Lighting the Way: Toward a Sustainable Energy Future

  • AuthorInterAcademies Council
  • Release Date1 October 2007
  • Copyright2007
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5.8 Conclusion
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The development of cost-effective energy storage technologies, new energy carriers, and improved transmission infrastructure could substantially reduce costs and expand the contribution from a variety of energy supply options.

Such technology improvements and infrastructure investments are particularly important to tap the full potential of intermittent renewable resources, especially in cases where some of the most abundant and cost-effective resource opportunities exist far from load centers. Improved storage technologies, new energy carriers, and enhanced transmission and distribution infrastructure will also facilitate the delivery of modern energy services to the world’s poor—especially in rural areas.

Recommendations

    Continue long-term research and development into potential new energy carriers for the future, such as hydrogen. Hydrogen can be directly combusted or used to power a fuel cell and has a variety of potential applications—including as an energy source for generating electricity or in other stationary applications and as an alternative to petroleum fuels for aviation and road transport. Cost and infrastructure constraints, however, are likely to delay widespread commercial viability until mid-century or later.
    Develop improved energy storage technologies, either physical (e.g. compressed air or elevated water storage) or chemical (e.g. batteries, hydrogen, or hydrocarbon fuel produced from the reduction of carbon dioxide), that could significantly improve the market prospects of intermittent renewable resources such as wind and solar power.
    Pursue continued improvements and cost reductions in technologies for transmitting electricity over long distances. High voltage, direct-current transmission lines, in particular, could be decisive in making remote areas accessible for renewable energy development, improving grid reliability, and maximizing the contribution from a variety of low-carbon electricity sources. In addition, it will be important to improve overall grid management and performance through the development and application of advanced or ‘smart’ grid technologies that could greatly enhance the responsiveness and reliability of electricity transmission and distribution networks.

Needed actions

    The S&T community, together with the private sector, should have focus on research and development in this area
    Governments can assist by increasing public funding for research and development and by facilitating needed infrastructure investments.

Document Date: October 1, 2007
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