CHAPTER TWO

Renewable Energy
Michael Totten

eventually nuclear energy) to support its nearly insatiable appetite for power. Today we face energy and climate crises that threaten both the survival of the human species as well as biodiversity across the globe. In response, renewables are once again being pursued as one of the key solutions to meet our needs in a sustainable way. This chapter focuses on what they actually are and what they can contribute. World consumption of fossil fuels has increased exponentially in the past century, and industrialized countries consume the lion’s share. In 2005, China consumed as much coal as the United States, Russia, India, and Australia combined. However, the United States, with only 5% of the world’s population, consumes one-fourth of the daily global oil supply, whereas China accounts for 6% of consumption with one-fifth of global population. Between 2000 and 2025, oil use is officially forecast to grow by 44% in the United States and 57% in the world. By 2025, the United States will use as much oil as Canada, Western and Eastern Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand combined. The forecasted increase alone in U.S. oil imports will exceed the 2001 total oil use of China, India, and South Korea (Lovins et al., 2004). Yet the problems of growth are not limited to the United States. Today, only 12% of the world’s population own cars. Africa and China currently have the car ownership America enjoyed in 1915. However, China’s compound annual car growth was 55% between 2001 and 2005. By 2025, its cars could require the oil output of a Saudi Arabia or two (which now exports one-fourth of world oil). Such harrowing growth rates in fossil fuel usage will dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions to a level threatening to derail society’s capacity to stabilize atmospheric concentrations below a safe threshold, triggering multicentury catastrophic consequences (Hansen, 2005; Hansen et al., 2008;
An early-morning wave breaks into the sunrise in Ventura, California. There are many ways to tap the energy available in the ocean, including harnessing underwater currents, tidal flows, and wave motion. TODD GLASER

F

or millennia, renewable energy from the wind, sea, sun, and land provided all of the Earth’s energy needs. It was the Industrial Era that drove humanity to use coal, oil, and natural gas fossil fuels (and

Romm, 2007). Fortunately, a significant fraction of the growth rate in the global demand for energy and mobility services can be effectively satisfied through smart energy efficiency improvements, at tens of trillions of dollars
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Livestock release methane, and research is showing how to reduce it. At the same time, methane from animal waste can be recycled into a renewable gas. PETER ESSICK

