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Saturday, May 4, 2019

Can renewable technologies mitigate climate change?

Energy generation and usage is considered not only as a mark of progress of a nation but also security of a nation. That is why countries go to extraordinary lengths to achieve such a security and everything else becomes secondary in the path of their goal. That is why countries with high oil and gas reserves enjoy good relationship and privileges with powerful nations of the world. Countries who do not have their own oil and gas reserves and who completely rely on import of oil and gas have no choice but maintain a good relationship with oil rich countries despite their difference in ideologies and policies. But with warming globe and changing climate the dependence on fossil fuels is fast becoming unsustainable and countries look for alternatives. It is good news for the whole world especially for nations who depend completely on import of oil and gas because they can develop their own renewable energy sources to lower their emissions. But there is one major difference. Countries who depend on import of oil and gas required to develop only an infrastructure to store and distribute oil and gas, But with renewable energy they have to develop an infrastructure to produce the hardware necessary to use alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal but also energy storage such as batteries. The warming globe and changing climate have become a grave threat to the plant earth and a threat to lives of entire future generations. It is the greatest challenge of the industrialized world. One can view this as threat or as an opportunity. But it is time to act irrespective of our views and we must act now. It is an opportunity for scientists and engineers to view energy sources and their applications in a new perspective. It is an opportunity to understand how human activities affect our environment and how not to damage them but preserve them for our future generations while developing new alternatives. Humanity is just a part of a larger environment and any damage to planet earth is at our own peril. It is an ancient wisdom, but we neglected them. When an aboriginal of Australia said “we belong to earth and earth does not belong to us” we failed to listen to them. We(people) became bigger than They (environment). In pursuit of a new energy source one must be extremely careful in examining Nature and how she operates so that we do not make the same mistakes of the past. As we develop renewable energy as a potential energy source of the future, we should be aware of the life cycle of such a system and their impact on environment. Renewable energy requires hardware that uses exotic metals, catalysts, polymers, new Carbon sources and glasses. As we switch to Carbon free economy, we should make sure that there are no emissions in developing renewable energy sources and if necessary impose Carbon tax on such emissions and, to develop recycling technologies to recycle that hardware safely and environmentally friendly manner. It is critically important issue as we move forward. According to an article published in Chemical engineering News “The potential quantities of waste are enormous. By 2025, waste batteries removed from electric vehicles will total 95 Giga watt hours, according to an estimate by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. That pile will weigh roughly 600,000 metric tons. A similar amount of old solar panels will have accumulated by then, according to projections by the International Renewable Energy Agency. IRENA anticipates solar panel waste could reach 78 million metric tons by 2050. And Europe could see 300,000 metric tons per year of decommissioned wind turbine blades in the next two decades, says the trade association Wind Europe. Each year, approximately 300,000 metric tons of lithium-ion battery waste is generated around the world, says Sheetanshu Upadhyay, an analyst with India’s Esticast Research & Consulting. Most of those batteries come from mobile devices, but that waste will soon be overshadowed by old electric car batteries. Sales of plug-in electric vehicles are expected to surpass 2.6 million in 2020, according to Navigation Research.” The above data shows the amount of CO2 emission associated with implementation of renewable energy sources soon. There is a potential for large scale recycling industries on renewables, but it will come with a price and environmental issues. Right now, the main problem is the CO2 emission and the only way to tackle this problem is impose Carbon tax on emissions while encouraging industries with low emission technologies. It should be possible for UN to pass a unanimous resolution among the nations to address climate change by imposing Carbon tax uniformly across the nations. By such resolution UN can bring all those countries to the table who are currently reluctant to be a party to the Paris accord. Countries can use “Carbon rating” similar to “energy ratings” currently used for measuring energy efficiencies in appliances such as Heaters and air-conditioners. The lowest emitting technologies will get the highest Carbon rating while high emission technologies will get the lowest Carbon ratings. By using such a method countries who are reluctant to act on climate change will be disadvantaged; they will not be able to compete in international market or export their goods to low emitting countries based on Carbon ratings.

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