Energy: Trends, Mega-trends and their Implications

Session 23

ES/SO352 Sustainability - Session 23

Required readings:



  • Learn some potentially new concepts for you:
    • CHP Plant, Biofuels (Bioliquids or Biogases), Cellullose, Lignine, Carbon Neutral.
  • Understand why some energy sources are considered 'Carbon Neutral'
  • Understand the impacts of using sources of food as sources of biofuel for transportation.
  • Identify in which green sources of energy investments are bigger in the last years.
  • Identify the risks of using Nuclear energy sources to sustain our economic activity in Northern countries
  • Understand the problem of energy storage and which are the challenges to solve it





1.4. Wind Power: The truth

2. Centralized vs. decentralized system


Decentralized networks are more resilient!

3. "The Convenient Solution" (UK)

Why a network of small CHP plants seems a much better solution than a big central power plant, from the point of view of sustainability?

  • A short film about climate change, energy and nuclear power. If you're confused$ about whether we need nuclear power to stop climate change, take nine minutes of your time to watch our new film. It doesn't just explain why nuclear power can't stop climate change - it also points the way to a better, cheaper, more convenient solution. By Greepeace.

4. Management focused on Demand-side vs. Supply-side

Managing resources we could focus more on solving the issues to produce the resources needed for the current demand...

... or focus more on solving the issues to reduce the demand to meet the current/available/natural-threshold of supply for that resource.

That resource can be water, energy, food, etc., and the same principle can be applied in most cases.

  • Energy:
    • Produce more energy because there are peaks in demand vs. rationalize the demand and improve efficiency...
  • Water:
    • Water in touristic places for hotels and golf courses
    • Water-demanding crops (that are payed more that some traditional raw crops from dry environments: almonds & nuts versus oranges and mandarines, etc)
  • Soil...
  • Minerals...
  • ...

5. One option for Demand-side management: Consume less

"How Much Degrowth Is Enough?" (2012). 15'
Jack Alpert. Stanford Knowledge Integration Laboratory. http://skil.org

How much degrowth is enough to create a sustainable civilization.

6. Use Biofuels? (Discussion)

  • Biofuels = From living beings: Solid (wood, pellets...) + Liquid (bioethanol, biodiesel...) + Gas (Methane...)
  • They are 'Carbon Neutral' (loop: amount released = amount fixed)
  • Sources of Biofuels: To be briefly discussed in class their advantages and disadvantages
    1. Food (corn, wheat, rice, ...) vs. non-food (Jatropha, ...)
    2. Waste
      • From cities
      • From agricultural products: lignine + cellulose from plants
    3. Algae:
      1. Freshwater Algae
      2. Seawater algae (seaweeds, ...)

6.1. Impacts of Biofuels relative to petrol

Biofuels 1
Empa overview of the environmental impacts of various biofuels relative to petrol

Source: "Most biofuels are not green" (EMPA, Switzerland. 2009)

6.2. US Greenhouse Gas Emissions Flow Chart


6.3. Lignocellulose in sugarcane and hibiscus (Biofuels in Puerto Rico)

  • In this MicrobeWorld Video episode we talk with Nadathur S. Govind, Ph.D., Professor, Marine Sciences Department at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, and William Rosado, Marine Sciences Department at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez, about the sustainable biofuel program they are launching in southwestern Puerto Rico.
  • Govind believes he can rebuild the local economy by harnessing bacterial enzymes extracted from the guts of termites and shipworms (mollusks) found in the mangroves off the coast to break down the lignocellulose in sugarcane and hibiscus. The idea is that if he can bring agricultural production back to his community, he can use the crop waste to produce ethanol to supplement Puerto Rico's demand for fuel. And since the byproduct of ethanol is carbon dioxide, he also plans to use algae to capture the gas and produce biodiesel. The waste that he has left over can then be returned to the soil as fertilizer or given to livestock as feed, completing the cycle.

