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During 19–20 October 2009, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences arranged the international symposium Energy 2050 in Stockholm. The symposium was held in association with the Swedish EU presidency in autumn 2009. Internationally renowned scientists assessed the energy issue in a broad perspective, with particular emphasis on the possibilities of a fossil-free future. The symposium focused on key topics emanating from the in-depth energy studies carried through by the Academýs Energy Committee since 2005. The world community is facing a challenge of historic proportions to define a new energy paradigm based on fossil-energy substitutes. This article gives an overview of the current global energy situation (2007) and of the technologies which have the major potential for supplying energy up to year 2050 without jeopardizing the CO2 emission targets.
Planet Earth has experienced repeated changes of its climate throughout time. Periods warmer than today as well as much colder, during glacial episodes, have alternated. In our time, rapid population growth with increased demand for natural resources and energy, has made society increasingly vulnerable to environmental changes, both natural and those caused by man; human activity is clearly affecting the radiation balance of the Earth. In the session “Climate Change and Mitigation” the speakers offered four different views on coal and CO2: the basis for life, but also a major hazard with impact on Earth's climate. A common denominator in the presentations was that more than ever science and technology is required. We need not only understand the mechanisms for climate change and climate variability, we also need to identify means to remedy the anthropogenic influence on Earth's climate.
The Energy Committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences has in a series of projects gathered information and knowledge on renewable energy from various sources, both within and outside the academic world. In this article, we synthesize and summarize some of the main points on renewable energy from the various Energy Committee projects and the Committee's Energy 2050 symposium, regarding energy from water and wind, bioenergy, and solar energy. We further summarize the Energy Committee's scenario estimates of future renewable energy contributions to the global energy system, and other presentations given at the Energy 2050 symposium. In general, international coordination and investment in energy research and development is crucial to enable future reliance on renewable energy sources with minimal fossil fuel use.
The session on energy efficiency had no formal presentations and was organized as a panel discussion with four panelists. It was concluded that energy efficiency and saving measures on the short term is the most effective way to contribute to a sustainable energy system. Measures to improve and encourage energy efficiency should be implemented at all levels; municipal/local, national and super-national. Prices can be an effective instrument but need to be combined with systemic level measures. The transport sector was identified as the one with largest near future potential for increased energy efficiency. Agriculture and food is also an area with very large energy consumption and large potential for increased energy efficiency. The global population issue is yet another relevant, challenging and complex issue. It was noted that energy audits for end users in business and society increase awareness and insights into what they pay for, and they are likely to promote actions to save energy. Many measures are believed to suffer from Jevin's paradox, i.e., that more efficient use of energy just leads to more energy consumption somewhere else. Many examples were given, however, where this does not happen. Another point put forward was that measures to make the energy system more efficient do not only mean constraints and regulations but also create great opportunities for market actors and societies.
Nuclear energy can play a role in carbon free production of electrical energy, thus making it interesting for tomorrow's energy mix. However, several issues have to be addressed. In fission technology, the design of socalled fourth generation reactors show great promise, in particular in addressing materials efficiency and safety issues. If successfully developed, such reactors may have an important and sustainable part in future energy production. Working fusion reactors may be even more materials efficient and environmental friendly, but also need more development and research. The roadmap for development of fourth generation fission and fusion reactors, therefore, asks for attention and research in these fields must be strengthened.
There is a need to reduce the amount of fossil energy used for transport, both because of the easily available fossil fuel is becoming sparser and because of climate concerns. In this article, the concept of “peak oil” is briefly presented. Second, a practical approach to reduction of fossil fuel use for transport elaborated by two British commissions is presented. A key feature is the introduction of electric cars. This raises the third issue covered in this article: namely, how battery technology is going to meet the increasing needs posed by the transport sector.
Prof. Ulgiati stresses that we should always use an ecosystem view when transforming energy from one form to another. Sustainable growth and development of both environmental and human-dominated systems require optimum use of available resources for maximum power output. We have to adapt to the laws of nature because nature has to take care of all the waste products we produce. The presentation addresses a much needed shift away from linear production and consumption pattern, toward reorganization of economies and lifestyle that takes complexity—of resources, of the environment and of the economy—into proper account. The best way to reach maximum yield from the different kinds of biomass is to use biorefineries. Biorefinery is defined as the sustainable processing of biomass into a spectrum of marketable products like heat, power, fuels, chemicals, food, feed, and materials. However, biomass from agricultural land must be used for the production of food and not fuel. Prof. Voss focuses on the sustainability of energy supply chains and energy systems. Life cycle analyses (LCA) provides the conceptual framework for a comprehensive comparative evaluation of energy supply options with regard to their resource requirements as well as the health and environmental impact. Full scope LCA considers not only the emissions from plant operation, construction, and decommissioning but also the environmental burdens and resource requirements associated with the entire lifetime of all relevant upstream and downstream processes within the energy chain. This article describes the results of LCA analyses for state-of-the-art heating and electricity systems as well as of advanced future systems. Total costs are used as a measure for the overall resource consumption.