Monday, May 25, 2009

13/05/2009 - Low carbon society symposium. David MacKay - Sustainable energy: without the hot air.

Professor David MacKay from Cambridge University and the author of Sustainable energy: without the hot air (available to download free on was the first speaker of the day. He demonstrated that we need to view energy in a comparable unit such as the kilowatt hour (boiling a kettle for 20 minutes consumes one kWh of energy), and how important it is to look at the real numbers associated with different energy options so that we as a nation and as individual consumers can make the best informed decision possible. He highlighted that if we are to stop climate change from taking its current course we, in developed countries, need to reduce our CO2 emissions by 90%, in order to do this we must stop burning fossil fuels and obtain all our energy from alternative sources.
In Ireland and the UK we regularly hear that we have a huge capacity for renewable energy, but we also have a huge capacity for energy consumption (125kWh per person per day). In order to determine whether we can meet our current energy demands from indigenous renewable energy sources it is essential that we view energy supply and demand in a simple comparable unit such as the kWh.
David systematically showed that although we have a huge amount of potential for renewable energies in Ireland our energy consumption still outstrips what we could supply ourselves therefore it is essential that we see some technological or societal change that reduces our energy demand. As life style changes are difficult to create we need to focus on the development of technologies that increase energy efficiencies in order to reduce demand. He concluded that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies will not be easy but it is possible.

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