As we face the challenge of energy transition, we must not fall prey to the delusions of activists, bureaucrats, charities, or self-interested businesses
In the face of global climate challenges, the talk of an “energy transition” has gained momentum. Yet, as both federal and provincial governments grapple with the enormous undertaking, there’s a growing concern that we’re jumping into detailed actions before fully grasping the task at hand.
Our current energy infrastructure is an awe-inspiring feat of engineering; a multidisciplinary system fine-tuned over a century. It stands as the backbone of our modern society, enabling our everyday lives. To replace this infrastructure might very well be Canada’s most ambitious industrial endeavour ever.
Many are unaware of the vast and intricate nature of our energy infrastructure. A staggering 82 percent of the world’s energy comes from consuming fossil fuels. Despite 30 years of renewable development, we’ve only managed to reduce hydrocarbon consumption by a mere two percent. Meanwhile, new nuclear installations won’t even start meeting our increasing demands until around 2050.
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And let’s not forget that our quest for a cleaner energy future will still heavily rely on fossil fuels. From mining the raw materials to manufacturing new systems and even creating the vehicles, farming equipment, and industrial processes that sustain us, hydrocarbons remain essential. The very petrochemicals we aim to phase out are integral to producing thousands of products we rely on.
Transitioning from our current energy system is not merely a matter of flipping a switch. It’s about upending an entire network, including energy production, distribution, and consumption.
Production involves power plants, refineries, oil sands installations, and industrial power. Distribution encompasses not just the grid system but also the necessary changes to accommodate a quadrupled capacity for decarbonization. And consumption? That’s everything from residential appliances to commercial and industrial energy needs.
These three energy sub-infrastructures are currently balanced, and any sudden shift could wreak havoc on price, availability, and investment.
We’re told that time is running out, with international bodies like the UN sounding alarms over Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). While the urgency is acknowledged, we must guard against immediate, fear-driven actions that bypass the necessary in-depth analysis and planning.
Hasty policies can result in severe problems for both humanity and our planet. The stakes are too high to let fear guide our choices. We’re at the threshold of missing an opportunity not only to satisfy domestic decarbonization but also to help other countries do the same.
The energy transition will take a minimum of 50 years to complete, requiring careful analysis, prototyping, planning, co-ordination, and financing. This preliminary task alone could consume up to a decade.
As we face the complex challenge of energy transition, we must turn to techno-economic experts, not delusional activists, bureaucrats, charities, or self-interested businesses. CO2 will likely increase during the transition, but with careful planning and margin for error, we have time on our side.
Let’s heed this call for thoughtful and deliberate action. The energy transition is undoubtedly one of the greatest tasks our generation will face, and its success requires wisdom, patience, and unwavering commitment.
Let’s ensure we approach it with the seriousness and attention it deserves.
Cosmos Voutsinos is a retired engineer who has published multiple scientific papers that have garnered a total of 96 citations. He earned his Bachelor of Applied Science (BASc) at the University of Waterloo and his Master of Engineering (M.Eng) degree from MacMaster.
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