Energy solutions a top priority!

by Leo Olivero
Humanity’s future, to say nothing of its prosperity, will depend on how the world tackles two central energy challenges ‘securing reliable supplies of affordable energy, and switching to efficient low-carbon energy’.

It’s Not All About Just Flicking a Switch!
Flicking a switch and the lights coming on is something that we take for granted. Yet countless people not only here in Gibraltar, but around the world should not be lulled into a false sense of security. The plans and assumptions we make about where our ‘energy or power’ comes from, and how we use it, simply will not hold true in the future unless we really plan for it as a nation!

Globally we are witnessing the way we produce and use energy and how it is affecting the environment, with carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels raising temperatures around the globe.

Climate change and the policies the EU is adopting to combat it pose one of the most significant challenges the European electricity industry is facing. It is estimated that this industry will need to invest over €30 billion before 2020 if the EU emission and climate change targets for 2050 and beyond are to be reached.

The Stern report compiled by a team of economists lead by Sir Nicolas Stern, former chief economist at the World Bank, concluded some time ago, that avoiding the consequences of climate change is affordable (about one per cent of global GDP) if action started immediately. While the cost of inaction will be enormous (about five to 20 per cent of global GDP), hence business as usual is definitely not an option and that includes us here on this rock of ours!

EU Busy On Power Supply Policies!
The EU has been busy in this respect. European union have also issued a strategic energy review policy document covering both internal and external energy policy, general greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and specific objectives for a low carbon energy mix, a renewable energy road map, a communication on “sustainable coal” and a priority interconnection plan based on TEN-E projects of European interest.

The European Environment Agency (EEA) has recently published the Air Quality In Europe – 2012 Report. The quality of the air we breathe will always be a matter of concern, both here and abroad. In recent times, at least, no other environmental issue has featured as prominently in the local and world media, particularly in the wake of further public concern from a local perspective, about all the crap and noise emanating from present power stations in Gibraltar!

Government’s Energetic Solutions!
After last weeks important announcement by Government, regarding the ‘temporary power station’ including an insight of their plans for a permanent solution to Gibraltar power/ energy needs, was for me a vital initiative by them.
In my opinion, “the new government power/energy plan clearly recognises the massive action and investment that is required to provide new generating equipment, a stronger and more robust transmission and distribution network coupled with a move towards a cleaner primary source of energy for electricity generation”

This is why the Government, I’m sure, over many months has made a huge effort to draw what must be a strategic framework that will guide it in identifying the future power generation and transmission requirements for Gibraltar!
The environment is not just a political issue, or grindstone material for political party spin machines. The environment is a far more complex matter from the purely technical and analytical point of view. This complexity essentially arises from the milieu of components that make it up and that interact dynamically with each other: like air, the oceans and freshwater bodies, biodiversity and ecosystems, the earth’s northern and southern ice caps and mountain glaciers and land resources.

Furthermore, and this actually militates against managing environmental resources in the most efficient of ways, there still seems to be a lack of awareness about the need to discuss environmental issues in synergy with the state of the economy, and where many experts believe that Environment and the Economy are two sides of the same coin.

However, the resulting implications are very significant: because the slightest dose of pollutant emitted into the atmosphere will tend to exert the biggest effect both, in terms of environmental impact and human health, and there is where the economy bit kicks in!

Gibraltar Looks To Have a Clear Energetic/Power Strategy!
The Government of Gibraltar it seems looks to have a clear strategy and a planned vision for both its generation and distribution activities, together with the move towards a cleaner primary source of energy for electricity generation. In fact, you could say, these initiatives have already been set in motion with the announcement of the temporary power station, particularly how the temporary generating units imported from America, will dramatically lower emissions, not forgetting, the hopeful sound of silence, which is an issue that has affected countless people.

The EEA report mentioned earlier argues about the double advantage in taking effective action and implementing policy designed to cut down on a number of air pollutants such as troposphere ozone and particulate matter, the latter described as “climate forcers”. Tropospheric ozone and particulates are partly the result of human activities. They contribute to a localised deterioration in air quality (traffic and industrial emissions etc) and, globally, there are climate impacts associated with these emissions.

The EU report in fact purports that a strategic approach is the only way and that ‘air quality and climate issues should be tackled together’ within the context of implementing a sustainable energy/power policy. Which by all accounts and looking at the whole issue, particularly after last weeks announcement, looks to be the direction in which the Government is heading, which most be encouraging news to all concerned, which is all of us really!

There is no doubt that, locally, there is increasing awareness about the direct link between air quality and human health, but like everything else, much still needs to be done.

Alternative Energy
The ever-increasing oil prices are affecting the whole world. However, in Gibraltar we know that during the last 15-odd years the previous government did hardly anything or close to nothing to incentivise people and local business. Over many years nothing was ever done to look for cheaper and greener ways of energy to produce electricity, minimising the effect of the increase in oil/fuel prices on our lives and the economy!

We live in a country which enjoys good sunlight all year round, but the use of solar energy and solar power generation is remote and still expensive.

For three-quarters of the year, we have winds capable I’m sure, of generating electricity but wind-powered generators are still something of the future here.
The geography of Gibraltar in my ‘humble none-expert opinion’ also lends-itself in generating wave energy to produce power. Although before we consider that one, we first have to sort out the Spaniards and all their silly talk of sovereignty over our waters!

I recently read an article about Iceland, which, unlike Gibraltar, has limited sunlight all year round but boasts another energy asset: geothermal energy, which, through geothermal power stations, generates power at less cost.
Geothermal energy you could say, is as abundant in Iceland as sunlight is in Gibraltar, and is extremely cheap with no side effects whatsoever on climate and on the environment.

The main difference is that in Iceland, they use this abundant source underneath the ground, in contrast here in Gibraltar, we do not use our sunny source above the ground high up in the sky!

Just in case your wondering like I did -Geothermal energy is energy generated by heat stored beneath the Earth’s surface. Geothermal energy can be found in the form of volcanoes, hot springs and geysers. This energy source is very important energy source in volcanically active places such as New Zealand and Iceland.

Hopefully, the implementation of what looks to be the Governments power/energy policy that safeguards security of supply while ensuring Gibraltar abides by its emissions and climate obligations, is in many ways vitally important for the future of Gibraltar and its people!