As technology moves forwards we can use even more energy – emission-free


13.12.2018 at 10:00
Digitalisation is increasing the demand for energy. At the same time, we have tough targets for reducing emissions – Finland has 25 years to change its electricity consumption, transmission and generation to achieve carbon neutrality.

Increasing well-being does not necessarily increase emissions

The debate on preventing climate change frequently returns to the idea of changing lifestyles, and this is necessary, but it does not automatically mean that we will have to give up things such as driving and travelling. As in the other Nordic countries, we have already demonstrated that emissions can be reduced while well-being increases. We need new technology for this. Futurist Risto Linturi talks about how investments should be allocated.

People will fly with a clear conscience

Battery technology is developing rapidly.  Batteries are more durable than before, and it is possible to manufacture them using less material. For example, batteries can be made without cobalt. Linturi forecasts that it will no longer be worth buying a fossil fuel car in five years' time because technology is making such rapid advancements. Robot traffic is also conducive to the switch to electric cars. More energy-efficient batteries will also enable electric aviation and electrically-powered lorries.

Solar and wind are reducing prices

The price of electricity is likely to decrease in the near future as renewable forms of energy become more widespread. The price of solar power may drop to one tenth of the current rate. Solar panels are also becoming cheaper and cheaper thanks to thin film technology. For example, the town of Hanko is investing in solar power in a very cost-efficient way.

The costs of wind power have decreased more slowly than for solar energy, but they may also fall as new innovations are introduced. The construction costs of mastless wind turbines will be a fraction of the costs of a traditional wind power plant. Energy efficiency increases when wings can be flown like a kite at heights of up to 300 metres. In Finland, many wind power projects have stalled due to the uncertain status of subsidies, but thanks to the reformed subsidy system, construction of wind power plants can be ramped back up. 

Will artificial leaves and carbon fibres save the world?

Researchers are working avidly to develop methods for enabling the carbon dioxide emitted by industry and present in the atmosphere to be utilised as a fuel or converted into nanocarbon for use as a material in everyday objects. A further aim is to create a synthetic means of generating energy by mimicking natural methods. 
For example, an artificial leaf that produces fuel from the sun and from carbon dioxide is under development. In the future, it is possible that households will produce liquid fuels in addition to electricity.

This text is based on a presentation given by Risto Linturi at the Energy for the Future event on 6 November 2018. Linturi's report (in Finnish) is available here.

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