Today, we cannot imagine a world where we don't have streetlights, where we have to go more than say a day without charging our smartphone, and where something as simple as plugging a lead into a wall doesn't exist. So this time I take you on a journey of how energy is produced, consumed, perceived, and valued. You will learn of new ways to think of energy. And the massive challenge we have ahead of us, if our demands as a species, continue to increase.
We start with understanding how energy is used today and just how much of it we need.
Understanding energy usage language
First of all, we need to agree on a common language for measuring energy, because we live in a world dominated by oil and it's many siblings such as natural gas, petroleum, and gasoline. Of course, we also measure energy in that way. TOE or Toe stands for Ton of Oil Equivalent. And it's defined as the amount of energy produced by burning, one ton of crude oil. Sounds messy and smelly. It is equivalent to 11,630 kilowatt hours, which is roughly what an average modern household in the US will use in a year.
But because we are talking about the world use and consumption of energy, we talk about mega TOE. Sometimes even Giga TOE is used too. So with that measurement sort of just how greedy is our current consumption?
Taking a quick time travel journey for a sec in 1820 where these trains were super modern. The world consumption was roughly 478 mega TOEs, huge TOEs for the entire world. We didn't double that until about 1900, but then we really started devouring those Jules, Watts, and TOEs.
By the 1950s, we were already at two and a half thousand mega TOEs or the equivalent to two and a half million us households today. And from then on, it went exponential from 1950 until today, roughly 70 years later, our consumption has increased six and a half times. And by far the most of that is through burning coal, oil, and natural gas.
But the population in the world has also increased radically. Yes it has. But nowhere near that amount, the per capita energy consumption has since 1950, more than doubled.
Energy production today
We can't talk about using energy without knowing what is producing the energy. Now you've probably guessed already that it has, you know, the world relies on paleontological juice, oil, but we're also addicted to coal, lots of coal. And the problem with these two forms of fuel supplying the IV drip of energy in the veins of human, the human race is CO2.
CO2 carbon dioxide is a greenhouse guess, which means it is a gas that absorbs and emits radiant energy within the thermal infrared range. The earth needs greenhouse gases to maintain the temperature for all species to survive. But we are pumping out so much CO2 that the temperature is now rising significantly.
An estimated two degrees Celsius increase by 2036 could mean irreversible changes to ecosystems by diversity and human habitat.
Catalysts in changing our energy
What are the catalysts for humans, changing energy as we know it? The amount of stuff we dig, drill and drive out of the ground, only to burn it, is catastrophic. So pollution and destruction of natural habitats is bad, but let's for a minute, pretend we can get all of that energy produced without killing mother nature.
The current energy grid in the world is barely coping in many places with the current demand. And as we learned earlier, we aren't exactly slowing down when it comes to energy usage. Experts in the field of power usage stuff. Predict that we are going to use more power to cooler houses and buildings as climate change, make our planet hotter. So our current electricity grid just can't cope.
So in the next 10 years, it is estimated that 300 billion with a B billion dollars is needed to keep the power grid up to scratch around the globe. We know we need to change our ways as a civilization, but how?
Nuclear does not equal radioactive, just because you use nuclear energy does not mean you'll suddenly grow a second hit or develop gills. But what are the pros and cons of nuclear power as a form of energy? Really, low greenhouse gas emissions. To the point of almost none.
Power for money value nuclear energy is incredibly high in fuel to power output ratio. At relatively small amount of uranium can be used to fuel a thousand megawatt electric plant, providing enough electricity to power, a city of about half a million people. Quite possibly the most important benefit though of nuclear energy is that it doesn't rely on fossil fuels.
Nuclear power provides a vast array of benefits to the economy. Local communities are more often than not, pro-nuclear due to the amount of jobs and prosperity a new plant brings. One new nuclear plant creates 400 to 700 permanent jobs, not to mention thousands of others during its construction. Of course, there are also cons to nuclear. It isn't perfect, right? The problem that most people know about don't like, and is the main reason for being against nuclear energy, radioactive waste. Although we like drinks that glow in the dark.
A typical power plant generates about 20 metric tons of used nuclear fuel per year. So there is a fair bit of it and you can't just flush it down the toilet. It has to be carefully handled and stowed, which costs a lot of money and requires a hefty amount of specialty design storage space. And then there's the second big detraction from combining atoms for heat. Melted nuclear power plant equals decades of uninhabited land for about 30 kilometer radius. So while significant accidents are actually incredibly rare, history cannot be ignored. And when they do happen, it is a major problem. A new nuclear power plant can also take five to 10 years to construct and cost billions of dollars and nuclear is not renewable. It isn't uranium has to be mined synthesized, and then activated to produce energy. And it's very expensive to go through this.
