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This volume explores the challenges and opportunities presented by the shift to renewable energy. Beginning with a comprehensive overview of our current energy system, the authors survey issues of energy supply and demand in key sectors of the economy, including electricity generation, transportation, buildings, and manufacturing. In their detailed review of each sector, the authors examine the most crucial challenges we face, from intermittency in fuel sources to energy storage and grid redesign. The book concludes with a discussion of energy and equity and a summary of key lessons and steps forward at the individual, community, and national level.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Abstract
THE NEXT FEW DECADES will see a profound and all-encompassing energy transformation throughout the world. Whereas society now derives the great majority of its energy from fossil fuels, by the end of the century we will depend primarily on renewable sources like solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal power.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

The Context: It’s All About Energy

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Energy 101

Abstract
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO OVERSTATE the importance of energy. Without it, we can do literally nothing. Further, the unfolding consequences of modern civilization’s energy use (including climate change), together with the inevitable energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables, will be the defining trends of the current century. How we address the climate–energy dilemma will make a life-or-death difference for current and future generations of humans, and for countless other species.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 2. A Quick Look at Our Current Energy System

Abstract
THE STATISTICS ARE READILY AVAILABLE: our world presently uses about 520 quadrillion British thermal units each year, or 153 billion megawatt-hours—the equivalent of 100 billion barrels of oil. These numbers are readily interpreted by the experts. But what do they mean in terms the nonspecialist can understand?
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Energy Supply in a Renewable World: Opportunities and Challenges

Frontmatter

Chapter 3. Renewable Electricity: Falling Costs, Variability, and Scaling Challenges

Abstract
THE UNIVERSAL AVAILABILITY and use of electricity has come to define modern life, at least for the vast majority of people in the industrialized world. Electricity is accessible in nearly every home and commercial building. We rely on power from wall sockets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for a myriad of uses that range from toasting a bagel to powering an MRI machine. Electricity is remarkably versatile, and we have built a massive infrastructure to generate, distribute, and consume it.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 4. Transportation: The Substitution Challenge

Abstract
LIQUID PETROLEUM is the world’s dominant energy source. Oil is energy-dense, portable, and easily moved by pipeline and tanker—characteristics that have made it very well suited as a transportation fuel. Further, during the twentieth century it was amazingly cheap. During the 1980s, for example, a barrel of oil, which contains 1700 kWh of energy (the equivalent of over 10 years of hard human labor), cost a mere $35 in inflation-adjusted dollars. Cheap transport energy helped fuel globalization, one of the most significant economic trends of the past few decades. Today, transportation accounts for 41 percent of U.S. energy end use, and over 95 percent of that transportation runs on oil. The vast majority of cars still burn oil-derived fuels, as do airplanes, ships, trucks, and rail locomotives.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 5. Other Uses of Fossil Fuels: The Substitution Challenge Continues

Abstract
THIS CHAPTER EXPLORES three broad categories of energy use. The first considers ways in which energy becomes embodied in infrastructure and manufactured products (primarily through the use of high levels of heat). The second has to do with the creation of lower-temperature heat for heating buildings and domestic hot water. The third has to do with the use of fossil fuels as feedstocks for chemicals and plastics. As we will see, the second of these three (heat for buildings) is probably the easiest to address with efficiency measures and renewable energy, while the first (high-temperature heat for industrial processes) poses possibly the highest substitution hurdle of all for 100 percent renewable energy systems.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 6. Energy Supply: How Much Will We Have? How Much Will We Need?

Abstract
THERE IS SIMPLY NO WAY to accurately forecast exactly how much total energy is likely to be available in our 100 percent renewable future. There are too many variables at play—some technical, others economic or political. A few of the factors impacting future energy supply are favorable—including falling prices, technical improvements, and a generally favorable public attitude toward solar and wind. However, other factors that we have just surveyed pose challenges, including source intermittency, the need for storage and grid redesign, and the difficulties of electrifying heavy transport and many industrial processes. On balance, we believe the preponderance of factors support the assumption that energy quantities will be lower, perhaps significantly lower, than business-as-usual global energy demand projections from official agencies such as the International Energy Agency (which expects demand to rise 1.5 percent a year through 2035, nearly doubling over 2009 levels by 2050).
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 7. What About . . . ?

