Factors that can play a role in sustaining growth while optimal use of energy
- Category: Energy Systems
- Published: Monday, 28 April 2014 08:19
- Written by Sharad Gandhi
- Hits: 3931
There are many avenues which can reduce the need of the fossil fuel, increase availability of energy and is balanced without compromising on the growth. A few are listed hereunder:
(1) Integrated forest management (Leveraging the Natural Process of energy harvesting and storage)
The solar energy is naturally harvested by trees & plants and is stored in the form of bio-mass or wood. This natural process is very efficient and self replicating. This is also localized and reduces dependency on transportation.
It has been long established by various world leading organization such as FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of UN) and many studies that wood and agriculture products are the most sustainable way to fulfill energy needs of human. Wood fuel also has a key environmental benefit over fossil fuels in that wood is ‘carbon neutral’. Wood is, in effect, stored solar energy – a renewable resource. Furthermore, wood-fuel production has a “high” ripple economic and employment effect.
Figure: An Old Lady collects firewood for livelihood in Orrisa,India, Dec 2013
Recent publications in the leading newspapers and journals indicate that wood is being considered as the alternate source of energy. The Economists envisages how the Wood is “The fuel of Future” (Apr 2013) and mentions that the largest so-called renewable fuel used in Europe is wood. In its various forms, from sticks to pellets to sawdust, wood (or to use its fashionable name, biomass), it accounts for about half of Europe’s renewable-energy consumption. It further emphasis that, if wood used in a power station comes from properly managed forests, then the carbon that billows out of the chimney can be offset by the carbon that is captured and stored in newly planted trees. However, this was further highlighted how carbon neutrality depends on the type of forest used, how fast the trees grow, whether you use woodchips or whole trees and so on.
In Nov 2013 article, NY reports that “Power Plants Try Burning Wood With Coal to Cut Carbon Emissions”. Power companies in the US are finding an emission improvement benefit, and an economic benefit. One boiler of the Minnesota Power’s is running on 90% wood-fuel.
Bio-Diesel is also considered sustainable way to make the energy available locally for various purposes; however, its scalability has not proven till date in terms of collecting the seeds and producing the oil effectively.
FAO further highlights how Finland is setting an example in sustainable forest management and how the many and varied innovations emerging from Finland's forestry sector can help, not only Finland, but the rest of Europe, in achieving the goal of greening their economies. Wood, unlike fossil fuels, is a renewable resource, because trees regrow as the result of seed sowing, replanting and natural regeneration. Finland's work in developing innovative wood products, is demonstrating how wood can be used as a greener option not only in traditional industries such as construction and pulp and paper production.
In India, the fuel is still a scarce resource in remote area and a large population collects the fire wood from jungle and burns it for their daily needs. A recent photograph indicates how this dependency on the energy is creating a big challenge in rural area. This clearly indicates that an integrated forest management is needed (similar to one tried and tested in Finland) along with the use of latest technology to make the energy supply reaches to the rural household and rural industry.
(2) New Technologies for harvesting energy from Sun (Using Photosynthesis equivalent process)
There are a number technology that exists and being used for directly generating electricity from Solar. The energy that reaches the earth as sunlight in a single hour is enough to cover humankind’s energy needs for almost a year and photosynthesis is most efficient way to convert light into the chemical energy. So, why not replicate this process to harvest the energy?
Recently, research labs across the world had started using the natural photosynthesis process to convert the solar radiation into chemical energy and then to electrical energy. It has been shown that how easy it is to generate electricity by putting a glass slide, with titanium dioxide paste (power used in toothpaste!) on it and a few drops of red hibiscus tea and electrolyte solution, in the sun along with another glass slide coated with graphite (known as Gratzel Cell).
Just imagine that a rooftop tile is made of such construct and the solar energy is converted into electricity efficiently to fulfill the need of the household.
The technology development is still in progress and there is clear need of developing a complete eco system to make it a large sustainable way to capture energy.
Optimizing energy use in industry is essential to improve industrial competitiveness and achieve wider societal goals such as energy security, economic recovery and development, climate change mitigation and environmental protection. While there is significant potential to decrease energy consumption in this sector, opportunities to improve energy efficiency are still under-exploited. Energy management programs have shown to be instrumental in addressing many of the barriers that inhibit wide-scale uptake of energy management in industry. The Policy Pathway builds on lessons learned from country experiences and provides actionable guidance on how to plan and design, implement, evaluate and monitor energy management programs for industry.
The globally accepted energy efficiency norms have helped reduction in the energy required for key household appliances, industry equipments, etc.
Smart energy management solution including sensors for capturing data in real time and actioning helped in reducing wastage in real time by using real time decisioning. There are many efficient management solution used for facility management, energy transportation and grid management in the industry. With the increased accessibility to the communication network, implementation of these solutions has become realistic for even households which have resulted into the great savings. These solutions have helped into not only reduction in the wastage but also helped in increasing the availability and lesser downtime while using the available resources optimally.
The smart fleet management for logistic, air line business has also helped deliver more per liter of fuel.
As large scale / mass implementation of such technologies have not happened, there is a huge potential.
(4) Increasing Localization of Production and Consumption:
The transportation of goods has been one of the major consumers of the energy produced. Though the integrated supply chain and logistic management have improved the efficiencies in transportation while making the products available across the world, the localization is ignored vastly. After globalization, transportation has increased significantly and has put a constraint on the fossil fuel. There are a significant opportunities exists where the transportation requirements can be reduced by promoting localization through policies and by using new technologies such as distributed manufacturing. It is worth to highlight a study done by Emma Rathbone (2011) on how food distribution across the world is impacting the total consumption of energy. Some of the examples from the study are:
- Off-Season vegetables / imported vegetables: When you find such stuff at the local super market, certainly it is consuming the fossil fuel significantly to bring it to your door step
- Milk Production:To make the milk dairies productive, centralization of processing unit and large distribution (and collection) network is established adding to significant cost of transportation. There is trend reversal seen in the world where the milk sourcing and consumption is localized.