Energy policies in the real world.

Few countries know exactly where they are going energywise – but the processes have started. Energy policies in most countries are incomplete, not there or in a permanent state of “being prepared”.

Modern energy policies should be about moving in a direction of sustainability, to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and into a sustainable world. This means that changes have to be made – some things have got to go and new things must come. Policywise lots of people are saying things all the time, and precious little is being done. It is always difficult to say what is going and what is coming, and putting figures to it.

But the industry is moving – innovation is coming. A good example: Germany wants to be 80% renewable – with nuclear energy to go – by 2050. This also indicates the difficulty of change – it takes a long time to achieve substantial change. Many German energy companies are preparing changes.

Knowledge about what it will be and what is possible is increasing all the time – new methods, new thinking, new products, improved systems understanding, new economics. Gas, coal, oil, nuclear, hydro power are still kings, but can be improved, and new powers like wind, heat, bio-energy, wave, tides, pumping, storage are emerging, and this goes with flexibility, transmission lines, increasing value through better cooperation.

International energy systems, the automated grid are are evolving – sending power to where it is needed at the right time is also part of it.

Also the question of nuclear energy is coming up for renewed consideration after the sad happenings in Japan. Many are designed to last 40 years, they have containment systems that have been questioned, Japan has 55 reactors, the US 103, and so on.

A very important – symbolically – phenomenon is the increase in the number of electric cars sold, the number of new models and the building of electric car infrastructure. American company Better Place is now building electric car centers in many places (Israel, Denmark, others), and setting prices for batteries, charging etc. The batteries are rented from Better Place, you can change it in 5 minutes at one of their electric stations (quickdrop), or you can charge your car at home or at the stations. The first company going into a partnership is Renault with their Fluence. The battery change stations have been tested in Tokyo in cooperation with a taxi company. The prices seem fair – and time will show how fair. The numbers of electric cars produced and sold are increasing, thousands  sold in little Norway alone (and charging stations coming up in many cities), US talking about several hundred thousands by 2015 – we’ll see rather soon now.

Sustainability is gaining on us – that is sweet – and emissions are down of course. The road to sustainability is, however, a long one. We need policies now – powerful policies – if things are going to change in about 50 years. Long term thinking is needed, and all the politics is short term – we need to change that.

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