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The role of renewables

Your winter 2015 Energy Exchange, which came with my Canadian Geographic magazine, gives the impression that you have adopted an oil industry perspective on energy.

The article “System overhaul,” describing the work of professor Arnulf Grübler, has an artist’s conception graph of “grand transitions in global energy systems” showing that oil and gas have replaced wood, as a fuel, and coal. This point could have been made in 1950. The graph describes oil and gas as “modern energy carriers.” The text says “a third such transition is nowhere in sight, as you can see change stalled in 1970s.” This is just not true, we are already well along on a transition to renewables. There has been spectacular growth in wind and solar. In the U.S., oil and gas consumption has been static for the past 10 years. It would be more accurate to say that wind and sunlight are the modern energy carriers.

Tom Tiedje
Victoria[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_image src=”” image_width=”800″ image_height=”200″ crop=”false” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]


It is correct that solar and wind electricity have grown spectacularly in recent years. But so-called “modern renewables” (wind, solar and geothermal electricity generation, as well as biogas and liquid biofuels) still only provide for a very
small fraction of global energy needs. Combined, modern renewables made up for 2.5 per cent of world primary energy use in 2013.

Historically, pervasive energy transitions have “taken off” after an extensive period of experimentation and after having reached a market share of some 10 per cent.

Modern renewables are not yet there. Above all, most modern renewables simply substitute for fossil energy use within existing energy systems (mostly in electricity generation) without providing novel services and tangible consumer benefits, except reduced environmental externalities. A pervasive energy-systems transformation will require new renewables to move beyond capturing selected (and subsidized) niche markets and to become “mainstream” in industry, households, on the road and in the air.[/vc_column_text][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][mk_blockquote style=”line-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”22″ align=”left”]It is extremely important to increase public awareness in the area of energy. This magazine can be an important contributor

to that cause.[/mk_blockquote][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]

Spread the word

Thanks for sending me the latest edition of Energy Exchange. I think it is extremely important to the successful development of this country that we increase public awareness and literacy in the area of energy. People need to understand how choices we make in our lives regarding how we live and get around affects the carbon balance and influence the sustainability of our lifestyles and freedoms.

Your magazine can be an important contributor to this cause. It is my opinion you need to speak directly to the consumer to accomplish this. In writing to consumers, I recommend an approach that I have found successful in communicating with politicians. Assume they know little or nothing of the subject, break everything down so they can comprehend at least the principles and give them the opportunities to ask lots of questions. Whether they make the correct decision for the right or wrong reasons doesn’t really matter — as long as they move the yardsticks in the right direction.


A nod to nuclear

Congratulations on your publication. I found all the articles were very good reads. Some exciting stuff going on. In particular, I must congratulate Pollution Probe’s Energy Exchange for recognizing that nuclear energy is an important part of our energy mix (“A new niche for nuclear,” Winter 2015). In the era of climate change concern, it is important to use non-greenhouse gas energy production methods.

Ron Holmes
Grand Bend, Ont.



Thanks, Ron. Our goal is to spark thoughtful dialogue by presenting technology-neutral, non-advocacy, science-based information. Nuclear is a complex value proposition and we look forward to covering the opportunities and issues from multiple perspectives.

Energy Exchange magazine welcomes your feedback. Please send comments to Comments may be edited for length and clarity. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][mk_padding_divider size=”40″][mk_button dimension=”three” size=”large” outline_skin=”dark” outline_active_color=”#fff” outline_hover_color=”#333333″ bg_color=”#13bdd2″ text_color=”light” url=”/resources/energy-exchange-magazine/issue-4/” target=”_self” align=”left” fullwidth=”true” margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”15″]READ MORE STORIES FROM THE SUMMER 2015 ISSUE OF ENERGY EXCHANGE MAGAZINE[/mk_button][/vc_column][/vc_row]