The alleged purpose of the United Nations’ (“UN”) Sustainable Development Goal 7 (“SDG7”) is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.” The real impacts of its implementation couldn’t be more different. Renewable energy is neither renewable nor sustainable and the SDG7 energy transition is only making the problem of energy poverty worse.
As part of an Unlimited Hangout investigative series titled ‘Sustainable Slavery’, Iain Davis wrote an essay about the impossible energy transformation. Below is the abridged version of his essay. The abridged essay itself is lengthy so we have split it into two parts. This is the first part. We have used the same section titles, in the same order, as the original essay for ease of reference. You can read Davis’ detailed, well-referenced and very informative essay HERE.
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SDG7 is one of the goals of Agenda 2030. The target date to achieve this goal is, as you might expect, 2030. The stated aim of SDG7 is to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
UN documents are couched in fluffy rhetoric. This obscures the unpalatable aspects of “sustainable development.” We must look beyond what has been said to what is being done.
When we look more closely at the UN stakeholder partnership’s efforts to meet SDG7, we find that, far from addressing the problems that restrict access to energy resources, they are actually exacerbating these problems with their so-called sustainable development of energy. For, despite their claims, they make no real commitment to “ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.”
There is some debate about the precise meaning of “sustainable development.” Many people point to the definition provided in the 1987 Brundtland Report: Our Common Future. But when we look at the effects of the alleged “sustainable development” policies enacted to date by the global political and corporate class, this concept of “sustainable development” amounts to some nice-sounding words, written in impressive-looking reports, and nothing more.
As economies around the world face the worrying impact of soaring energy prices, it appears that the UN is a long way from achieving SDG7. As things stand, the vast majority of people in developed nations can ill afford today’s energy prices. And the prospect of “affordable” energy coming within reach of people in developing nations appears to be extremely remote.
It is doubtful that simply introducing a higher proportion of renewable – green – energy into the existing grid infrastructure will do anything to reduce energy poverty. This is especially true in light of the fact that renewable energy has so far appeared to be both more expensive and less reliable than so-called “dirty energy.”
Globally, energy poverty could potentially be alleviated to a degree if the investment were made to construct modern and efficient micro power plants in the currently disconnected regions. A system of local, decentralised power generation would also redistribute economic growth and almost certainly reduce overall poverty and wealth inequality.
If affordable access to “clean energy” for all really is the objective of SDG7, as is claimed, then we should be witnessing significant efforts to decentralise generation and localise energy supplies. But that is not what’s happening. Instead, investment in energy distribution is predominantly being channelled into the development of the “smart grid.”
The International Energy Agency notes that nearly all investment in ensuring “access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy” is being made in a handful of developed and rapidly growing economies. Investment in infrastructure projects, electric vehicles, renewable power generation and improved battery storage capacity has mainly been directed toward the US, Europe and, in particular, China.
Consumers in developed nations are also being forced to pay higher energy prices in order to accommodate the move toward alleged renewable energy. The people of Germany, for example, have paid an additional surcharge to fund its “energy transition” for years.
This impact of increasing energy prices is felt most acutely by the poorest and the vulnerable, especially retirees. There is no indication that these higher prices will decrease once the “energy transition” is complete.
Energy poverty is set to continue. “Sustainable development” efforts supposedly intended to reduce energy poverty are not only useless, they are actually worsening it.
Presently, renewable energy is incapable of fully powering either manufacturing or any other “energy-intensive” industry in any country. European renewable energy manufacturers are temporarily closing or abandoning their production facilities because of increased energy prices.
The problem is, products made by European manufacturers of solar panels and wind turbines cannot generate the consistent energy intensity they need. They can’t even generate enough renewable energy to meaningfully subsidise the energy cost of their own production lines.
The EU Commission came up with a so-called “plan,” REPowerEU, to address the problem of energy supply chain disruption that the Commission claims was caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Such a claim is disingenuous. It is much more likely that the significant reduction and potential severing of energy supplies from Russia is predominantly the result of the EU’s participation in the US-led sanctions regime imposed upon the Russian government. And even beyond the effects of those sanctions, the heightened level of disruption to European energy supplies is largely the result of a deliberate EU policy commitment.
