The European commission has set out plans to improve energy security in the EU and address dependence on Russian gas. The strategy has faced criticism for its focus on fossil fuels.
Amid the Ukraine crisis, energy security has been rising up the political agenda. Earlier this month, G7 leaders met in Rome to discuss the future of Europe’s energy after Russia said it might consider cutting off gas supplies to Ukraine and eventually to Europe, which gets around a third of its gas from Russia, much of which passes through Ukraine.
European commission president José Manuel Barroso said, “The EU has done a lot in the aftermath of the gas crisis 2009 to increase its energy security. Yet, it remains vulnerable. The tensions over Ukraine again drove home this message.”
One of the key focuses of the strategy is diversifying supplier countries and routes by maintaining and building relationships with “reliable partners”. It added that it is seeking new ties with partner countries and supply routes, including expanding the Southern Gas Corridor in the Caspian Basin region and developing the Mediterranean Gas Hub.
In 2012, some 53% of EU’s energy consumption was linked to imports, with 88% of crude oil and 66% of natural gas being imported. This figure is far less when it comes to renewables, with just 4% being imported. As a result, green groups argue that renewables has the potential to improve energy security whilst cutting emissions.
The European commission also suggests increasing indigenous energy production including renewables and “sustainable production of fossil fuels”, which is likely to be shale gas. The plan says that shale gas could compensate for declining conventional gas production providing issues of “public acceptance and environmental impact” are addressed.
Günther Oettinger, European energy commissioner, commented, “We need to complete the internal energy market, improve our infrastructure, become more energy efficient and better exploit our own energy resources. Moreover, we need to accelerate the diversification of external energy suppliers, especially for gas. Only concrete actions will help.”
Campaign groups have criticised the strategy because of its focus on fossil fuels and its failure to promote energy efficiency and renewables as key to Europe’s future energy mix.
Friends of the Earth’s international energy campaigner Asad Rehman commented, “Comprehensive and urgent efforts are needed to harness the EU’s substantial home-grown renewable energy potential, which would create tens of thousands of new jobs.”
He added that investing tax-payers money in new fossil fuel infrastructure, “that will produce carbon we can’t afford to burn if we’re to meet our climate targets”, will be a waste of money.
Elsewhere, Greenpeace stated that the plan points to “false solutions like fracking and new gas pipelines” that will make the EU more dependent on fossil fuels in the coming decades.
The organisation’s energy campaigner Louise Hutchins added, “Ed Davey claimed the UK government wants to lead Europe’s efforts to increase energy security from the front.
“If so, they should be pressing for ambitious targets on energy efficiency and home-grown clean energy – that’s where the real potential to cut our dependence on dirty fuel imports and boost our energy security lies.”
Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr
7 New Technologies That Could Radically Change Our Energy Consumption
Most of our focus on technological development to lessen our environmental impact has been focused on cleaner, more efficient methods of generating electricity. The cost of solar energy production, for example, is slated to fall more than 75 percent between 2010 and 2020.
This is a massive step forward, and it’s good that engineers and researchers are working for even more advancements in this area. But what about technologies that reduce the amount of energy we demand in the first place?
Though it doesn’t get as much attention in the press, we’re making tremendous progress in this area, too.
New Technologies to Watch
These are some of the top emerging technologies that have the power to reduce our energy demands:
- Self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are still in development, but they’re already being hailed as potential ways to eliminate a number of problems on the road, including the epidemic of distracted driving ironically driven by other new technologies. However, even autonomous vehicle proponents often miss the tremendous energy savings that self-driving cars could have on the world. With a fleet of autonomous vehicles at our beck and call, consumers will spend less time driving themselves and more time carpooling, dramatically reducing overall fuel consumption once it’s fully adopted.
- Magnetocaloric tech. The magnetocaloric effect isn’t exactly new—it was actually discovered in 1881—but it’s only recently being studied and applied to commercial appliances. Essentially, this technology relies on changing magnetic fields to produce a cooling effect, which could be used in refrigerators and air conditioners to significantly reduce the amount of electricity required.
- New types of insulation. Insulation is the best asset we have to keep our homes thermoregulated; they keep cold or warm air in (depending on the season) and keep warm or cold air out (again, depending on the season). New insulation technology has the power to improve this efficiency many times over, decreasing our need for heating and cooling entirely. For example, some new automated sealing technologies can seal gaps between 0.5 inches wide and the width of a human hair.
- Better lights. Fluorescent bulbs were a dramatic improvement over incandescent bulbs, and LEDs were a dramatic improvement over fluorescent bulbs—but the improvements may not end there. Scientists are currently researching even better types of light bulbs, and more efficient applications of LEDs while they’re at it.
- Better heat pumps. Heat pumps are built to transfer heat from one location to another, and can be used to efficiently manage temperatures—keeping homes warm while requiring less energy expenditure. For example, some heat pumps are built for residential heating and cooling, while others are being used to make more efficient appliances, like dryers.
- The internet of things. The internet of things and “smart” devices is another development that can significantly reduce our energy demands. For example, “smart” windows may be able to respond dynamically to changing light conditions to heat or cool the house more efficiently, and “smart” refrigerators may be able to respond dynamically to new conditions. There are several reasons for this improvement. First, smart devices automate things, so it’s easier to control your energy consumption. Second, they track your consumption patterns, so it’s easier to conceptualize your impact. Third, they’re often designed with efficiency in mind from the beginning, reducing energy demands, even without the high-tech interfaces.
- Machine learning. Machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have the power to improve almost every other item on this list. By studying consumer patterns and recommending new strategies, or automatically controlling certain features, machine learning algorithms have the power to fundamentally change how we use energy in our homes and businesses.
Making the Investment
All technologies need time, money, and consumer acceptance to be developed. Fortunately, a growing number of consumers are becoming enthusiastic about finding new ways to reduce their energy consumption and overall environmental impact. As long as we keep making the investment, our tools to create cleaner energy and demand less energy in the first place should have a massive positive effect on our environment—and even our daily lives.
Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis
Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.
Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long your retirement savings will last?”
Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.
Tip #1: Focus & Determination
Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.
Tip #2: Minimize Spending
One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!
Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal
You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.
Investing in Clean Energy
One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.
With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.
The Future of Green Biz
As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.
Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.
In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!
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