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Energy Sources until 2050  

Nick Woodward's talk will provide an overview of our energy usage and sources from the 1950s through the present and also will shed some light on our future energy needs.

What changes in our energy sources, distribution and uses do you envision between now and 2050?

Will we be more efficient users of energy?
Will new sources of energy come into the mix, or will we continue to rely on the types of energy that are already powering our society?
How much of a difference will alternative energy make?
What about the grid - how might that change?

These are intentionally open-ended questions to get us thinking about our energy supply. Please jump in and share your thoughts with us.

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This post was editted by Glenn Richard on Apr, 2011
>> Will we be more efficient users of energy?

In my opinion, we will *need* to be efficient unless fusion becomes practical - but we *should* be even if it does. Should we assume that fusion will still be 50 years down the road in 2050, as it has been for the past 50 years? ;-)

>> Will new sources of energy come into the mix, or will we continue to rely on the types of energy that are already powering our society?

I appears likely that we will still be using fossil fuels in large quantities through 2050, but they will constitute a significantly smaller proportion of our sources of energy. Our portfolio of primary energy sources and storage technologies seems to be diversifying. Renewables look likely to be notably more prominent than they are now, and nuclear energy may play a larger role if we improve our management systems so that human error becomes less likely, and may add thorium to our choice of fuels.

Using renewables effectively will require us to better understand how energy flows through the Earth system and where and when we can best harvest it efficiently and without undue environmental impact. Since these systems manifest themselves in a diverse manner geospatially and temporally, we need to develop a better sense of place and time concerning energy, and make our renewable energy choices based on "energy geography".

>> How much of a difference will alternative energy make?
What about the grid - how might that change?

Fossil fuels, hydro, and nuclear seem likely to remain big through 2050. But alternative energy could make a big difference in particular places where they fit well. By integrating small and medium size producers such as homes, offices, factories, farms, and community microgrids into a smart grid (see http://www.oe.energy.gov/smartgrid.htm), we can have a more resilient electrical generation and distribution system.

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