According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the current rate of energy efficiency improvement worldwide is not nearly enough to overcome the other factors driving up energy consumption. Unless we can all agree to jump on that bandwagon, we are headed for an unsustainable energy future. Sounds bleak, eh? Well, here’s the good news: the IEA also found that we can absolutely increase our global energy efficiency and achieve sustainable energy use by using existing technology. Governments of many countries are becoming more and more aware of the looming energy depletion issue and are moving towards making better use of our planet’s energy resources. A problem that IEA found, however, is that the rate of improvement seems to have slowed down substantially in the past 38 years or so. Back between 1973 and 1990, energy efficiency improvements averaged 2% per year. Between 1990 and 2005, energy efficiency improved only 0.9% per year. Fortunately, however, there are indications that in the past 6 years, we have been improving our effort towards energy efficiency with some countries actually achieving higher than average efficiency rates. This is promising.
What’s even more promising is this extremely powerful quote from James P. Leape, the Director General of WWF International in the 2011 Energy Report:
By 2050, we could get all the energy we need from renewable sources. …[S]uch a transition is not only possible but also cost-effective, providing energy that is affordable for all and producing it in ways that can be sustained by the global economy and the planet. The transition will present significant challenges, but I hope this report will inspire governments and business to come to grips with those challenges and, at the same time, to move boldly to bring the renewable economy into reality. There is nothing more important to our ability to create a sustainable future.”
That is a big statement. That is a big and important statement. How can we make this happen?
The WWF recommends 10 ways to get to a 100% renewable energy future. We’ll be looking at these in greater detail in the upcoming weeks, but for the moment let’s walk through the first five of WWF’s recommendations.
Clean energy and better quality is the first recommendation. Researching and implementing new renewable energy sources and developing existing sources will be the main driver for creating a 100% renewable energy world by 2050. The promotion, development and production of only the most efficient and high quality products is where focus must be directed. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say (or even said yourself), that ‘they’ don’t make things like they used to. Why should ‘they’ if a broken or worn down item requires the consumer to buy another one. More money in ‘their’ pockets. But ‘our’ world certainly pays the price, environmentally speaking. It takes a lot of energy to manufacture and distribute most products and once they have deteriorated, all that broken and worn out stuff has to go somewhere.
Recommendation number two is the development of better and farther reaching energy grids. In other words, being able to share and exchange clean energy via a better grid network will result in the best use of the various sustainable energy resources that exist throughout the world.
Recommendation number three is along the lines of what we discussed here on the Smartcool Blog just a short while ago: Provide clean energy access to the poverty stricken areas of the world. Ending energy poverty by introducing clean electricity and sustainable practices will not only benefit developing nations, but the world as a whole as well. As was mentioned, greater access to electricity provides a greater opportunity for education, health care, clean water and safe food. This, in turn, will stimulate social, environmental and economic development – all of which will bridge gaps in global energy efficiency. We have to look at this as a co-operative; everyone helping out for our mutual benefit.
Number four is all about money and investments. Putting the almighty dollar to work by investing in and creating clean energy and energy efficiency products (ahem…and ahem) will result in a pretty fantastic investment return. In many cases, energy efficiency products end up paying for themselves in the form of savings on your energy bill. But, the best return on the investment will be the continuing survival of our entire planet. We’ve only got one, after all.
The fifth recommendation is to change our habits regarding what we eat. Seriously, people, this is a big one. Research what you are putting in your mouth. Where did it come from? How did it get to your grocery store? What methods were used in its growth and production? By choosing food that is sourced, transported and produced in efficient and sustainable methods, we can free up land for nature (it was nature’s first, anyway), as well as provide space for sustainable forestry and bio-fuel production. In order for this to occur, there’s one thing that those of us who live in wealthy, developed nations must do first: Eat. Less. Meat. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the livestock industry is “one of the…most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems…” Changing your eating habits, even slightly, can have a major impact on the environment, not to mention your health. Remember that every dollar you spend on your food (or anything, really) is a vote supporting the methods by which it was brought into your presence.
We will look further into the WWF’s recommendations in our next post. In the mean time, get out there and see how you can implement the first five of the ten WWF recommendations in your life! 2050 isn’t that far off…