Among the innovative concepts proposed in this report for cities of the “future” are building integrated solar facades, small-scale combined heat and power plants (CHP) and solar photovoltaic parks (Applied Materials uses the term solar “farms”), both distributed across most buildings as well in more remote locations. In the report’s estimation, solar PV alone has the theoretical potential to generate 16 times the world’s energy needs. We will obviously not realize that potential without innovating across every portion of the solar PV and renewable value chain: super efficient modules; inexpensive mounting systems; efficient inverters or DC installations; new ways of transmitting energy; and highly efficient means of manufacturing all of the above in quantities that are hardly imaginable today. There will also be a price tag for all of the above: “The average annual investment in the power sector under the Energy [R]evolution Scenario between 2007 and 2030 would be approximately $782 billion. This is equal to the current amount of subsidies paid for fossil fuels globally in under three years.” The report also suggests this scenario has enormous job potential; not just shifting of jobs, but new, additive job creation.

While Greenpeace has been vilified in some circles in the past for radical tactics, “energy {R}evolution” is a valuable contribution to the urgent dialog about a sustainable energy future. Applied Materials supports the notion of thinking big in this fashion.

Take a look at the Report for yourself and let us know what you think.

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