lower cost this century compared to conventional supply expansion. Moreover, as illuminated in Chapter 1: Energy Efficiency, many of the efficiency gains actually enhance the cost-effectiveness of wind and solar energy options. Renewable resources take diverse forms and include solar, wind, geothermal, biological, and hydrological sources. They can be used to provide any of the myriad applications for which humankind requires: thermal heat; solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical fuels; or even electricity. Many of these sources are highly cost-effective now and will only become increasingly economical in the coming decades. To facilitate their application and acceptance, we need to stop providing incentives for outdated and unsustainable fuel technologies and focus instead on the most ecologically sustainable renewable sources, notably wind and solar. The combination, in particular, of vehicle-to-grid system efficiencies and expansion of wind and solar energy offers multiple benefits: reduced cost of energy services; dramatic reductions in greenhouse gases, acid rain, and urban air pollutants; deep reductions in oil imports; and significantly less wilderness habitat converted and fresh water diverted to grow fuel crops. It will also take ambitious research, development, and demonstration initiatives, coupled with market-based incentives and innovative regulatory policies, to ensure the timely availability of economically attractive and affordable renewables on a global scale throughout this century. Abundant Options Current global energy consumption is about 15 terawatt-years or 475 exajoules, the equivalent of oil supertanker shipments arriving at the rate of one every ten minutes, or the distribution of fuel to service stations by 437 million delivery trucks per year. Projected energy consumption worldwide from 2000 to 2100, assuming no change in human behavior, is approximately 240 times the current amount—about 3,600 terawatt-years or 113,000 exajoules. Fossil fuels, also assuming no change in human behavior, would account for threefourths of this sum, releasing several trillion tons of greenhouse gases, while tripling the Earth’s atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases (in carbondioxide equivalents) from pre-industrial levels.
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Opinion surveys consistently show that more than 80% of citizens prefer solar and other renewables and energy efficiency to the use of fossil fuels. This is not surprising, given the unimaginably vast amount of renewable energy flows worldwide. Consider that global human energy consumption in 2007 amounted to just one hour of sunlight landing on Earth. Expert evaluations conclude that renewables are quite capable over the long term, in combination with extensive energy efficiency gains, to economically provide the current total global energy supply many times over. Solar. Solar technical potential is conservatively estimated at greater than 50 terawatt-years per year, or more than three times the current annual global energy use. From 2000 to 2100, solar’s technical potential of 5,000 terawattyears is 277% greater than the remaining post-efficiency supply requirements (i.e., after harnessing the large pool of cost-effective energy-efficiency opportunities). This solar technical potential was characterized nearly a decade ago, and faster market developments indicate this potential will increase over time as continuous scientific advancements and technological breakthroughs are able to capture an ever-larger fraction of the theoretical potential of 124,000 terawatt-years, or nearly 4 million exajoules per year. Wind. Wind technical potential is more than 20 terawatt-years per year, or more than 134% of the current annual global energy use. From 2000 to 2100, wind’s technical potential of 2,000 terawatt-years is more than 110% greater than the remaining (post-efficiency) supply requirements. About 1–2% of the energy coming from the sun is converted into wind energy. Wind’s theoretical potential is 2,476 terawatt-years, or 78,000 exajoules per year. Geothermal. Geothermal technical potential is about 160 terawatt-years per year, or more than ten times the current annual global energy use. The Earth’s interior reaches temperatures greater than 4,000°C, and this geothermal energy flows continuously to the surface. From 2000 to 2100, geothermal’s technical potential of 16,000 terawatt-years is 900% greater than the remaining (postefficiency) supply requirements. Geothermal’s theoretical potential worldwide

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differences between different layers of the ocean (called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion). More research remains to be done on the ecological impacts of the options on marine life, and these technologies may play a niche role for some island and coastal communities. Hydropower. Hydropower’s technical potential is 1.6 terawatt-years per year, or a bit over 10% of current annual global energy use. From 2000 to 2100, hydro’s technical potential of 160 terawattyears is 9% of the remaining (post-efficiency) is 440,000 terawatt-years, or 14 million exajoules per year. Domestic resources in the United States are equivalent to a 30,000-year energy supply at the current rate of consumption. Counting the Costs Biomass. Biomass technical potential is 8.6 terawatt-years per year, or 57% of current annual global energy use. From 2000 to 2100, biomass’s technical potential of 860 terawatt-years is 48% of the remaining (post-efficiency) supply requirements. On average, plant net primary production (NPP) is about 5 million calories per square meter per year. An important caveat about biomass availability is that global NPP is the amount of energy available to all subsequent links in critical ecosystem services plus the food, fiber, animal feed, and biofuel chain. The Earth’s surface area is about 500 trillion m2. The net power output stored by plants is thus 19 terawatt-years, or 0.01% (1/100th of 1%) of the sun’s power emitted to Earth. Oceans. Ocean power’s technical potential (more than 80% from thermal energy conversion) is 5 terawatt-years per year, or one-third of current annual global energy use. From 2000 to 2100, the ocean’s technical potential of 500 terawatt-years is 27% of the remaining (post-efficiency) supply requirements. There are various potential ocean technologies, such as harnessing the power of underwater currents, tidal flows, wave motion, and exploiting the temperature Not surprisingly, much of the lively and contentious debate over future energy supplies tends to reduce itself to one key criterion: cost. This is myopic for two reasons. First, assumptions about long-term technological cost and performance data inherently contain a fair degree of subjective judgment. The future is uncertain in too many ways, precluding any technical assessment to claim complete objectivity or certitude. Moreover, current views on technology options are heavily conditioned by the long trail of public interventions and subventions shaping markets and investment patterns. For humanity to avoid catastrophic climate change, and avert conflicts and wars over oil resources, there will need to be a dramatic change in the calculus of energy policymaking and investment decision-making. This means it is a wide-open arena for all energy options, even the current energy giants, since the accumulated rules and subsidies currently in place are now facing a radical makeover to align outcomes for climate-positive, real energy-security results (DeCanio, 2003; Smil, 2003). Second, cost and climate emissions are just two criteria among many for ensuring a sustainable smart-energy system worldwide this century. There
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supply requirements. This potential is further limited by serious ecological, social, and climatic problems associated with some river sites.

