Clean energy to power the future
Our civilization is driven by fire—driven by the burning of fossil fuels in our vehicles, buildings, and power plants. But there are signs the fire is not sustainable. The atmosphere is heating up from greenhouse gas emissions, and the era of cheap oil will soon come to an end.
Quickly, we need a massive transition to an economy running on clean, renewable energy. In Northeast Ohio, we are committed to being a leader—seeking out the energy alternatives that will drive innovation and prosperity. Joining with progressive cities and regions around the world, we will reduce our energy burden on the rest of the planet.
Goals for clean energy [DRAFT]
Our current energy system—based largely on extracting and burning the Earth’s nonrenewable store of fossilized sunshine in coal, oil and natural gas—is in the early stages of a great transition. All around us are signs of cleaner, more efficient and more sustainable ways to power our lives. We can imagine buildings that power themselves from the sun, efficient urban energy districts served with combined heat and power plants, smart electric grids that work like the Internet to manage millions of dispersed power sources, new energy storage devices that smooth out the intermittent flow of power from wind and solar, and redesigned cars and appliances that use a fraction of the energy of current models.
Northeast Ohio is a great place for the reinvention of the energy system. We have a heritage of energy innovation. This is where John D. Rockefeller started developing the oil industry in the 1860s. Inventor Charles Brush built one of the first wind turbines to generate electricity on Euclid Avenue in the 1880s. GE’s Nela Park research campus in East Cleveland has discovered countless innovations in lighting. The NASA Glenn Research Center did pioneering research on wind and solar technology. And, today, advanced energy has been identified as an innovation cluster with great potential in the region.
If we are to be leaders of the historic transition to a new energy system, here are some goals for the region:
- Conservation and efficiency first: The cheapest and best kilowatt or Btu is the one that does not need to be used. With advanced technologies, incentives, and education, we can cut our per capita energy use in half while improving our quality of life. Success in this area will require, among other improvements, greener buildings and a better transportation system.
- Renewables for much of the rest: As we reduce consumption, it becomes easier to meet our remaining demand with renewable power sources such as wind and solar. Renewables are becoming more cost-competitive all the time. It’s time for mass rollout.
- Power at the right scale: During the transition, we’ll still need dependable baseload power. To replace aging coal plants, we can develop smaller and much more efficient district energy systems that deliver combined heat and electricity close to where energy is required.
- Clean fuels: About 36 percent of the nation’s energy comes from petroleum, and most of that is consumed by the transportation sector. So cleaner fuels, more efficient vehicles, and better transportation alternatives must be a major part of a clean energy system.
- Resilient infrastructure: Recent hurricanes and snowstorms have shown how vulnerable we are to extreme weather events that can cripple our energy supply. Electromagnetic pulses caused by hot gases ejected from the Sun could destroy our entire energy infrastructure and lead to nuclear catastrophes. Therefore, a robust energy grid handling power from distributed sources will be an essential component of a sustainable energy future.
- A low-carbon future: The ultimate goal is to create an energy system that powers a decent and sustainable society while sharply reducing the carbon emissions from burning of fossil fuels that are destabilizing the Earth’s climate. To be fair on a global per-capita basis, our carbon emissions in Northeast Ohio should be reduced 80-90 percent.
How to help
GreenCityBlueLake staff will be talking to clean energy advocates in Ohio to refine this presentation of clean energy goals. We will be asking: what does it really mean to be sustainable in the area of energy? And we will be creating a summary of current clean energy activities and programs that are moving us forward.
Send us your ideas about a sustainability agenda for clean energy. What do you think are the key things that need to change? Contribute your ideas here.
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