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Term Paper: Sustainable Development and Energy


Sustainable development is not new for the energy industry and for many years the global community has been concerned about finding the solution to the scarcity of energy resources. The problem can be solved through shifting the focus from minimizing the consumption of energy to increasing the efficiency is the best alternative in satisfying the growing demands for energy. Some progress has been made by the European countries, while the United States seem to be uninvolved in the process even though the economy allows development and implementation of the new technologies. This paper discusses the importance of the sustainable development in the energy sector and is aimed at energy leaders and governmental institutions.

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Sustainable development is both an economic and social concept which has impact on life of global population. In order to address the issue correctly, the three visions should be kept in mind: preservation of energy resources, achievement of the social values and their preservation for the next generations, and sustainable economic development. The energy leaders in US are responsible for the major contribution to achievement of the above visions by making the energy available to American population on the reasonable price and environmentally compatible basis. The energy industry is already the driving force of the sustainable economic and ecologic development and relies heavily on the governmental conditions in promoting such development.

Objectives of the sustainable development
The term of sustainable development is already introduced in political actions with the starting point made through “Our Common Future” report of 1987. The report was developed with the objective to conform the developments in the energy sector to the requirements of the current generations without putting under the risk the possible requirements of the future generations, in satisfying the current energy needs. Sustainable development has a long term orientation and is a combination of three factors: economic, social and ecological which need to be seen as a single inter-dependant unit (Afgan and Carvalho 312).

An agreement made at the United Nation’s Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 has laid the foundation for all developed countries to adopt the sustainable development as the prerequisite for economic growth and improvements in social life of entire global community. The so called AGENDA 21 action plan, the final document of the conference, is aimed at global networking of ecological, social and economic influences factors (Energy Indicators for Sustainable Development Guidelines And Methodologies: Guidelines And Methodologies 41). However, the environmental issue has been shifted aside as well as the role of the local energy units. The aim of the current paper is to provide the analysis of the current tendencies in the energy field and develop the recommendation of the possible beneficial actions the local energy leaders can adopt to contribute to the further sustainable development.

Energy as the major factor in the sustainable development
Energy is rightly perceived as the most important factor for improvements in quality of life. The global “energy hunger” has reached United States as well and the next step in the development of the American energy demand is much influenced by the growth of world population.

As the figure suggests (Afgan and Carvalho 284) the demand for energy of developing countries will growth much faster compared to the developed countries. The developing countries will catch up with the high energy efficiency of industrialized countries and an enormous pressure will be put on developed countries which are consuming the three quarters of the global energy. The share will shift to the developing countries, and U.S. population will be forced to learn using energy more efficiently.

It is assumed that the secured supply of energy is an important factor for economic prosperity: secures jobs and industrial location. Currently the U.S. energy supply is one of the most stable and secured in the world, however, the fast increases of global energy consumption put this security under threat and the sustainable development provides the best course of action. Without the adequate supplies of energy the Unites States will not be able to ear the capital required for the optimization of the technologies or making efficiency-increasing technologies available nation-wide. The energy is the key to overcome national poverty: the development of the rural infrastructure, the supply of the electricity and the creation of the new jobs (Teresa Anderson 170).

Thus, the current priority is the supply of the affordable energy to the poor population with the preservation of the environment. The increases in the energy consumption leads to the increase on the dependence on the energy imports, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population depends on the energy imports and this dependence is constantly growing.

All energies will face the challenge
As the figure depicts, the coal, oil and gas will be the major energy supplies in the next 15 years with the nuclear energy making a substantial contribution (Bradbrook 187). The same trend will be true for United States. Even though the contributions of the renewable energy such solar, wind and water are limited to the geographic locations and is not an options for many countries, the United States have a very favourable location and should invest into the implementation of such systems heavily. Some of the progress has been already done, but the major work is still ahead.

The increased sufficiency from reduction of energy consumption is not as realistic and desirable as global leaders believe – the replacement of the non-renewable sources with renewable energy is not realistic. The major concern is that the non-renewable should be used but the public should be aware how important the resource is (Bradbrook 214). The problem of energy disposal should be shifted to consideration of energy supply because the target is to establish the adequate consumption level. Thus, the new energy management system should be created by the energy leaders to guarantee the energy supply both for the current population and future generations.

Energy investment
In order to introduce the sustainable development into energy sector, intensive investments are required. Additional funding should be done into the exploration, extraction and distribution of the energies in the all regions on the country. Only the cooperation of all sector, private and governmental can produce the positive results. For example, the European Energy Charta is a step forward and protects the foreign investments by guaranteeing national treatment, the right to efficient compensation and the right to the transfer as well as the employment of the key personnel (Bradbrook 278). The similar chart should be adopted in U.S. as well.

