In technology we trust

On September 18, 2013 the Federal Planning Bureau of Belgium published a study on the influence of the complete conversion to renewables on job creation. Their conclusion: 21,000 till 65,000 full time jobs will be created by 2030. The condition is conversion to a completely renewable energy system by 2050 (not only electricity, but also heating, warm water, light, industrial steam and transport on green energy). Would it cost more? Well yes, about 20% more than when we would use fossil fuel in 2050.

My thought when reading it was: “No way”! How could this even be remotely possible with the intermittent nature of the wind and solar (which are the main building blocks of their solution)? How believable is it that only with a slightly higher price one could create a completely new and sustainable system on basis of a sharply fluctuating output?

Their starting point is that it would be possible to reach 100% renewable energy, even with todays technology. It is based on an earlier report Towards 100% renewable energy in Belgium by 2050. Conclusion of this report was that this goal is possible, but under some strict conditions. Reading the study remind me about the proposals of Mark Jacobson (Stanford University). His conclusions are rather similar to those made in this study.

To be fair: this is quite a piece of work (156 pages). If one’s task it is to find a way to do it solely with renewables of today, that would be an excellent try. Although I also would like that our energy could be supplied 100% by renewable energy sources, there are a lot of ifs and buts in the reasoning. Maybe all logical, but not always very realistic. The proposed solution doesn’t seem to depend on technology, but on a radical social change and (maybe even forced) cooperation of (most of) the public. Plus also a radical transformation of almost all sectors in the economy!

If we have to adapt to the quirks of a technology, how ready is this technology? Declaring that a radical change in our society is needed to support the technology, means to me that the current technology is NOT ready to take over from fossil fuels. They don’t rely on technology, but on the public. All 11 million of us. To me it seems that the social change solution is proposed to try to dodge the fact that the technology can not compete with fossil fuels yet.

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