Sustainable Energy


Sustainable energy is the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. A broader interpretation may allow inclusion of fossil fuels and nuclear fission as transitional sources while technology develops, as long as new sources are developed for future generations to use. A narrower interpretation includes only energy sources which are not expected to be depleted in a time frame relevant to the human race.
Sustainable energy sources are most often regarded as including all renewable sources, such as biofuelssolar powerwind powerwave powergeothermal power and tidal power. It usually also includes technologies that improve energy efficiency. Conventional fission power is sometimes referred to as sustainable, but this is controversial politically due to concerns about peak uraniumradioactive waste disposal and the risks of disaster due to accident, terrorism, or natural disaster.

Distinction from other terms

Energy efficiency and renewable energy are said to be the twin pillars of sustainable energy.[1] Some ways in which sustainable energy has been defined are:
  • "Effectively, the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the future without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. ...Sustainable Energy has two key components: renewable energy and energy efficiency." – Renewable Energy and Efficiency Partnership(British)[2]
  • "Dynamic harmony between equitable availability of energy-intensive goods and services to all people and the preservation of the earth for future generations." And, "the solution will lie in finding sustainable energy sources and more efficient means of converting and utilizing energy." – Sustainable energy by J. W. Tester, et. al, from MIT Press.
  • "Any energy generation, efficiency & conservation source where: Resources are available to enable massive scaling to become a significant portion of energy generation, long term, preferably 100 years.." – Invest, a green technology non-profit organization.[3]
  • "Energy which is replenishable within a human lifetime and causes no long-term damage to the environment." – Jamaica Sustainable Development Network[4]
This sets sustainable energy apart from other renewable energy terminology such as alternative energy and green energy, by focusing on the ability of an energy source to continue providing energy. Sustainable energy can produce some pollution of the environment, as long as it is not sufficient to prohibit heavy use of the source for an indefinite amount of time. Sustainable energy is also distinct from Low-carbon energy, which is only sustainable only in the sense that it does not add to the CO2 in the atmosphere.

[edit]Renewable energy technologies

Renewable energy technologies are essential contributors to sustainable energy as they generally contribute to world energy security, reducing dependence on fossil fuel resources, and providing opportunities for mitigating greenhouse gases.[5] The International Energy Agency states that:
Conceptually, one can define three generations of renewables technologies, reaching back more than 100 years . First-generation technologies emerged from the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century and include hydropowerbiomass combustion, and geothermal power and heat. Some of these technologies are still in widespread use. Second-generation technologies include solar heating and cooling, wind power, modern forms of bioenergy, and solar photovoltaics. These are now entering markets as a result of research, development and demonstration (RD&D) investments since the 1980s. The initial investment was prompted by energy security concerns linked to the oil crises (1973 and 1979) of the 1970s but the continuing appeal of these renewables is due, at least in part, to environmental benefits. Many of the technologies reflect significant advancements in materials. Third-generation technologies are still under development and include advanced biomass gasificationbiorefinery technologies, concentrating solar thermal power, hot dry rock geothermal energy, and ocean energy. Advances in nanotechnology may also play a major role.
International Energy AgencyRENEWABLES IN GLOBAL ENERGY SUPPLY, An IEA Fact Sheet[5]
First- and second-generation technologies have entered the markets, and third-generation technologies heavily depend on long term research and development commitments, where the public sector has a role to play.[5]
A 2008 comprehensive cost-benefit analysis review of energy solutions in the context of global warming and other issues ranked wind power combined with battery electric vehicles (BEV) as the most efficient, followed by concentrated solar powergeothermal powertidal powerphotovoltaicwave powercoal capture and storagenuclear energy, and finally biofuels.[6]
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