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The cooling towers of a nuclear power plant frame a traditional windmill in St. Laurent des Eaux in France’s Loire Valley. Contemporary wind turbines, designed with stateof-the-art technologies, now deliver electricity at several times lower cost than nuclear power. THOMAS HOEPKER

is a rich literature developed in the wake of innumerable energy crises over the past forty years stressing important attributes that should be sought in energy services to achieve a high probability of avoiding adverse impacts and unintended consequences (Lovins and Lovins, 1982; Lovins et al., 2004; Smil, 2003). A dozen criteria recur as important attributes of energy supplies: • Is it economically affordable, even for the poorest of the poor and cash-strapped? • Is it safe through its entire life cycle? • Is it clean through its entire lifespan? • Is its risk low and manageable during financial and price volatility? • Is it resilient and flexible to volatility, surprises, miscalculations, and human error? • Is it ecologically sustainable, with no adverse impacts on biodiversity? • Is it environmentally benign in that it maintains air, water, and soil quality? • Will it fail gracefully, not catastrophically, in response to abrupt surprises or crises? • Will it rebound easily and swiftly from failures, with low recovery cost and limited lost time? • Does it have endogenous learning capacity, with intrinsic new productivity opportunities? • Does it have a robust experience curve for reducing negative externalities and amplifying positive externalities, including scalable innovation possibilities? • Is it an uninteresting target for malicious disruption, off the radar of terrorists and military planners? Among the range of available energy options, only energy services from efficiency gains rank at the top in every attribute. All other options are deficient or weak in two or more of these attributes. The vast expansion of energy consumption from coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydrodams, and wood and crops over the past century has revealed a series of grave problems,
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some intractable or intrinsic to the energy option, that have been costly to human well-being and ecological health. For example, hydroelectric power is promoted as the most cost-effective renewable energy solution for climate change. This is grossly misleading and highly inaccurate. Actual measurements of hydrodams in different parts of the world indicate they are responsible for an estimated 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions, and projected expansion in coming decades, mostly in wilderness areas, could increase this to 15% of total emissions (St. Louis et al., 2000). Hydrodams have also been the major reason why one-fourth of freshwater species have been driven to extinction worldwide (Bräutigam, 1999) This is not to say that all hydro facilities release greenhouse gas emissions. Not all hydroelectric plants require dams, and not all dams generate electricity. And clearly other extenuating circumstances come into play (e.g., the need for irrigation) (WCD, 2000). This reinforces the point that using multiple criteria to prioritize preferable energy options this century, coupled with the alignment of public policies and regulations towards this end, is imperative given the looming threat of climate catastrophe in need of fast and massive action, while at the same time avoiding wars and conflicts over the accelerating demand for vulnerable oil supplies; avoiding and reversing the contamination of air, water, and soil; avoiding nuclear weapons proliferation; and preventing the destruction of wildlife and biodiversity loss. In addition, we must now take into account the increasing occurrence of climate-triggered mega-droughts, super-hurricanes, deluge-level floods, larger and longer wildfires, more widespread pest devastation, and the adverse impacts these will have on energy installations. It is also prudent in a post9/11 world—where nuclear reactors and large refineries now remain on constant alert to possible terrorist attacks—to design energy systems that are uninteresting targets (Romm, 2007). Proper Investment and the Future of Renewables In spite of renewables’ overwhelming potential, existing public policies—as well as the majority of future-looking global energy assessments—reflect negligible

