London, UK [Renewable Energy World Magazine] How do most people in developed economies perceive the impact of clean energy in their daily lives? In most cases, unfortunately, as an abstract concept. That is because the process of power generation is sufficiently far removed from how and where it is consumed as to be invisible to the end user.
A householder in a Western capital flicks the switch and the light goes on. Was the supply that met that demand the product of wind or PV, a fossil-based plant or a nuclear installation?
The response of that particular householder at that exact moment would very likely be ‘who knows?’ And, to be brutally frank, many would add, ‘who cares?’ Renewables are more visible as a wind farm on the edge of town, an issue on the TV news bulletin or, just possibly, a green tariff option on the utility bill.
It’s quite probable, however, that our homeowner is also a driver, who often steps outside to his or her car and realises that it needs refuelling to make the journey to work. Imagine that, instead of heading for the petrol pump our driver heads for the charging point, connects up an electric vehicle and applies the appropriate charge. Is he or she now part of the renewable energy economy, the clean energy economy, the green economy, or all the above?
That’s a slightly more difficult question. It depends, among other things, on how the power used to top-up the car was generated and on the materials and manufacturing processes used to make the car itself.
Encouragingly, as the infrastructure needed to support electric vehicles gathers pace, the link between the cars and the wider renewable energy sector appears to be strengthening. A sophisticated electric mobility infrastructure could, for example, help balance demand in a way that could make renewable generation more efficient and economic.
There is also, however, surely a wider symbolic significance. The cars we drive are an intimate and highly visible element of our daily lives. To see them shift from fossil fuelled to electric (or indeed any alternative propulsion technology) puts the clean energy economy literally on our doorsteps.
Even Porsche, for many associated with the most testosterone-fuelled end of the automotive sector, has ambitions to be a part of this revolution (albeit at a distinctly unreconstructed, eye-watering Porsche price tag).
When many of the western world’s motorists are happily driving around in electric vehicles – and more than that, see those cars as highly desirable consumer products – then they really will be plugged into the new energy economy, just as many of us now feel ourselves intimately connected with the oil economy and its regular price spikes and supply scares.
This is an area of development that those of us who care about the emergence of a renewables-led energy sector should welcome.
Chief Editor, Renewable Energy World
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