The European Union has set out to do away with fossil fuels, to strongly advocate a transition to electric cars, to the point where by 2035 the sale of cars with internal combustion engines will be banned. But that is just one of the frameworks that have been proposed for an even more ambitious project, that of completely transforming the energy and economic model, in order to put an end to greenhouse gas emissions derived from human activity, that contribute to global warming, and create a new energy model, reducing our carbon footprint.
And that is where the efficient and inexhaustible source of energy that has existed since before the human being comes into play and how we came to dominate it.
Renewable energies stand as the path, and destination, towards a new energy model, and also in the transition towards the electric car.
Renewable energy is the path and destination of a new energy model
After an efficient and inexhaustible source of energy
Today no one questions the benefits of renewable energy. Produce electricity by taking advantage of the kinetic energy of air masses, by means of wind generators; capturing the electromagnetic radiation of the Sun, through solar panels in photovoltaic generators; or even taking advantage of the heat from inside the Earth, with geothermal energy; allows us to dispense with other energy sources that pollute and emit COtwoas is the case in thermal power plants – especially combined cycle plants in Spain – or they raise doubts about safety or waste treatment, such as nuclear energy.
The plan of the members of the European Union is to significantly increase their renewable energy production. On the day before this article was written, 38.61% of the demand for electricity in Spain was covered by wind generation, while photovoltaic and thermal solar barely accounted for 0.01%. The combined cycle plants covered 30.25% of the demand and the nuclear ones 19.34%.
Renewable energy, especially if we focus on wind and solar, poses challenges and not a few problems. Dependence on climatic, meteorological or time conditions necessarily requires new technologies for massive energy storage and the availability of other sources of energy generation. As we were saying, yesterday half of the electricity demand in Spain was covered by combined cycles, which emit COtwo; and nuclear energy, free of COtwobut not exempt from residues and, above all, object of mistrust of some citizens and political establishments.
The benefits of renewable energy are undoubted, but also the fact that it requires other backup energy sources and massive energy storage systems
The moment of nuclear energy?
If we were to find an efficient and inexhaustible source of energy that has existed since before the human being, from the very moment the universe began to form, that would be nuclear energy. In the last century, humanity has learned to dominate – or rather, control – the atom constructively, for energy, and destructively, to create the most powerful weapons ever known. Nuclear power does not emit COtwobut cannot be considered renewable, and generates waste that must be treated and stored.
Nuclear energy is postulated as an adequate solution, as a backup and complement for renewables. Hence, it has been the subject of debate in the European Union, if not to be considered green energy indefinitely, then to do so on an interim basis, while renewable production expands and new technologies are developed. Despite the existing public debate, nuclear energy continues to develop with very promising projects, such as small nuclear reactors.
But, once again, and beyond some decisions that are being made as a result of the energy crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine, some countries around us – and also Spain – have closed the doors to nuclear energy.
Nuclear power could be the ideal backup production source to complement renewables, but faces opposition from citizens and governments
The great challenge of accumulating renewable energy
Renewable energy requires alternative production sources, backup, but also energy storage solutions. Storing electrical energy is expensive and technologically there are no solutions that allow it to be done massively, despite the advances that are being experienced in the development of chemical batteries.
Different alternatives are being investigated, such as a solution that is being promoted – despite not being new – such as using the infrastructure of hydroelectric plants so that they not only work by generating electricity in waterfalls, but also using surplus electricity to pump water and that these can function as a kind of gigantic batteries.
The hydrogen economy, or neutral synthetic fuels, can also contribute to this process, insofar as they are produced through processes in which electrical energy is transformed into hydrogen or fuel, which, in essence, are an accumulation of energy.
Renewable energy requires massive energy storage systems to overcome its variability and seasonality
Renewable yes, but do you want them to be next to your house?
The climatic and meteorological conditions in Spain could make us the great European energy power, for being a place where there are the best conditions to enjoy a renewable production higher than that required by the electrical system of our country. But do we want to be Europe’s electricity producer?
In recent years we have seen how some large renewable energy projects, solar and especially wind, are encountering the opposition of populations, especially in rural areas, who open the debate on some problems arising from this new energy model. , such as the landscape impact of the installation of wind generators and photovoltaic plants.
As we can see, renewable energy is necessary, the way and the end of the energy transition process that has already begun. The transition to the electric car would not be understood either if it did not go hand in hand with this new model of energy production. But it is also subject to problems and, above all, to great challenges that technology will have to solve.