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Moreover, nuclear power continues to receive unprecedented taxpayer-subsidized insurance coverage for reactor disasters. A similar taxpayer burden is now being proposed to underwrite federally assumed liability of a century-long leakage risk from carbon capture and storage projects. Likewise, the fossil fuel industries have received considerable largesse and investment stability as a result of long-standing subsidies, while emerging competitive options like wind power suffer financial instability because the Production Tax Credit is sunset every few years, roles for solar, wind, and geothermal energy sources or the ambitious efficiency gains posited in Chapter 1. On the contrary, they emphasize massive fossil fuel carbon capture and storage (CCS) operations, aggressive nuclear power expansion, enormous biomass plantations, and large-scale hydro development (Hamrin, Hummel, and Canapa, 2007). This is due less to technical or economic constraints than to institutional and political inertia. Over the past half century, governments have provided (and continue to provide) several trillion dollars per decade in subsidies—nearly two-thirds have been dedicated to fossil fuels (mostly to coal and oil) and one-fourth to nuclear power. Only 5% went to all non-hydro renewables (solar thermal, solar-electric photovoltaics, solar-thermal-electric “concentrated solar power” systems, terrestrial wind, offshore wind farms, geothermal heat, geothermalelectric) and all efficiency (buildings, transportation, appliances, industry, combined heat and power). For each U.S. tax dollar supporting wind power or solar power research and development over the past fifty years, nuclear power received 100 times more. Even in the U.S. 2008 federal appropriations, wind power research and development funding was $40 million vs. $400 million for nuclear. This makes no sense given the fact that wind power generates electricity already competitive to nuclear reactors and has a global technical potential that could provide twice the level of total global energy needs this century (in combination with ambitious efficiency gains) (GWEC, 2006). wreaking havoc by disrupting investment flows (Koplow and Dernbach, 2001). In sharp contrast, however, is the attention that many other nations, as well as a number of U.S. states, have focused on the future of renewables to meet the range of environmental, economic, social, and security criteria noted above. There is a growing body of literature describing that future, including policy targets and shifts in financial incentives based on insights gleaned from socio-economic and technology scenarios, carbon-constrained scenarios, and future social visions. Policy targets for future shares of renewable energy are described for regions, specific countries, states/provinces, and cities. By 2020, many targets and scenarios show a 20–35% share of electricity from renewables, increasing to 50–80% by 2050 under the highest scenarios (Martinot et al., 2007). Two scenarios with very ambitious efficiency and renewable goals were released in 2007 by the European Renewable Energy Commission (EREC, 2007) and by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES, 2007), the latter limited to the United States. The European Renewable Energy Commission projects 70% renewables in the electric sector (while constraining nuclear and large hydro), and the American Solar Energy Society forecasts 50% renewables in the U.S. electricity sector by 2030 (also ignoring nuclear and large hydro). The high penetration rates are directly due to the fact that both
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An electric Smart Car advertises the New York City Marathon in Midtown Manhattan’s Times Square. Using plug-in hybrid technology, the electricity infrastructure in the United States could potentially power the daily use of 84% of the nation’s cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs. CHUCK PEFLEY

