The power challenge
We have many alternative power supply options other than the conventional ones like oil and coal. Of these, I find solar the most promising.
But three issues are associated with it—high cost, availability of materials for large-scale expansion, and integration with existing electric systems.
The good news is that exciting initiatives are now happening in some developed countries that could address these issues.
This second set of factors—distribution and use of power—which greatly influences the cost of power, concerns all of us. It can provide additional power supply through savings from the demand side. The barriers are a) lack of systematic ways of generating power savings, b) absence or lack of measures—policies, systems, and incentives—to encourage “power down” initiatives, and
c) poor support of power distribution companies whose profitability depends on the consumption of their product.
Improving energy efficiency is one systematic way of generating power savings from the demand side.
At Stanford University, research covers improving the efficiency of hybrid cars and natural ventilation systems. Locally, the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (Crest) conducts research on battery technologies for improving the efficiency of solar and wind power systems.
Energy conservation offers the best opportunities for waste and cost savings from reduced power use, as shown in waste reduction assessments (WRA) of industries that we conducted in the US-Asean Environmental Improvement Program.
In several developed countries, the movement to “power down” in industry, government, and communities is now gaining ground. In agriculture and food production, increasing adoption of locavorism (eating only food produced locally) and sustainable practices, such as urban gardening, organic farming, and permaculture, can significantly reduce power consumption through lower transport and chemical costs.
Increasingly, families are conserving energy by using LED bulbs, for example.
Stanford Professor M. Elisabeth Pate-Cornell, a global leader on risk analysis, advises: “If you have enough sources of alternative energy and at an affordable price, by all means go for them. Otherwise, nuclear power plants are certainly an option …” Then she emphasizes the need for thorough risk assessment.
I believe we have enough alternative sources of power supply, directly or through savings and improved policies, systems, and incentives.
Hence, if we have $1 billion, we should allocate it first to such alternative sources and measures.
With funding support, our science and technology (S&T) community can contribute to ongoing global initiatives on these alternative supply options.
Demand options, meanwhile, will not require much funding but many behavior changes and pro-conservation measures.
What shall we do then with the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant? High risks and costs and availability of alternatives make the “No Go” decision choice obvious.
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