Energy strategy is becoming important for all our futures. Here in Europe the European Union is working to join the dots so that we have a credible energy plan for the future.
Here is a brief look at the energy strategy for Europe and some of the things that are driving the need for a world wide energy plan.
There's also a brief discussion of what we can do - as householders - to make the most of such strategies as exist, wherever we are.
Here in the UK there has been lots of discussion of potential energy shortfalls arising in the next few years as we try to achieve carbon reduction targets. The agreed carbon reduction targets, for example, are a reduction of 34% by 2020. The government hopes to reach these targets by using 5 year "carbon budgets". There will be further more drastic reductions by 2050.
Different types of energy providers will be affected in different ways. At the moment we are very reliant on coal, oil and gas to keep the lights on. All these energy sources produce significant quantities of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide being the most significant.
There are technologies which can help make these fuel sources cleaner - carbon capture for coal fired power stations, for example. However, some of these new technologies are very expensive and only offer a partial solution to the problem.
Slowing climate change
In order to slow climate change and meet our carbon reduction targets we will need to develop an energy mix which is far less reliant on these fossil fuels. Some authorities propose upping the number of nuclear power stations. In the aftermath of Fukushima, for many people this is not necessarily a very welcome option! Many environmentalists favour a massive expansion of renewable energy - wind, solar and biomass being the main contenders.
However the problem of energy efficiency and clean energy production is solved, it is crucial that we work together to reach a sustainable and workable energy network. Here in Europe, that means 27 member countries pulling together, each county transcending individual problems to reach a harmonious whole.
Across the globe nations are wrestling with the problems of burgeoning energy demand in the context of ever more evident climate change. Here in Europe, it is important that we play our part and create a successful green economy that produces good living standards for all, while achieving our carbon reduction targets.
The European approach
The European energy strategy relies upon co-operation and sharing resources between countries and governments. The plan is to have an internal energy market that involves all member countries and will entail modernisation of the energy infrastructure.
The EU hopes to develop energy production in a way that is both green and secure. Power grids will become more integrated and there will be special funds to help development. Transport is included in these energy plans. Biofuels are being promoted as green and sustainable and part of the energy mix, something which I believe needs to be re-worked. See my page on biofuels if you would like to know more about how these seemingly desirable fuels are not at all eco-friendly as things stand.
The worldwide tally of carbon emissions from fossil fuels is at an all time high. Now, in 2012 it is around 8,000 million metric tonnes - a staggeringly high figure and it is still increasing. Coal, oil and gas use create a large proportion of this figure. The rest comes from such activities as deforestation and cement production. (Source: Energy Information Administration/International Energy Outlook 2001)
Renewable energy sources are creating as much as 19% of the worlds electricity and this is likely to go on increasing. Some counties are almost entirely independent of fossil fuels. Iceland, for example, uses renewable energy for all electricity generation and now only uses fossil fuels (oil) for its fishing fleet. Germany has the largest number of wind power turbines in Europe and Denmark gets over 20% of its electricity from wind alone.
Other renewable energy sources include geothermal, biofuels, photovoltaics (PV) and solar thermal installations. Hydro power is also a factor in some countries blessed with plenty of mountains.
There are also potential new energy sources such as marine energy which may come to play an important part in renewable, clean energy production.
Click on the video below to see details of the energy strategy that the European Union is planning to both ensure continuity of supply and meet our climate change objectives.
While it is great that some governments and economic groups are trying to address climate change and that energy policies try to conform with this need, we have a very long way to go in a short time.
Many energy strategies may not deliver well enough for a host of reasons. The UK government Green Deal, for example, will almost certainly not live up to expectations simply because many home owners will balk at the idea of taking on a debt which any subsequent owner has to shoulder. This could negatively affect the equity in their house or the ease with which they can sell their house.
On a national level, Germany has eschewed nuclear power in the wake of the Japanese nuclear disaster and is now using increasing amounts of dirty coal. This will almost certainly be a temporary situation as the long-term strategy is to become 100% sustainable in energy.
So what can we do?
I believe that we should seek to find energy strategies and deals that suit us and which deliver meaningful reductions in energy use.
Reducing our overall energy needs is sensible and achievable for most of us. There are several pages on this site devoted to aspects of this quest, such as options for insulating your attic.
Using what is there from the government or state also makes good sense. A good many governments worldwide are reducing the help available to householders as the economic mess from the banking crisis continues. Nevertheless, there are some still out there.
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