reports estimate half or more of total energy supply being displaced through lower-cost energy-efficiency gains—by a factor of four to one in the case of the EREC projects. The ASES report is highly transparent and richly detailed and strongly demonstrates that energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies have the potential to provide most, if not all, of the U.S. carbon emissions reductions that will be needed to help stabilize the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases (Hamrin, Hummel, and Canapa, 2007). However, while some renewable options accrue multiple benefits and positive externalities and should be encouraged, other renewable options trigger adverse impacts or incur negative tradeoffs. This is especially the case when a supply option like biofuels is vastly expanded over space and time. High oil prices have driven policymakers to set high production targets and enact lavish subsidies for investors to develop biofuels from agricultural crops. Mobile liquid biofuels—both ethanol derived from corn and sugarcane and biodiesel derived from oil palm, soybean, and rapeseed—are not only more expensive than vehicle efficiency gains by a factor of two to five (Lovins et al., 2004), but also more expensive than system efficiency gains achievable by connecting plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to the national electricity grid system. Genetically modified fuels of the future are likely to lower production costs, but pose many of the same ecological issues associated with current biofuels (Jacobson, 2007). Preeminent Solutions: Electric Vehicles Research and developments over the past two decades in the production of electric vehicles and separately in the commercialization of hybrid-electric vehicles have given rise to the recognition that plugging vehicles into the grid system would accrue several remarkable benefits far superior to continuing to run vehicles entirely on mobile liquid fuels. As researchers have pointed out, “The vehicle fleet has twenty times the power capacity, less than one-tenth the utilization, and one-tenth the capital cost per prime mover kilowatt. Conversely, utility generators have ten to fifty times longer an operating life and lower operating costs per kilowatt-hour. To tap Vehicle-to-Grid is to synergistically
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use these complementary strengths, and to reconcile the complementary needs of the driver and grid manager” (Kempton and Tomić, 2005). As discussed in the chapter on efficiency and smart energy services, the existing U.S. grid could recharge 80% of America’s 200+ million vehicle fleet if they were plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, without having to build a new power plant. This would have the positive effect of eliminating 52% of U.S. oil imports (340 billion liters per year) worth some $350 billion savings at the gas pump, while also reducing total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 27% (PNNL, 2007). As with the market diffusion rate of any major technological innovation (accelerated to some degree by favorable public policies and incentives), declining manufacturing costs and vehicle prices will occur with accumulated experience of scaled-up production. Researchers note another tremendous benefit of vehicle-to-grid over time, as production costs drop: providing battery storage for intermittent wind power and solar electricity generation. Research calculations suggest that vehicle-to-grid could stabilize large-scale (one-half of U.S. electricity) wind power with 3% of the fleet dedicated to regulation for wind, plus 8% to 38% of the fleet providing operating reserves or storage for wind (Kempton and Tomić, 2005). For context, currently half of U.S. electricity is coal-fired. The vehicle-to-grid technological revolution is driven by many of the same digital electronics and advanced materials that enable production and operation of high-efficiency, lower energy-consuming smart appliances, smart grids, smart buildings, and smart cars. It offers an economic development strategy for developed and developing countries alike. With the majority of the world’s population becoming urban-based, electric and hybrid-electric vehicles can accommodate the typical urban driving cycles of 16 to 48 kilometers per day. Longer distances can be provided by the flexible fuel component derived from local and regional biowastes. The Role of Biofuels Local and regional biowastes can be converted to biofuels, providing the mobile fuels essential for long-range driving beyond electric battery capacity.

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renewable

resources;

