Energy is changing

For the past year and a bit, as with most things, I start and then I pause and then continue and then pause, and then forget.  I have the energy (pun intended) to do and to create but I spread it so thinly that often the results are questionable at best.

It makes me feel like I have a lot of loose ends.  I am changing my ways however.  And now I am finally getting around to tying them all up.

The reason I started writing this piece was that I noticed some news relating to energy appear on my radar.  I have an interest in energy production and usage.  When I was a child, I was fascinated by documentaries on the BBC where they would interview the head of the National Grid.  It was describing something we take for granted but has a whole system to keep it running.  In these documentaries, they would explain how they have numerous emergency power stations on stand by as there would be predicted power surges at the end of EastEnders or during the break in Coronation Street as kettles up and down the country were turned on.  Patterns such as this are changing, as we become less tied to the set programmed television and move to watching what we want when we went.  Although as I did find out, that’s not the case as everyone, I mean – everyone, watched The Undateables.  Anyway, as a nation we are generally becoming more power hungry.  Devices from mobiles to laptop to electric cars are growing in number and they all need energy.

My interest in energy also comes as a result of my developing fascination with   transportation.  To transport oneself, one needs energy.  The vast majority of vehicles run on either diesel or petrol and as more vehicles appear on the road, more fuel is being used.   I think it is so strange how we are using up a finite resource, predicted to run out by the end of this century, and find it even weirder that we allow the pollution that comes from the exhausts to mingle in the air that our children, and us, are breathing in.  If we are inside our cars, we are at more harm than those outside, as the polluted air seeps into the vehicle and does not easily escape – except into lungs.  Children are susceptible to lung growth being shunted, and we all face developing respiratory conditions as well as a possible reduction in intelligence.  What is this?

Anyway, we need energy in our lives.  Every aspect of the day involves consuming energy to some degree.  From making a tea in the morning, having a shower, commuting to work, going to the gym, watching television – to the food we eat – energy to produce, transport or power it.  Our energy consumption has, for too long, led to the creation of dirty by-products.  So, why can it not clean, and plentiful?

Changes – interesting news

As coal power begins to diminish, different energy sources need to take its place in order to keep supply reaching demand.  Britain gets its energy from a magnitude of sources including from the coal, wind farms, from solar panels, from tidal energy, from gas and from nuclear.  Between April 2016 and September 2016, solar panels generated more electricity than that produced from coal.  Amazing!

During this time, on Tuesday 10th May 2016, there were a few hours in which Britain never used a single piece of coal.  All coal power stations were off between midnight and 4am.  It was a momentous occasion for a country which, every single day, up to a few years ago relied heavily on coal for well over one hundred years.

It was then on Friday 21st April 2017 that Britain, for the very first time, had gone a full day without using coal to generate electricity for the grid.  2017 was the greenest year with 23 full days where renewables beat fossils fuels.  This was an amazing feat which shows just how quickly energy production has changed.  Towards the end of 2018, it was announced that Scotland surpassed the 100% mark for energy production from on and offshore wind.

In terms of transporting oneself, mainly, the fuel used is petrol or diesel – a major producer of dirty by-products but this is changing.  With the increasing uptake of fully electric vehicles, here there is no demand for petrol or diesel.  Of course, the problem moves down the line and the question is risen of how clean was the method of production is of this electricity.  As long as the sources are watched carefully, and the production moves at a continuing rate as mentioned above, then it should be fine.  There have been countries announcing the banning of petrol and diesel vehicles, such as France’s ban by 2040.  Even better its capital, Paris, has announced that shall ban any diesel vehicle by 2025.  Campaigners are hoping Sadiq Khan will do the same in London.  He has committed to increase the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, a scheme which will see cars charged £12.50 to enter central London on top of an £11.50 congestion charge.  This seems a great deterrent to rid polluting cars from the city – except if you are rich.  Congestion in London is enormous and so much energy is wasted from cars sitting in queues of traffic.  With this energy usually being dirty, this simply cannot continue.

 

The Future

The news above generally makes me feel so optimistic.  The Industrial Revolution started in Britain.  It changed the world.  Our society’s use of fossil fuel for electricity production or for transport was enormous.  For us to eventually change our relationship with these fossil fuel shows that the world can eventually do the same to see its overall demise.

Behind the scenes, energy production is changing.  In a time when the earth is warming due to an “extremely likely” result of human activity, this cleaner energy is so very welcome.  It is hidden away though.  When I turn a light on, I don’t think about the wind turbines that blow or the coal that is burnt.  These changing systems contributing to the National Grid are one thing, but changing individuals habits is another.  In terms of transportation, stopping people from filling up petrol or diesel will cause a bit of a stir.  Especially because governments in the 2000’s recommended people buy diesel cars over petrol because they produced less CO2.  It was discovered that other by-products are so much worse.   France’s ban on petrol or diesel vehicles, as mentioned above, is far off  but just recently, to lessen their environmental impact, an increase in duty on fuel was going to be implemented.  In response to this, protesters known as the yellow-vest protesters demanded these to be scrapped and they were.  Will the ban actually happen?

In the UK, in order to discourage petrol and diesel usage, fuel duty increases should have happened.  However, the Tories have capped fuel duty rises since 2010-11.  This political chess piece may appease motorists but discouraging burning fuel to make a 1 mile trip to McDonald’s does need to happen.  The act of driving needs to be made more expensive and public transport needs to be so much cheaper.  Walking and cycling needs to be made so much easier.  Our relationship with transporting ourselves needs to change.  It is impractical to travel 20 miles each way to work by foot but a linked up, reliable network of cycle paths, of trams, buses or trains should be commonplace.

As the population grows, the number of devices that need energy increase, and the National Grid needs to always supply this demand.  Our use of electricity, of course, ebbs and flows.  It always has, as stated above with kettles turning on.  With coal power stations, it was possible to have some on stand-by during at specific times of the day, week or year when electricity surges were expected.  It is not possible with production by solar, or wind.  Also, with our habits are changing, set events cannot be predicted so easily.  It is not possible yet to store powe  r but whilst the avenues are being explored, there is this:

Below is a link to a video by Tom Scott entitled:  Britain’s Largest Battery Is Actually A Lake.

Thanks for reading or listening,

 

Samuel x

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