United States cannot on its own satisfy the local demand for energy and the possibility to obtain the profitable prices is the deciding factor for investment decisions. The foreign energy companies should be encouraged to invest into U.S. energy market development. As long as the energy will be treated as the social good it will be very hard to attract the private capital. The best solution to this dilemma is to abandon the policy of cheap energy with short-term advantages and return to the market-oriented pricing.

Sustainable use of energy – strategy
Many industrial countries, including United States, have much succeeded at increasing the resource productivity in the energy usage. The primary strategy adopted is to conserve energy resources through the increases in useful gains per unit of the resource used. Maximizing the efficiency is the only way to meet the national economic and social tasks. The same concerns the recycling principles. However, aiming at the sustainable environment policy is relating not only to the utilization but to the careful extraction, improved production and re-cultivation as well. Environmental technology is already an essential part of any investment decision.

Europe is much more advanced from this perspective compared to United States. The sustainable development of energy resources has been included into the German constitution of 1994. The energy forecasts show that the primary demand for energy will increase despite of the economic growth.

This figure shows that the efficiency of electricity consumption in Germany has been much improved for the last 50 years (Steger 57) and the same trend is forecasted for the future.

International Climate Protection
Efficient national climate protection can be achieved only in the international cooperation. United States and other industrialized countries contribute approximately 50 percent of the global CO2 emissions. In the next 15 years the emission will significantly increase, especially by the developing countries. United States has to play a very important role: help the developing countries to develop the climate protection provision. But before such help will be beneficial for the global population, such provisions need to be implemented locally.

United States and Germany have successfully implemented the new technology into power stations which has led to the reduction of CO2 emissions. However, more improvements can be done. For example, the research indicates that at least one percent increase in the rates of efficiency of fossil fuel-fired power stations can provide a gain of 250 billion kWh of electricity without any additional energy use.

Kyoto agreement as the future path of development
United States as well as other developed countries have agreed at the World Climate Conference in Kyoto to take actions to reduce the trace gasses, however a very little progress has been done since 1997. Moreover, the U.S. and Japan have ambitiously claimed to reduce the targets of 8 percent. It was decided that the countries exceeding the agreed targets in its CO2 reduction potentials can sell the extra capacities to other countries (Afgan and Bogdan 142-143). Thus, it was supposed that developing and developed countries would become partners. Some of the critics believed that such integration of countries is the danger of creation of wrong incentive structures in the developing countries. However, most of the industrialized countries are ready to pay the ransom to be released from their responsibility for environment in their own countries. Nevertheless, it does not solve the problem – the negative impact on the national climate remains and needs to be addressed domestically.

Not adequate regulatory and fiscal interference
Some of the developed countries have already expressed their willingness to develop and implement new technologies resulting in the energy utilization as efficient as possible. United States should be among these countries. Moreover, it should be the responsibility of the developed countries to support these technologies and make them available to the developing countries where the energy consumption is continuously increasing. The help should not be limited to the exporting on the technologies, but should include such services as consultancy, plant maintenance and funding of the operations.

The government plays the major role in minimization of the energy losses and the reduction of the primary raw materials usage. The energy companies should request the additional capital because of the additional fiscal measures increasing the prices for energy consumption. Numerous energy companies are not tied to the national locations and select the production sites according to the microeconomic calculations. For this reason a new policy oriented at environment and climate protection must be developed to avoid such location shifts. Benefits of such policy will include: the secured business location, employment opportunities, and political support.

The highest efficiency will be achieved if the government concentrates on defining the framework and leaves it up to companies to implement it in economically efficient and ecologically responsible way. The national CO2 reduction potentials are 45 percent for the electric appliances and cars, and as much as 65 percent in the oil buildings (Desimone 117). The required investment to achieve these numbers does not exceed country’s economy. The primary effort should be done in optimizing the individual production processes and energy supplies into one inter-dependent unit. It is already clear that the isolated improvements by some suppliers are facing the technological limits and little is accomplished. Only in cooperation of all energy leaders in the country the beneficial results can be achieved.

Example of sustainable energy use in Germany
Germany was one of the first European countries to integrate the sustainable development into the energy sector. Through the local research it was estimated that coal will remain the major contributor to energy supplies in the next decades. The efficient usage of the coal in power stations is predicted to be the major task for the German economy. For a long time, the German industry has achieved significant successes in the air pollution control and resource conservation. The first investment the government has made was the introduction of technological advances to the coal-fired power stations which are the most economically efficient ones in the world today and are environmentally friendly.

The power stations have reached the efficiency of 43 percent: they conserve the energy reserves and minimize the environmental negative influences. However, the German energy leaders are not stopping: they plan to improve the processes with steam temperature and pressure, optimize the turbine blades. Such changes can result in 25 percent reduction of CO2 emission and increase the efficiency up to 46 percent (Chalmers 30).

Unfortunately, very little research on energy efficiency has been done in United States and for this reasons the efficiency is much lower compared to the German systems. One of the first steps to be considered is implementation of the technological advances into power stations and monitoring for the further innovations. United States has the potential to develop energy system both economically efficient and environmentally friendly, but for some reasons little progress is being made in this direction.