accumulated

scientific

knowledge also gives good indication they will incur the smallest climate and ecological footprints when scaled up globally and operated over long time periods. Solar photovoltaics and wind power have the added advantage of requiring 95% less water per terawatt-year than coal or nuclear power, biopower or solar-thermal-electric “concentrated solar power” (CSP) systems. In a vehicle-to-grid connected world, with solar and wind power stored in the mass distribution of plug-in hybrid electric batteries, Such a modest use of biofuels would prevent some of the near-intractable problems associated with large-scale biofuel consumption. Unfortunately, one unintended negative consequence of corn-based ethanol expansion in the United States is that it drives soy production to Brazil and Argentina (where it is grown mainly for animal feed), which leads to deforestation and destruction of biodiversity-rich savannah grasslands and Amazon ecosystems (CARD, 2007; Searchinger et al., 2008; Fargione et al., 2008). Similarly, oil palm plantations in tropical countries, already one of the major causes of biodiversity loss, are the preferred low-cost feedstock for biodiesel. Some of the last remaining intact wilderness habitats for mega-charismatic species like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, and also rhino and elephant are threatened with conversion to oil palm. Species extinction will be the outcome of people “putting an orangutan in your tank.” Minimizing biofuel expansion reduces the adverse impacts on ecosystems and biodiversity loss in tropical countries already being caused by ethanol and biodiesel plantation growth (Morton et al., 2006; Fearnside, 2002; Killeen, 2007). It also avoids driving up food prices (CARD, 2007). Harnessing the Sun and the Wind Solar, wind, and geothermal energy systems are not only the three largest sixty and thirty times less land area, respectively, would be needed than in the case of biofuels for the same power output (Jacobson, 2007). Roughly 7% of the U.S.’s 50 million hectares of urban land area covered with solar photovoltaic panels at today’s 10%-efficient systems could provide 100% of U.S. electricity. Brownfields could provide most of the land area. Buildingintegrated photovoltaic systems (BIPVs) could provide half of the power (Kazmerski, 2002; Zweibel, 2004). Alternatively, around 2.5% of the North American Great Plains with dispersed wind farms—or roughly 92 million out of 363 million hectares—could provide 100% of U.S. electricity. The actual footprint of the several hundred thousand multi-megawatt turbines, hypothetically squeezed into one spot, would be less than the size of one large Wyoming coal strip mine (Komanoff, 2006; Williams, 2001). Even when spaced out to optimize wind capture, 90% of the 2.5% could still be farmed, ranched, or ecologically restored. Several valuable benefits would accrue to rural communities from such a strategy. Farmers and ranchers can earn, on average, twice as much from wind farm royalty payments than they currently obtain from crop and animal farming. Currently 75% of the Great Plains is farmed or ranched, but only generates 5% of the region’s economic output. Shifting to wind farming could produce twice as much economic output on thirty-five times less land area. Similarly, vast wind resources are available in China and
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The people of Hveragerdi, in southwest Iceland, use geothermal energy to heat their greenhouses. Geothermal heat in Iceland is also used for swimming pools, to bake bread, and to heat up footpaths, streets, and parking spaces.
ARCTIC-IMAGES/CORBIS

India, as well as along coastal regions throughout the world (Totten, 2007; GWEC, 2006; NREL, 2006). China and India will account for 80% of coal increase by 2030. China annually expands its coal use equivalent to that of the United Kingdom. It surpassed the United States in 2007 as the world’s top greenhouse gas emitter. However, China’s wind technical potential is estimated at 2 million megawatts, 400% larger than China’s total electric generation capacity. In addition, twice as much solar energy lands on China each year than could be produced from its 800 billion tons of coal over the next several centuries. Economies of Efficiency—Combining Heat and Power Instead of targeting massive investments into central, large-scale, coal, nuclear, and hydroelectric generating stations, cities around the world should be looking for energy system efficiencies that could enable phasing in use of local and regional biological wastes over the long-term. One of the proven options available globally is decentralized combined heat and power. Whereas central thermal power plants vent 70% of the energy when generating electricity, combined heat and power systems capture this waste heat to cogenerate two, three, or four different energy services (heat, steam, electricity, cooling). Moreover, in being sited close to the point of use, combined heat and power systems require significantly less transmission and distribution investment than centralized power plants, as well as avoiding the 15% transmission and distribution line losses (WADE, 2004). For example, just the waste heat discarded from U.S. power plants is equivalent to 1.2 times Japan’s total energy use. Recent assessments indicate that if China moved to 100% high-efficiency decentralized combined heat and power systems by 2021, retail and capital cost savings could reach $400 billion. At no extra cost, new emissions of carbon dioxide would drop 56%, avoiding 400 million tons of such emissions per year, and nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions would decline by 90%. But these results are possible only if the Chinese government adopts key policies enabling a faster rate of implementation than the current annual combined heat and power addition of 3,000 megawatts. Some 100,000
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megawatts of combined heat and power could be online in several years if a number of important power sector reforms occur (WADE, 2004). For nations like China facing water crises, combined heat and power offers a highly cost-effective system efficiency option for combining the delivery of energy and potable water. Water consumes considerable energy throughout the process of extracting, pumping, distributing, heating, and disposing. In California, for example, 20% of the electricity and one-third of natural gas are consumed by the water sector (NRDC and Pacific Institute, 2004). Delivering water services efficiently saves money, reduces air pollution, and cuts greenhouse gases. China faces the additional problem that its water resources per capita may decline to around 1,700 cubic meters by 2050, which is the threshold of severe water scarcity. Water shortage already has become a critical constraint for socio-economic development in northern China, where per capita levels are now below 300 cubic meters. To solve or eliminate water shortage problems, China is now pursuing all water-efficiency opportunities (e.g., drip irrigation) that can cut water use by two-thirds on farms (which consume 80% of all water). Alternative Water Supplies Meanwhile, wastewater and seawater desalination are drawing more and more attention from researchers and policy-makers as alternative water supply sources (Zhou and Tol, 2003). Desalination costs currently vary by a factor of seven or more, depending on the type of feedwater (brackish, waste, or seawater), the available concentrate disposal options, the proximity to distribution systems, and the availability and cost of power. Desalination’s primary operating cost is for power. One cubic kilometer (one trillion liters) of wastewater or seawater desalination requires about 500 megawatts of power. The reduction in unit energy use by desalination plants has been among the most dramatic improvements in recent years due to improvement in energy recovery systems. Estimates considered valid for China today range from a cost of $0.60 per cubic meter (1,000 liters) for brackish and wastewater desalination to $1 per cubic meter for seawater desalination by reverse osmosis (Zhi, Totten, and Chou, 2006).

