Today I attended a presentation on a very concrete topic: self-efficiency with photovoltaic and hydrogen. Michael Schubert works for Fronius International GmbH, which proposes the model of a self-sufficient house based in Central Europe. One major problem of solar energy is the storage. Here, Fronius International proposes a storage system based on hydrogen gas:
The roof top of the house is covered with photovoltaic panels which produce electricity. This electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen gas is stored at a high pressure, and converted back to electricity when required. If the heat waste is used for heating, the process efficiency is said to be >80%!
Thirty out of 60 surveyed participants at the World Resources Forum feel skeptical about Nanotechnologies. 25% feel good and 25% don’t know what Nanotechnologies are. The reality is that we use Nanotechnologies in our everyday life. We eat, wear, or apply on our faces products that incorporate components that have been engineered at the molecular scale. From the skin cream you applied this morning, the camera you take pictures with to your toothpaste: Nanotech is everywhere.
In the first plenary session of the day the speakers showed incontestable facts demonstrating that keeping business as usual is not an option that will allow our children to enjoy the same living standard we do. Beside showing the need to change, every speaker proposed it’s own approach on what and how to change. What lacked was the connection between the different solutions presented. It was like looking at the pieces of the same puzzle – on sustainable resources management – but without seeing the whole picture. It is not an easy task to address such a complex question in 15 minutes. Moreover the large amount of information provided by each speaker did not help the participants to gain a clear message to take home.
Here’s the conundrum: so far, more resource use means higher GDP, but we are running out of global resources. Here at WRF2011, it is widely agreed that we need to cut consumption of resources, but can we tell people to limit resource use if that means they take a corresponding hit economically? In a nutshell, should we limit the use of resources? Plenary Session 1 asked this question. The panel had views from both sides of the coin: large resource consumers (the EU) and large resource exporters (Africa, Sri Lanka).
Inclusive sustainable development has become the buzz word for conferences. The consensus among various stakeholders remains the same: there is a crucial need to change the infrastructure of developing countries if environment resources need to be preserved, protected and efficiently utilized. Also, developed countries have become more receptive to the idea of engaging with the environment not just on a policy level but also on a grass-roots level through civil society initiatives. But what is interesting to note are the conflicting positions of academics and political leaders. In the opening session of the World Resources Forum, Alicia Kaudia, Environment Secretary Kenya spoke on bridging the technological gap between the developed and the developing world.
On the very first session, the high level of the keynotes quickly engaged me. Dr J. Potocnik European, European Comissioner of the Environment, emphasized the fact that innovation is not just about technology but also about our behaviour. I agree: first in the minds of every entrepreneur should be achieving growth that enforces intelligent thinking. This sentence strucked me and reminded me οn my encounter with Günter Pauli at the HUB Madrid, where he was presenting his last book : the “blue economy”. The blue economy is best illustrated by an example from Günter Pauli: when you drink a cup of coffee, you are only consuming 0.01% of all the product’s supply chain.
WRF 2011 has started and I am currently listening to the opening session. The goal of the conference has become clear: Delivering the immediately needed impact on resources management. The reason for this: change towards a more efficient use of resources and towards a closed circles economy is going to be a lot more difficult once shortness of resources has reached an even more alarming level than today. Some key facts of the opening speaches:
Commissioner Janez Potocnik mentioned the necessity of dematerializing Europe which is not the same thing as deindustrializing. According to him, shift towards efficient and sustainable resource management can only be achieved by using our industrial intelligence, engineering skills and intelligent policies. In contrast to the past: using them not only for material growth but for sustainable resources management.
The United Nations projects that by 2050, the world population will reach more than 9 billion people. How will we provide the necessities for these extra two billion people, when we have not even met the needs of our current population? Technology is an answer. Advances in medicine, agriculture or engineering, have allowed the population to reach its current numbers. But can we rely on technology alone? We cannot escape the fact that we are using unsustainable amounts of non-renewable resources in our daily lives.