“It’s not good enough to say ‘yes’ to renewables, you also have to say ‘no’ to fossil fuels. And that will require a change of politics and understanding”
and very strong arithmetic relationship between energy use and the level of development per person. The question is what kind of energy, and right now the energy is petrol for automobiles, its natural gas for power transmission or coal for power generation. We are a society that is technologically dependent on fossil fuels. We now understand, though, scientifically, that those fossil fuels are creating global warming and creating the environmental stress that has its feedbacks into dislocation, war, famine, heat waves, and many other dangerous consequences.
“We want energy, but we don’t want the side effects. And the solution to that is primarily tapping renewable energy – wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric power or nuclear energy, which does not have the carbon emissions – and the way to tap those renewable energies is to transform them into electricity. And to transform the machinery, including our cars that now use petrol or other fossil fuels, to be able to run on electricity produced by zero carbon sources. I think the future is zero-carbon electricity from these non-fossil fuel sources, plus electrification, and that also means trade in electricity the same way we now trade in oil and coal, or natural gas; we will trade across borders in electricity on a very large scale. This, I believe is the future. It’s a good one because the quality of life would really improve between making this big transformation from fossil fuels to zerocarbon electricity.”
“The idea of energy interconnection awareness. And when our cars are is gaining a lot of electric, then the interconnection of our vehicles with the power grid will also be reciprocal. Sometimes the grid will be charging the vehicles, sometimes vehicles will be charging the grid, putting electricity back into the grid.
“We’re moving to a much more sophisticated energy grid that is transnational and that is also interconnected across different sectors of the economy. Rather than having just one power plant that feeds the economy, we’ll have the whole economy sometimes feeding the power plant. Our buildings of course will have solar panels, solar windows, they will sometimes put some electricity into the grid, sometimes they will take electricity from the grid.
“These are the changes that are underway and where the engineers need to gain a new expertise in how to manage a power grid. This needs a tremendous amount of management to balance the supply and demand to shift the demand across the day or even across the week, or across the year, to have new pricing models, to have ways that grids can be both commercial, but also not only selling electricity, but buying electricity from distributed sources.”
“This is, on the whole, very promising and moving, I think, in the right direction. But of course, with oil everybody sees easy wealth. If you discover natural gas in the Mediterranean, nobody wants to give that up. If you have oil reserves in the US, everybody wants to produce it. With coal in Australia, everybody wants to produce it.
“The problem is that if we’re to use all of the coal, oil and gas that we know of and that is economically viable, at around today’s prices, we would destroy the climate. We have to able to say ‘no’ to our own resources, but everybody likes to say ‘no’ for everybody else, but not for themselves.
“This is a question of too easy money when it comes to an oil exploration. Try telling Israel, ‘No, you shouldn’t use the Mediterranean gas’. This will be nearly impossible. But the truth is that, or tell Mr Trump, almost anything, but tell him that you can’t use the oil and gas of the United States. He wouldn’t even understand what you’re talking about. But he would resist that as being unfair.
“Our problem is that we have enough oil gas and coal to wreck the entire planet, that’s the trajectory that we’re on. We’re very bad at saying ‘no’ to our own impulses of wealth. The good news is that we also have enough wind, solar, geothermal and hydro power to power the entire planet in a safe way, if we choose to do so. It’s not good enough to say ‘yes’ to renewables, you also have to say ‘no’ to fossil fuels. And that will require a change of politics and understanding.”