Yet the risk of halting Russia’s traditional energy supply to Europe is nothing compared to the risk of transitioning to supposedly “reliable” renewable energy. The European energy problem predates the war in Ukraine. Thus far, the rush to transition to renewable energy has been fraught with difficulties.
For example, the German government’s pursuit of its Energiewende (energy transition) policy has both significantly increased the cost of energy to the German consumer and undermined the country’s energy security. The recent Russian supply issues have exacerbated an existing problem.
Currently, the renewable energy share of Germany’s domestic energy mix is said to be 31% of total energy consumed. Unfortunately, renewable energy sources are unreliable. Energiewende has left the German populace facing grid instability and Germany currently struggles to generate sufficient energy in the winter.
In order to meet the country’s basic energy needs, the German government had to reopen, at considerable additional expense, the coal-fired power plants it had previously closed. One effect of the re-emerging German demand for coal was that the energy company RWE dismantled its wind farm near the town of Lutzerath in order to expand its Garzweiler coal mine.
Other aspects of Energiewende policy make no sense either. Amazingly, last April, the “Easter Package” of reforms committed Germany to move toward 80% renewable power generation by 2030. However, , in March 2021 – a year before and nearly a year before the Russian military campaign in Ukraine – the German Federal Court of Auditors issued a report warning of the dangers of continuing the “energy transition.”
The March 2021 report urged the German government to recognise that the pursuit of alleged “sustainable development” was not only increasing the cost of energy for the poorest German households and small-to-medium-size German businesses but was also endangering the country’s ability to generate the reliable power it needs to function.
The Green Hydrogen Conundrum
One of the German politicians’ “Easter Package” solutions to the very “green” energy insecurity it has created is to step up the use of biomass power plants. This means diverting agricultural food production to primary energy production during a global food crisis.
Scientists at Imperial College London (“ICL”) have produced the models to assure European Union and UK policy makers that there is plenty of “sustainable biomass potential availability in the European Union.”
Biomass is supposedly a “green” primary energy source. But the calculations that this supposition is based upon fail to account for the energy cost of growing the agricultural crops (corn, soybeans, sugar cane, etc.) and of harvesting, transporting and ultimately converting the crops into a usable biofuel. When these energy costs are added, biomass energy has a greater “carbon footprint” than the equivalent fossil fuel.
In ICL’s computer models, the “renewable” low-carbon hydrogen is used to fuel “advanced bio-fuel thermochemical conversion technologies” to convert the harvested biomass into a biofuel from which to power Europe’s entire transport network.
Which poses a conundrum.
ICL appears to be suggesting that the electricity generated by wind and solar can produce enough “renewable hydrogen” to manufacture the biofuel that will provide Germany, the UK and the rest of Europe with the fuel needed to power all cars, vans and lorries.
Why not just use the electricity generated by wind and solar to charge electric vehicles (“EVs”) directly and avoid starvation (caused by the transfer of crops from food to fuel) as well as the cutting down of trees needlessly?
The Energy Density Problem
The first problem is lack of energy density. Energy density is “the amount of energy that can be stored in a given system, substance, or region of space.” While biofuels, especially biodiesel, are among the most energy-dense forms of supposedly “green” energy sources, they are not as energy dense as fossil fuel alternatives.
Hydrogen is an energy-dense source, but solar, wind and other forms of “renewable” electricity generation have extremely low energy density. It is doubtful that sufficient “renewable hydrogen” could be produced to provide the energy required for the thermochemical conversion of biofuels on anything like the scale needed.
In order to meet just the current demands for hydrogen, using nothing but “green hydrogen,” there would need to be a two-hundredfold increase in “renewable energy” devoted solely to its production.
Broadly speaking, renewables, such as solar and wind, produce electricity between 10% and 30% of their functional lifespan. This unstable power fluctuation from renewables regularly results in some regions—the State of California, for example— having to shut down solar capacity at peak times. In the case of California, it has to pay other states to disperse its excess energy through their grids in order to avoid overloading its own.
Just as in Germany, these problems with inconsistent power, combined with the investment subsidies, have seen the cost of energy to Californian consumers increase dramatically.
The Energy Storage Problem
The second problem, which arises only when it is sunny or the wind speed is perfect, is how to store any resultant energy surplus.