We can't talk about future energy without mentioning renewables. These are energy sources that we can harvest without them sort of running out. And it includes solar, waves, wind, geothermal, the flapping of butterfly wings, biofuel, tidal power, photovoltaics, hydro electric, willpower and anti-matter. So whenever we hear about the future of energy, one of these is mentioned, and I won't go through all of them, but let's look at the ones that are the most likely to future proof, our little spec in the Milky Way. And let's start with solar.
So solar, the sun is the most abundant source of energy available on earth. You know, the sunlight we receive for just an hour is enough to generate energy for one year for the whole world. So although the earth receives around 173 peda watts of energy continuously, we're able to harness a mere 0.00001, 4 zeros of this vast amount. The solar energy we get is around 10,000 times greater than what we actually use on earth. And furthermore, there are around 1 billion people in the world, living in areas without access to electricity.
Independent solar systems could be installed in those regions and improve the lives of, you know, a great amount of those people. So currently the rate of adoption of solar is not great though. In 2015, only 7% of energy came from solar and wind. There's actually no number for just solar. And speaking of wind, we generate 600 gigawatts in 2018, which is enough to cover 6% of the world's demand. Pretty good. It is estimated that by 2050, more than 20% of the world's power comes from wind turbines.
Number three, renewable source is hydro. Especially using dams like the enormous three gorges dam in China. 181 meters told 2.3 kilometers long and 115 meters wide. It can generate 22 and a half thousand megawatts enough to power about 3% of the country. It is 20 times bigger than the Hoover dam. And is a marvel of engineering. Yes, it is renewable, but let's not be fooled that it is perfect. For the three gorges dam to be built, 1.3 million people had to be relocated and entire valleys were flooded.
Big Data in energy
Big data is a critical element to solving key business problems for utility companies. It can turn the information from smart meters and smart grid projects into meaningful operational insights and understandings about their customer's behavior. This includes predictive maintenance, power, quality optimization, warp speed, generated time schedules and demand response analytics among others.
So in order to balance this system, providers need to be able to call on distributed energy resources to provide flexible generation or demand. And this is all informed by big data and the machine learning algorithms derive from it. Aggregation, optimization and dispatch of hundreds, thousands, and eventually tens of thousands of distributed energy resources or DDRs poses, significant opportunities as well as an array of challenges in terms of data and analytics. But how do you manage the vast amount of data? And then once you do, how do you use it in any meaningful way? Big data management is all about scalability and enabling better decision making based on this data and what better way than to leverage cloud computing services from AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, which are all well positioned to handle this massive data volume and make sense of it.
Energy of Things (EoT)
The energy of things is an attempt to predict energy consumption and avoid the overproduction to cope with sudden spikes. Now today, with the help of connected devices, you can have more control over your own home energy consumption than ever before, by using a smart thermostat, like the ones offered by nest and eco B, you can potentially save 15% or more on your annual energy cost by having the device optimize your home's heating and cooling based on the weather, your preferences and the price of electricity at various times of the day.
However, a smart thermostat is just the beginning, having more and more connected devices in our homes that talk to each other, they can, could coordinate with each other and they all work towards using less energy more efficiently. And then eventually all of these connections will connect as well, creating entire neighborhoods of smart cities and smart energy.
Some of the cool examples of what is done to make cities more efficient, include smart garbage bins, which can communicate to waste management services when they're full keeping the city cleaner and improving the efficiency of city workers. And what about smart streetlights using energy efficient led streetlights, but that's not all they can reduce energy usage by up to 70% by automatically adjusting brightness, depending on the level of nearby activity.
IoT is also revolutionizing how power is delivered from a power plant and use throughout communities, the integration of sensors and other connected devices to the power grid, creating what's known as a smart grid. Oh everything is smart. Anyway, is already creating numerous benefits to society, including quicker power restoration after major storms and more efficient integration of green energy sources like wind and solar. In Chattanooga in Tennessee, the city has implemented smart grid technology and has reduced outage times by over 50% saving an estimated $1.4 million in operation costs during a single storm.
Energy as a Service (EaaS)
Buying energy as a service means that consumers won't purchase energy from a supplier they'll instead pay a company for energy at the best price, get the best value from that energy they generate, and will actively improve the efficiency of the homes so they use less. And to complete the shift to buzzwords, there's also an energy cloud. This cloud is a decentralized power grid that delivers power as a service when needed. It is anticipated that EaaS market consists of, you know, third party vendors, utility service companies, a potential business startups that are deploying niche technical sort of financing, financing, or procurement solutions like solar photovoltaic, power purchase agreements, energy servers, performance contracts, and deregulated electricity market retail brokerage services. In other words, pretty much anyone that wants to, can be an energy provider.
So have I missed anything you think should have been included?