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Skip to 0 minutes and 11 seconds Energy is essential for us. We need energy to drive about everything in our economy. We need electricity for all our equipment and appliances. We need fuels to drive our modes of transport. And we need heat to heat our houses and cook our meals. So it is an essential prerequisite for our development. But also we need sheer huge amounts of energy. And that in itself is also causing trouble. World population is growing. Economic development is continuing. And that means that our energy use is growing. And that is causing on a global scale a number of key sustainability problems. And a key problem we are facing– especially linked to the large-scale use of fossil fuels– is climate change.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds We are emitting CO2 emissions on a large scale because of that. And that is influencing our climate. We have issues to secure our energy supply in that growing pathway. Do we have enough energy? Will energy be available all the time also in our energy and electricity systems? Is energy cheap enough for people to afford it? So we have still many people that have no access to modern energy carriers like electricity or fuels. And that in itself is an essential prerequisite for further development. So that is still a big problem.

Skip to 1 minute and 28 seconds And then linked to the large-scale use of fossil fuels, but sometimes also renewable energy, we are facing key environmental problems– air pollution, the exploitation of resources, sometimes also pollution of water or soils. And the availability of land, for example, for renewable energy, of metals that can be scarce for all the equipment, sometimes water can also be a limiting factor. So as you can see, there are many trade-offs that we need to make. Here you see a projection for what can happen to the global world population during this century. And it is a wide bandwidth. There are uncertainties. But the main projection is that we will at least end up around nine billion people around 2050.

Skip to 2 minutes and 10 seconds Then population growth can still continue. It may decline a little bit. But overall we’re still looking at a very major increase in world population. On top of that, the world population is on average getting more affluent, more due to economic development. That’s overall a good thing. But it is intricately linked to increasing energy use. Also here there are uncertainties. But the mean projection is that the global GDP may triple or even quadruple during this century. And that will definitely drive future growth and energy demand. Now here you see a breakdown of the world’s energy supply about today. And we see the unit exajoules– 10 to the 18th joules.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 seconds And we use now well more than 500 exajoules to in total meet our energy demands. And as you can see, about 80% of that is covered by fossil fuels– oil, coal, and gas. And if our smaller share is covered by one of nuclear energy. And then a number of renewable energy carriers. Going to those renewable energy carriers, you see that the figures are much smaller compared to those fossil fuels. And especially when we’re looking at renewables like wind energy and solar electricity. Those technologies are developing fast. Their growth rates are high. But their current contribution to the world’s energy system is still very small.

Skip to 3 minutes and 33 seconds And that means that at the moment, we continue to fuel our future energy needs by the current energy mix. We will use much more fossil fuels, and also worsen the problems that I already introduced. Energy use, as said, is today linked to the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. And here you see an important graphic that shows in the grey bandwide what can happen. At the moment we continue to cover our energy needs by fossil fuels. And the grey area on the left-hand side is translated in what can happen to global mean temperatures of our climate. And the grey area means that those temperatures will increase strongly, maybe up to 6 or 7 degrees even. This would be disastrous.

Skip to 4 minutes and 15 seconds And that is why we’re looking at the green pathway, all on the bottom, that may limit climate change to about 2 degrees– global mean temperature change in this century. But it also means that we need to reduce those emissions drastically. They need to go down to 0, and partly even beyond that. We need to remove CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. And if we don’t do that, here you see an overview of what happens as we understand it now. At the moment, global mean temperature change continues to 4 degrees, 5 degrees, 6 degrees. And what happens, for example, to sea level rise, or to biodiversity, or to our food production capacity.

Skip to 4 minutes and 55 seconds And all those elements, all those key factors in our global ecosystem are affected up to a disastrous level. At the moment we are looking to climate change of 4 degrees and beyond. That is why it’s so important to control that. And here you see a graphic that shows that we are not constrained by our reserves of fossil fuels. On the top you see in dark blue what has been used so far historically. The light blue, what we will use at the moment we continue to lean on fossil fuels during this century. But below the x-axis, you see the reserves of coal, oil, and gas that we can still access.

Skip to 5 minutes and 34 seconds And that is much more even than we can use in our future energy demands, and will definitely be much too much to stay within the limits of climate change. And another notion leads to energy security is that markets are not stable. You see how oil prices, for example, fluctuated over the past couple of years, as well as other commodity prices. So we have instabilities in these energy markets. And that is a problem in itself. And also, we see growing dependence of key world regions– like China, also India and Europe– on energy imports. At the moment, they keep leaning on fossil fuels. The import dependencies that go well over 90% in those regions. And that is also a security risk.

Main sustainability issues of energy

In this video, André Faaij will cover the main sustainability issues of energy. The goal is to give you an insight in the global energy supply and demand.

The related greenhouse gas emissions and potential consequences are also discussed. The article in the next step will elaborate further on this.

This video and the article will also provide you with background information for forming your own opinion on climate change and we hope will trigger discussion later on.

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This video is from the free online course:

Solving the Energy Puzzle: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Energy Transition

University of Groningen