World Population reaches 7 Billion - is there enough clean energy for all?
The Population Division of the United Nations projected that the world population has reached 7 billion people this week. Although this is an estimate, the reality is that the number of living humans is close to the number of 7 billion and continuing to increase. A world of 7 billion people poses many challenges, and the energy problem is one of the most important. Can the world provide energy for that many people?
The growing population is not good for the world’s resources. Fossil fuel consumption (coal, gas, oil, etc.) is not slowing down, we need to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and the fossil fuel resources are limited in the world. The world-wide energy consumption does not only increase rapidly due to the population growth, but also due to the economic growth and associated increase in wealth and electricity use of people in developing countries.
One thing we all agree on is that if we want to continue to offer affordable kilowatt-hours for all, we need to search for alternative energies that lessen the weight on the world's resources. We need to change our energy-mix (see graph below) to a new mix of clean, safe and renewable energy sources.
Fossil fuels making up the bulk of the energy mix in 2010. Source: BP Statistical Review.
Now we have to change this energy mix - it is the time for a new generation of fusion engineers to stand up. Starting with the ITER project, they will have to demonstrate that fusion technology can become a commercial source of energy, that fusion can become an important element of the energy transition. Together with wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric energy, fusion power has the prospect to make up a large share of the future energy mix.
But the population is growing and the clock is ticking. To ensure we maintain prosperity and a healthy environment for our future generations, we have to embrace innovative technologies and renewable energy on a scale we have never seen before. Perhaps awareness of the energy problem and the issues at stake will urge people to be smarter about consumption and boost an interest in the development of fusion technology and in the search for alternative energies in general, that lessen the weight on the world's resources.