Sunday, November 22, 2009


Initial Energy Investments Needed for Renewables

In relation to a number of other posts — a recent one would be The Importance of Net Energy — I want to call readers’ attention to a post on The Oil Drum by Jeff Vail, The Renewables Gap: The Political Challenge of Affecting a Societal Transition to Renewable Sources of Energy. This is a good read because he analyzes how much energy needs to be invested initially (“up front”) to make a transition from our current energy regime to one that depends on renewables. The important thing to keep in mind is that because we don’t just have a lot of spare energy lying around (which is why oil is not $10/bbl even amid a severe global recession), whatever energy we dedicate to the needed initial investments has to come from our current energy budget, thereby leaving us with less for our day-to-day energy needs. That of course makes energy even more expensive than it would otherwise be. Even Vail’s “optimistic” scenario reveals a wide gap. Of course problems such as the need for fossil fuels to maintain renewable-energy infrastructure are beyond the scope of his analysis, so recall those after reading the post for the full impact of all the implications.

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