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I'm learning more about different energy structures, working with a new client. Their product is large reciprocating engines used in decentralized power generation - to avoid the horrific transmission loss across grids. The engines use oil, biofuel, biodiesel. They are windchasers - providing back up systems to wind farms especially. Unlike most other back up generation systems, they can be up to full power in 10 minutes.

And associated, as they mostly are, with tri-generation systems (electricity, heat and cooling plants) they can get over 92 % of the energy out of oil. They also cost little when not working - no fuel, just a maintenance crew.

But their point about optimization is worth considering. With fuel efficiency, fuel flexibility and the scalability of plants (the building housing the engines is basic industrial on a concrete floor) - they offer an interim gray solution. We cannot replace infrastructure overnight. Greater fuel efficiency can cut down demand for carbon fuels.

The answer, to me, is that the only way we are going to solve this problem, is to look at the entire energy infrastructure as well as working on domestic and industrial demand. That really requires consensus economies that are capable of national effort and national sacrifice - whether that means putting up with a view of a windfarm, videoconferencing, or outlawing plasma TVs.

The question is then which are the consensus economies that can do this without becoming command economies. The USA is not a consensus economy - it is the polar opposite. The Nordics do consensus quite well, and with most corporate CEOS coming from engineering backgrounds - they actually understand the technical problems. And there is a social cohesion. But Finland for example is relying almost totally on nuclear, and the whole energy picture is getting less attention.

But what about the rest of Europe? Which countries could look at themselves, their energy problem, and the global context, and come up with innovative solutions? I'd like to think there are quite a few, but I don't know.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Sep 4th, 2008 at 02:54:39 PM EST
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