Abstract
THIS BOOK IS ESSENTIALLY a thought exercise designed to explore some of the issues involved in transitioning our economy to 100 percent renewable energy. Some readers may chafe at the boundaries of this exercise. Why rely so much on wind and solar, rather than envisioning a more diverse mix of low-carbon energy sources? We chose our framework because it was simple and clear, and because this is a future that is indeed being widely proposed. The state of Vermont, for example, has announced the official goal of sourcing 90 percent of all its energy (not just electricity) from renewable sources—mostly solar and wind—by 2050. Moreover, studies have been published purporting to show that a 100 percent wind, solar, and hydro energy regime is both possible and affordable, and prominent climate-oriented environmental organizations are now calling for that goal. Further, we ourselves believe that a full transition to renewables is necessary and achievable, provided society is willing to accept adjustments, both profound and minor, to the ways it uses energy.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Preparing for Our Renewable Future

Frontmatter

Chapter 8. Energy and Justice

Abstract
THE ABILITY TO HARNESS ENERGY creates wealth and confers social power. With the advent of fossil fuels came a rush of wealth and power such as the world had never before seen. Naturally, humanitarians saw this as an opportunity to spread wealth and power around so as to lift all of humanity above drudgery, eliminate hunger, and even put an end to war. And to a large degree that opportunity has been seized: overall, child mortality rates are down, life expectancy is up, infectious diseases are on the decline, hunger has been reduced (even as population has dramatically grown), and mortality from violence has declined since the end of World War II.1 Yet globally, the wealthy industrial nations have disproportionately benefited from the fossil fuel revolution while poorer nations have largely borne the costs. A similar disparity also exists within nations, both rich and poor ones. Further, the injustice of energy wealth versus energy poverty is increasingly magnified by climate impacts, which fall disproportionately upon energy-poor societies—both because of geographical happenstance and because they do not have the same level of resources to devote toward adaptation.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 9. What Government Can Do

Abstract
THIS BOOK’S SURVEYS of renewable energy price trends, opportunities for renewable energy deployment, and challenges to that deployment, lead us to conclude that market mechanisms by themselves will be insufficient to drive the renewable energy transition at the speed required to outrun climate change and fossil fuel depletion. Government policy will be required to direct sufficient capital toward building renewable energy capacity, to manage the build-out of energy storage and necessary grid upgrades, to manage the evolution of industries (transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, mining) that currently rely on nonelectricity uses of fossil fuels, and to provide efficiency incentives and mandates to ease the burden of a likely decline in overall energy availability during the transition.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 10. What We the People Can Do

Abstract
SOUND NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE policies are crucial: without them, it will be impossible to organize a transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy that is orderly enough to maintain industrial civilization, while speedy enough to avert catastrophic ecosystem collapse. However, world leaders have been working on hammering out effective climate policies for nearly a quarter of a century, and during that time greenhouse gas emissions have continued to increase. And the impacts of climate change are becoming ever more incontrovertible and perilous. Clearly, individuals, households, communities, and nongovernmental organizations cannot merely stand by and hope that political leaders somehow find the wherewithal at the last moment (if it is not already too late) to halt our descent into climate chaos. We must put all possible pressure on those leaders to take politically difficult decisions to severely limit carbon emissions.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Chapter 11. What We Learned

Abstract
THE AUTHORS BEGAN THIS BOOK project with some general understanding of the likely energy transition constraints and opportunities; nevertheless, researching and writing Our Renewable Future has been a journey of discovery. Along the way, we identified not only technical issues requiring more attention, but also important implications for advocacy and policy. What follows is a very short summary, tailored mostly to the United States, of what we’ve learned.
Richard Heinberg, David Fridley

Backmatter

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