Electricity 4: C02 Emissions: the Endgame

Continued from Electricity 3: CO2 Emissions: a floor report

Fun fact: this man-made disaster is just for all the living beings. Earth will live on! And cockroaches probably!

1. Tackling CO2:

There are six ways of how we can tackle CO2 release into the atmosphere.

  1. Switching to Nuclear power! But it has other grave issues. Not sure if chances are being explored to make it safe.

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Source: http://www.pictureisunrelated.com

  1. Shut down Coal and Natural gas plants which have the highest emissions. This will have really high repercussions on world economy. Phasing them out overnight will lead to heavy loss of jobs and will send a deadly shock through the system if an alternative is not planned.

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CO2 Emissions per source[i]

  1. Make all energies renewable which will lead to 0g emissions. To do this it is estimated that a 100 Trillion$ should be invested over the next 20 years[ii]. The world income is 80 Trillion $ and concentrated on just few hands. If you divide the cost per consumer, it will be too costly for an individual consumer to pay. You might just have to give 55 billion dollars from your monthly income of 2000$! Unless world powers are trying to co-operate and make at least investments bit by bit towards this goal, an individual consumer can’t do anything about it. This is where the importance of Trump’s exit from Paris environmental agreement lies in. He influences about 23 Trillion $ in the world (USA’s GDP)

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  1. Invent a technology which will imitate a tree. Suck out all the CO2 and convert it to something human friendly: best case: Oxygen. There was interesting article on this topic. They call it “Negative emissions”[iii] and show there is hardly any research on this topic. They also warn if some policy maker should cite this as a solution, probably he/she is trying to deceive, as hardly any investment flows into this field. Quoted from the article: “Keith concurs.”As of today there is extraordinarily little research on it,” he says. “The number of scientists funded to do work on carbon removal globally is seriously small.”
  1. Plant trees! One mature tree can absorb 22 Kilos per year or about 1 tonne CO2 in its lifetime[iv]. For the same 1 trillion goal, if we want to tackle them by planting trees, we just have to plant about 4.5 trillion trees more. Currently, there are about 3 trillion trees[v] in the world and they absorb about 40% of the 30 Billion tonnes emitted every year. It’s fine even if we don’t plant new trees, but cutting down existing trees is disastrous. It is estimated that yearly 15 billion trees are cut out of deforestation or urbanization[vi]. Only about 5 billion are replanted, but it will take some years for it to become mature to absorb CO2 effectively.

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Life cycle of tree cultivation[vii]

  1. Reduce household electricity consumption and support to bring down the CO2 emissions to acceptable level. This will be the focus of this article as this is something where you and I as common man can take actions independently without having to rely on governments or global leaders. Planting trees as in point 5 counts too

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2. Switching to Eco Electricity! But does it make us Eco-friendly?[viii]

Yes!

My energy supplier is EnbW Company. They are located about 40km away in a town called Heilbronn. On 6th August 2011, in response to the Fukushima catastrophe, one of their nuclear power generation units had been shutdown[ix] along with 7 others all over Germany[x]. Now they are carrying on further with the remaining nuclear unit and a coal firing unit. Additionally EnbW also has a hydro unit nearby. I have a 100% Eco-Electricity plan, which theoretically would mean that EnbW sends me the power only from the hydro unit. In reality it is not. It will be too costly for EnbW to make a separate electricity grid just for my home. Any energy generation unit therefore normally feeds their supply into to the public grid. Electricity mix is the appropriate term to be used. The electricity power grid in our region thereby would get a mix of electricity from these three sources, as once the electricity from any type of power generation unit gets fed into the grid, you cannot differentiate the electricity. What EnbW promises me is that for the money I pay, an equivalent clean power is fed into the grid somewhere else in the world grid. It’s a good thing that you can do by switching to Eco Electricity. As of 2019, Germany’s renewables mix has become 40% and has overtaken coal production which is at 38%[xi].

3. Yearly 20% reduction in your electricity bill can help reverse the climate change!

To see the relevance of the above claim that I can save 20% in my electricity bill and at the same time improve the environment, we need to see the role of my home in the context of the surroundings. It’s very similar to the argument over electric cars. Although the cars are electric, the recharging stations which supply energy to the cars are fed by coal and other non-renewables. By this setup, are we really going environment friendly by buying an electric car? Likewise by conscious electricity consumption, I can impact 20% of my electricity bill, but do I really impact the environment?

How does my 20% electricity bill saving fit in the whole picture?