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operate reverse osmosis technologies to purify these wastewaters, while also providing ancillary energy services like space and water heating and cooling. The Final Hope As the chapter on efficiency and smart energy services describes, ensuring the capture of the immense pool of efficiency opportunities could deliver more than half of the world’s cumulative energy services at lower cost and risk than expanding energy supplies, replacing the need Extrapolating from technological trends, and given the promise of ongoing innovations in lower-cost, higher-performance membranes, seawater desalination costs will continue to fall. The average cost may decline to $0.30 per cubic meter in 2025. For comparison, China’s average (subsidized) water prices are $0.25 per cubic meter for domestic and industrial use, $0.34 per cubic meter for commercial use, $0.60 per cubic meter in Tianjin and Dalian, and approaching $0.80 per cubic meter at full pricing in cities like Beijing. Desalination of wastewater via combined heat and power can capture double benefits: it reduces contaminated discharges into rivers and, instead, expands the city’s freshwater supplies at lower cost than importing remote water resources. The Reverse Osmosis membrane process is universally considered to be the most promising technology for brackish and seawater desalination A model of using reverse osmosis membranes powered by combined heat and power is the Ashkelon plant in Israel, which produces 100 million cubic meters per year of potable water at a highly cost-effective 50 cents per cubic meter. China’s total wastewater discharges annually exceed 60 cubic kilometers (60 trillion liters). As of the late 1990s, less than one-seventh of this wastewater was treated. Close to 600 million Chinese people have water supplies that are contaminated by animal and human waste. Harnessing 30,000 megawatts of co-generation available in cities and industrial facilities potentially could
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for 1,800 terawatt-years or 57,000 exajoules of energy supplies. Envision eliminating the need for 13.8 billion coal railcars this century. However, that still leaves a demand for another 1,800 terawatt-years or 57,000 exajoules of energy supply. A lively debate has ensued as to the best options for satisfying this immense growth. Smarter delivery of energy services through efficiency gains can effectively satisfy most of this growth, while saving money and reducing emissions provide ancillary benefits. Combining these with steady increases in harnessing energy services powered by wind, solar, geothermal, and biowastes promises society a long-term, clean, safe, secure, and ecologically sound energy system. Achieving this ambitious but feasible outcome is fundamental for resolving climate and energy crises, while bringing all of humanity to health and well-being and preventing the unnecessary extinction of the planet’s rich biodiversity of plants and animals.

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