Energy Systems

The world's rapidly rising population keeps demanding and consuming more and more energy. Formidable challenges, often linked to geopolitical tensions and serious environmental pressures - as in the case of climate change - frame a complex, highly challenging context for achieving sustainable energy supply.

Paradoxically, technology fuels enormously increased demand for energy as well.  Examples include the needs of data mining and data centres required for running the next generation of AI- digital search engines. A scramble is already on, to identify those locations that are most cost-efficient and reliable in this respect.
Renewable energy is not without problems. Extracting biological carbon from the world's ecosystems risk degrading biodiversity and crowd out other productive land use. Exploitation of the world's river systems for the construction of dams to generate hydropower, has led to serious disruption of the water cycle, the depletion of huge land areas, and the prevention of reproduction by fish. While electrification offers massive opportunities it remains much dependent on energy sources associated with serious sustainability concerns of their own.  

Technological advances are critical for realising efficient and environmentally friendly solutions. Fiber optics and smart grids offer instant effective transmission and smooth balancing out of supply and demand. Renewable energy, following a major research and innovation effort, is in the process of overtaking fossil fuels in expanding new capacity. Green and blue hydrogen are offering  potential solutions attracting high attention, although not yet economically viable.
Additionally, electrification is accompanied by huge needs of energy storage, for instance in support of EVs. Contemporary solutions are dependent on heavy metals whose extraction is toxic, gives rise to environmentally damaging logistics chains and yet generate inadequate supplies. This has led to attention shifting to extracting minerals from the ocean floor, rising enormous damage to the world's marine environment, already approaching a state of exhaustion due to never-ending pollution and overfishing.

Ocean issues

Voices were raised many years ago, warning that industrialisation threatens to exhaust resource supplies. While not taken seriously at the time, the rapidly expanding global economy, coupled with a continued absence of mechanisms to induce sustainable resource use, confronts us with severe  challenges that can no longer be overlooked. See Earth4All report....

On a related note, another selective report, from UNEP outlines the seriousness of the resources outlook as of 2024. It underlines the need of a comprehenshive approach, spanning not just supply, but demand as well.

In short the world's energy supply is associated with serious environmental challenges, issues of energy security and economic efficiency, Security. Technology brings massive opportunity but challenges as well. Overcoming the massive hurdles yet in place require a favourable policy collaboration including stakeholder engagement and stewardship of new technologies, harnessing their benefits while countering their downsides.