6.4. Freshwater algae to produce Biofuels

High Density Vertical BioReactor (3:16')

6.5. Research on sea algae as source of biofuels

  • A cheaper oil made of seaweed could revolutionise the emerging biofuel industry. Algae grows almost anywhere, as long as it gets enough sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. It improves air quality by absorbing CO2 and reduces the negative effects of fish farming by filtering out excess nutrients that pollute waters in fisheries.

7. Concentrated Solar Thermal (CST) Plants to *STORE* Solar Energy (using molten salt)

Gemasolar is the first commercial-scale plant in the world to apply central tower receiver and molten salt heat storage technology. The relevance of this plant lies in its technological uniqueness, since it opens up the way for new thermosolar electrical generation technology.The molten salt storage tank permits independent electrical generation for up to 15 hours without any solar feed

Germasolar: CST Example

  • Gerbens-Leenes, P.W. Hoekstra, A.Y. and Van der Meer. Th. (2008) The water footprint of energy from biomass: A quantitative assessment and consequences of an increasing share of bio-energy in energy supply, Ecological Economics, doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2008.07.013.
    http://www.waterfootprint.org/?page=files/Water-energy - http://en.scientificcommons.org/38196757
  • A Small Town in Germany Becomes a Testing Ground for a Smart Grid. RMI Outlet (RMI blog). Nov 6, 2014
  • EU: 20% renewables by 2020 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1cysaOnlv_E
    Raising the share of renewable energy from 8.5% to 20% in the overall energy consumption is a necessary contribution to the global fight against climate change and towards better control over our energy dependence. The various uses of renewable energy are examined: electricity through wind and hydraulic energies; electricity or heat through geothermal and solar energies; electricity, heat, and biofuel coming from biomass. The EU is a world leader in the use and deployment of technologies that exploit renewable energy sources, providing over 350.000 jobs and an annual turn-over of € 30 billion.
  • "TEDxTokyo - Gunter Pauli - Balancing Energy (2011)"
    Zero Emissions Research and Initiatives (ZERI) is a global network of creative minds, seeking solutions to the ever increasing problems of the world. The members take on challenges, other will consider impossible or too complex. Starting from ideas, based on science, the common vision shared by each and every member of the ZERI network is to seek sustainable solutions for society, from unreached communities to corporations inspired by nature's design principles. Innovative solutions are constantly designed by the ZERI teams drawn from many walks of life and expertise. http://www.zeri.org
  • Redesign the system: Change energy use (RMI perspective)
    • "Reinventing fire: Change energy use for ever" - Rocky Mountain Institute - 2011 - (2')
    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT-g695Go
    • Reinventing Fire: Bold Business Solutions for the New Energy Era offers market-based, actionable solutions integrating transportation, buildings, industry, and electricity. Built on Rocky Mountain Institute's 30 years of research and collaboration in all four sectors, Reinventing Fire maps pathways for running a 158%-bigger U.S. economy in 2050 but needing no oil, no coal, no nuclear energy, one-third less natural gas, and no new inventions. This would cost $5 trillion less than business-as-usual—in addition to the value of avoiding fossil fuels' huge but uncounted external costs.
      • Introducing Reinventing Fire...
        Amory Lovins introduces Reinventing Fire, bold business solutions for the new energy era.

        Alternatively, you can see: "Reinventing fire" - Rocky Mountain Institute - 2010 - (6')
        Energy-related economic, security, and environmental threats are intensifying the national conversation about how to regain energy leadership and competitiveness, restore jobs and prosperity, and build a secure and climate-safe energy system. Yet America lacks a comprehensive vision of how a market economy can achieve these transformational goals. RMI has that vision, and is now building its detailed roadmap, which we call Reinventing Fire™. This strategy will bring together RMIs 28 years of innovation and engage the world in our most ambitious and important work yet—using whole-system thinking and integrative design to move the U.S. off fossil fuels by 2050, led by business for profit.
  • EcoBots - Robots fueled with human waste - BRL (4'10'')

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