As discussed above, the electricity mix that my house receives is a mixture of nuclear, coal and hydro. What I had learnt in my electricity lecture was that the energy generation units are controlled by smart systems. The units can only produce so much power as is needed in the homes. The public grid cannot be over burdened or under burdened. The smart system makes sure that this balance is always present, else the whole system will shutdown. What it means to us is that the electricity that we save at home by not running a device is really an energy not generated at the plant too. Lesser energy generation is lesser CO2 emitted in the air. This is the link to the environment and the air we breathe. In the table above in Section 1 point 2, you can see how much CO2 is emitted per source.

In Germany, an average house consumes about 6600 kWh[xii] per year. If I can reduce it by 20%, I will have reduced 750 Kilos of CO2 emitted just by my action! Meanwhile an Indian home uses only about 1100 kWh[xiii]. Let’s say that a person in the first world or having more electrical appliances at home will have a higher individual impact. A person in the city will have much higher impact, as urban sector consumes about 70% of the whole world electricity produced[xiv]. If you are living in a city and are on the higher end of the kWh scale, you are a high impact person. On the other hand, the total population of such high impact people are less, the bigger slice of the cake are those humongous number of small homes. That’s why I say regardless of whatever individual impact kWh you are making, a discussion or a goal setting in “Percent” is more reliable than an absolute number. A person in Germany should aim towards reducing 1200 kWh and meanwhile the person in India should try for reducing 220 kWh.

What does one person’s effort into reducing 750 Kilos of CO2 per year make?

To understand this statement, we need to switch to the global scale of electricity production. In reality, homes are not the only consumers of electricity. There are three other types of consumers and residential is just one of them. More or less, all the three of them almost have an equal distribution: Residential, Industrial and Transport

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World energy use[xv]

Total electricity use in the world is about 100,000 tWh (Tera Watt Hours is kWh multiplied by 1,000,000) Given that the topic of discussion is Residential, we are talking about impacting 36% of the electricity as per the above table. Imagine if all the homes could save 20% year by year, the 750 kilo equivalents per home gets translated to an impact of 1.06 billion tons of CO2 released into the atmosphere year by year. Totally 30 billion tonnes of CO2 and upwards are released into the atmosphere year by year.

The contribution of each home could reduce total CO2 emissions by about 4%!

You can be sure that every effort of yours really counts. We have to proactively set a goal and run towards it. You can use my blog post Electricity 2 to cut down your energy consumption. If my wife and I would do our work well, by the end of first year, we should have consumed 1900 kWh less and 1280 kWh less in the second year and so on. Whether we will really achieve it or not is a different question and is up to the individual’s commitment. More important is to have the consciousness active!

Change begins from self!

 

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How wild can my dream be to ask for my Coimbatore back?

To be continued: Electricity 5: Electric Cars and solar panels – Are they really viable?

If you like my posts, please acknowledge your motivation by Following/ Liking/ commenting on this blog. Thanks for reading.

Recommended Reads:

  1. https://www.dw.com/en/green-energy-solutions-youve-probably-never-heard-of/a-47731808
  2. Wetland mud is ‘secret weapon’ against climate change
  3. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-07/trump-said-to-again-seek-deep-cuts-in-renewable-energy-funding
  4. https://www.dw.com/en/co2-emissions-to-hit-historic-highs-in-2018/a-46606292
  5. https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-spot-530-000-potential-pumped-hydro-sites-to-meet-all-our-renewable-energy-needs/amp
  6. https://business.inquirer.net/267764/how-europe-is-faring-on-renewable-energy-targets/amp

References:

[i]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life-cycle_greenhouse-gas_emissions_of_energy_sources

[ii]http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/a-renewable-world-what-will-it-cost/

[iii]https://www.wired.com/story/the-potential-pitfalls-of-sucking-carbon-from-the-atmosphere/amp

[iv]https://www.quora.com/How-many-trees-would-it-take-to-reverse-climate-change

[v]https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34134366

[vi]https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/how-many-trees-are-there-on-earth-10483553.html

[vii]https://www.coillte.ie/about-us/our-story/forest-lifecycle/

[viii]https://www.shine.eco/2016/10/24/wann-ist-oekostrom-100-erneuerbar/

[ix]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_industry

[x]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_phase-out

[xi]https://qz.com/1515608/electricity-from-renewables-topped-coal-in-germany-for-first-time-in-2018/

[xii]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

[xiii]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_consumption

[xiv]https://www.c40.org/why_cities

[xv]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption

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