The sustainable development has three objectives: economic efficiency, preservation of the natural resources and the social balance. The global energy leaders are expressing the commitment to these objectives, but only in few countries the real progress has been made. Unfortunately, United States are not on this lost. The energy demand increases globally and in contrast to the policy of “no-regret” which did not take into account the ecological and economic policies the new framework should be developed (K. Anderson 607).

Of course, the energy leaders are not able to make the changes without government promoting the technological advances and their implementation. The political assistance should shift the focus to encouragement of the joint partnership among the countries. Thus, the role of the government is to establish the strategic objectives and supporting each party to participate in the setting of these objectives as well as their implementation. Such goal oriented approach will break traditional energy forecasting and energy markets.

Backcasting is becoming one of the major alternatives approaches to the electricity planning. The demand of the energy creates the considerable freedom of choice as well as responsibilities for usage and reservation of resources for the future generations. The first oil price shock of 1974 has stimulated the interest of countries in computer models to predict the possible demands and provided the alternative methods to plan the supply. As Lovin has stated, the most careful planning of the current policies takes into consideration the future demands (K. Anderson 607). Taking into account that the demand will definitely increase and most of the energy resources are not renewable, the planning should be especially careful.

The government has the variety of examples of how to plan the energy supply and increase the efficiency. For example, the German system can be used as the basis for policy development. The most important goal to keep in mind while developing such policy is the translation of sustainable development concepts into strategic objectives. Then the current consumptions should be analysed: the detailed technical, environmental, and economic audit of the current supply and demand tendencies. The next step in choosing the end-point year: the plan should be developed for a pre-determined period of time, for two years for example.

Such plan should accomplish the goal of reducing the end-user consumption as well as increasing the efficiency of the power stations. Decreasing the consumption of energy without increase in efficiency or increase in efficiency without the decrease in consumption will have only short-term benefits. The current supply should be analyzed to determine the resources potential, fuel availability, economics, construction lead times, alternative supply options. Such information is hard to be collected by individual energy providers and the government should take responsibility for collecting, analysis and spreading of such information to the energy providers.

The sustainable development has impact on all sectors of our social and economic life and has three primary objectives: preservation of the energy resources, sustainable economic development and achievement of the social values. The energy leaders are the major contributors to the development of this vision because they can make the energy available on the reasonable price and environmentally friendly long term basis.

In order to preserve the environment and guarantee the secured supply of energy, all possibilities of energy policy actions should be kept in mind. United States has the economic potential to develop and implement the new technologies that increase the efficiency of the power stations and reduce the harmful emissions into the air, but little progress has been done. Germany, on the contrary, through encouragement of the foreign investments, has introduced the technological advances and managed to reach almost 50 percent of efficiency on power stations.

Coal, oil and gas will remain the major energy sources and these resources are not renewable. Thus, the major emphasis should be done on preserving these resources through the decreased consumption and increased efficiency. Moreover, the utilization of the energy must be done in environmentally friendly manner. The energy industry is reliant on government framework which should develop and promote the new technological advances and their dissemination. In conclusion, the American government should analyze what other countries have already done in this direction and adopt the most effective strategies to implement the sustainable development into energy sector in order to preserve the resources for future generations but still meet the increasing electricity demands of the current population.

Works Cited
Afgan, Naim, and Maria Da Graca Carvalho. New and Renewable Energy Technologies for Sustainable Development: Proceedings of the Conference on New and Renewable Energy Technologies for Sustainable … June 2002, Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal. A A Balkema Publishing, 2004.
Afgan, Naim, Bogdan, Z. Sustainable Development of Energy, Water, and Environment Systems. Taylor & Francis Group Press, 2004.
Anderson, Teresa; Diog, Alison; Rees, Dai and Smail Khennas. Rural Energy Services: A Handbook for Sustainable Energy Development. ITDG Publishing, 1999.
Anderson, K. L. “Reconciling the Electricity Industry with Sustainable Development: Backcasting — a Strategic Alternative.” Futures 33.7 (2001): 607.
Bradbrook, Adrian, Lyster, Rosemary, and Richard Ottinger. The Law of Energy for Sustainable Development (IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Research Studies). Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Chalmers, Neil; Gough, Stephen and William Scott. Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues. New York: RoutledgeFalmer Publishing, 2003.
Desimone, Livio and Frank Popoff. Eco-Efficiency: The Business Link to Sustainable Development. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000.
Energy Indicators for Sustainable Development Guidelines And Methodologies: Guidelines And Methodologies. United Nations Publications, 2005.
Steger, Ulrich; Blok, Kornelis; Bode, Henning; Frenz, Walter; Gather, Corinna; Hanekamp, Gerd; Imboden, Dieter; Jahnke, Matthias; Kost, Michael; Kurz, Rudi. Sustainable Development and Innovation in the Energy Sector. Springer Press, 2004.


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