The Earth’s surface receives more energy from the sun in an hour than mankind uses over a year. If we find a way of using this resource, the energy problems we are facing will be solved. Only a certain amount of solar energy can actually be used but with wind power, geothermal power, wood energy, hydraulics, wave energy and biogas produced from waste fermentation etc., there are many renewable energy sources at our disposal that are low in carbon. Together, they offer an alternative to fossil fuels and an answer to climate change.
These technologies are not new and yet, they represent less than 13 % of the world’s energy supply. For a long time, using them on a large scale seemed unrealistic. But over the past few years, renewable energies have become much more effective. The power of wind turbines increased tenfold between 1997 and 2007 and today, one wind turbine can produce 2 MW which is enough electricity for 2 000 people. Solar panels are becoming more efficient: laboratories regularly announce that new records have been set. Installation costs are also decreasing, especially due to large scale production. So much progress has been made that in a recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, it was estimated that this figure could go up to 80 % by 2050, and that political rather than technological or economic factors are holding us back.
For many people, until March 11, 2011, nuclear power was the energy of the future. But the tsunami that struck Japan’s coast and the damage it caused in the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station reminded us of the risks this technology poses. If the world’s reaction to this terribly tragic disaster speeds up the move to renewable energy, some good could come out of it.