Uncontrollable surges in energy use caused blackouts and the loss of essential air conditioning during the height of the Californian summer in 2020. To manage this kind of peak surge on a global scale would require that the power grids in every nation on earth be completely rebuilt.
Just as in California, the German grid cannot cope with the power surges from the wind and solar farms, which, during these surges, are often shut down as a precaution.
Granted, if the surges could be stored in some way, this would be a big step toward addressing the unreliability of renewables. Unfortunately, sufficient storage is impossible with current technology, especially given current lack of available resources. Thus, without a significant increase in nuclear power generation, the proposed world of reliable renewable energy is a ridiculous pipe dream.
The Disposable Waste Problem
The third problem is the disposal of waste from renewables: Much of the waste isn’t actually “renewable.” So-called renewables produce 300 times more waste than a comparable nuclear plant in order to generate the same amount of energy. Moreover, renewables require more than 400 times as much land as nuclear plants do to achieve the equivalent output.
With a 20-to-30-year lifespan, many of the solar panels that were first installed in the early 2000s now need to be destroyed. Dedicated solar panel recycling plants can extract the valuable elements, such as the silver and copper they contain, but most of the material is burned in cement ovens. This is an incredibly energy intensive process. Additional energy will be required to incinerate the estimated 78 million metric tonnes of solar panels by 2050.
Solar panels cannot be safely discarded in landfills, as they contain dangerous levels of lead, cadmium, and other toxic chemicals.
The Insufficient Resources Problem
As if all these problems weren’t insurmountable enough, there is yet a far more significant obstacle to overcome. Namely this: As far as anyone knows, there are nowhere near enough resources on the planet to construct the proposed “sustainable” energy infrastructure.
the UK government, which became the first government in the world to commit to a “net zero” policy on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in mid-2019, has announced a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and a switch to a 100% EV fleet.
Professor Richard Herrington authored a letter to the UK parliamentary Committee on Climate Change (CCC) that outlined the resources necessary to convert just the UK’s existing car and road haulage fleet to EVs. Herrington’s team of research scientists calculated the rare earth metals and other metals plus the further resources and energy requirements that would have to be secured to implement the UK government’s plan:
To replace all UK-based vehicles today with electric vehicles [. . .] would take [. . .] just under two times the total annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters the world’s lithium production and 12% of the world’s copper production. [. . .] [It] will require the UK to annually import the equivalent of the entire annual cobalt needs of European industry. [. . .]
If this analysis is extrapolated to the currently projected estimate of two billion cars worldwide [. . .] annual production would have to increase for neodymium and dysprosium by 70%, whilst cobalt output would need to increase at least three and a half times. [. . .]
The energy demand for extracting and processing the metals is almost 4 times the total annual UK electrical output. [. . .] There are serious implications for the electrical power generation in the UK needed to recharge these vehicles. Using figures published for current EVs [. . .] this will demand a 20% increase in UK generated electricity.
Herrington’s calculations specifically took no account of the additional energy required to manufacture the solar panels and the wind and hydroelectric turbines that would be needed to generate the necessary additional 20% of total UK energy production simply to charge the UK’s proposed fleet of EVs.
When US scientists conducted a critical review of global decarbonization scenarios to ascertain the feasibility of achieving SDG7, they looked beyond the transformation of transport and included the total demand for energy needed for every other aspect of our lives.
If the planet genuinely commits to this proposed SDG7 energy transformation, the energy intensity and density problem inherent in renewables means that humanity will need to generate more energy, by orders of magnitude, on a global scale.
It is sheer fantasy – if not utter madness – to imagine that the world currently possesses either the technology or the resources to generate the energy it needs from “renewable energy sources.” Yet governments around the world are hell-bent upon implementing this apparently suicidal mission.
Despite these hard facts, the rhetoric must say otherwise, for national governments and intergovernmental bodies never dare tell the truth about what they are really up to.
Policy platforms like REPowerEU and Energiewende, combined with the EU’s ongoing sanctions regime, will increase the mortality risk for the poorest and most vulnerable Europeans. Yet no one seems to care about this.
Part 2 is a synopsis of the second half of Iain Davis’ essay which has sections covering: the duplicitous global carbon market; profiteering from manufactured scarcity; carbon pricing, a bizarre economic model; and, the carbon offset charade.
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