Modelling a future fuelled by sustainable energy

October 29, 2018

University of Adelaide economists have modelled the transition from a world powered by fossil fuels to one in which sustainable sources supply all our energy needs.

Dr Raul Barreto, Senior Lecturer from the University's School of Economics, has examined the short and long-term consequences of the relative productivity differential between fossil fuel and renewable energy.

"The transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy is dependent on their relative productivity. Sustainable energy will increasingly replace fossil fuels as the former becomes a less productive, more expensive source and the latter becomes more productive and less expensive," says Dr Barreto.

The research, published in the journal Economic Modelling, shows that fuel productivity determines whether renewable energy is a viable source and how economies will transition from today's world in which sustainable energy complements fossil fuels, to one solely powered by sustainable sources.

"Fossil fuels have the advantage of being a relatively inexpensive and stable source of energy, but stocks are finite," says Dr Barreto.

"Sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind power are potentially limitless, but supply is inconsistent, and they require large amounts of capital investment to make them a viable source," he says.

Despite the world having passed 'peak oil', where abundant supply was enjoyed, it is still difficult to predict when fossil fuels will run out. Some estimates suggest that in 50 - 100 years from now depleting reserves will become an issue.

"Hypothetical scenarios predict that finite stocks of fossil fuels will be depleted and economies that are solely dependent on those sources of energy will collapse causing severe welfare problems," says Dr Barreto.

"These predictions assume that the supply of fossil fuel cannot be influenced by productivity increases, economies of scale or substitution.

"However, alternative energy substitution can alleviate the negative implications on growth and welfare of an ever-depleting fuel source on an energy dependent dynamic economy."

The further that alternative energy must improve to catch up to oil, the larger the relative decrease in consumption will be. If alternative energy remains less productive than oil, we will suffer falling growth, possibly for a prolonged period, as we are forced to switch to the less efficient alternative.

"If society can improve the productivity of alternative energy in the long run to a level comparable to oil, then the future will be at least as bright as it was at the peak of the economy's oil dependence. If instead, alternative energy always remains oil's weaker cousin, then the eventual result is a world that is at best nostalgic of the heydays of cheap oil," says Dr Barreto.
-end-


University of Adelaide

Related Sustainable Energy Articles from Brightsurf:

Renewable energy targets can undermine sustainable intentions
Renewable energy targets (RETs) may be too blunt a tool for ensuring a sustainable future, according to University of Queensland-led research.

Upcycling plastic waste toward sustainable energy storage
UC Riverside engineering professors Mihri and Cengiz Ozkan and their students have been working for years on creating improved energy storage materials from sustainable sources, such as glass bottles, beach sand, Silly Putty, and portabella mushrooms.

First measurement of electron energy distributions, could enable sustainable energy technologies
To answer a question crucial to technologies such as energy conversion, a team of researchers at the University of Michigan, Purdue University and the University of Liverpool in the UK have figured out a way to measure how many 'hot charge carriers' -- for example, electrons with extra energy -- are present in a metal nanostructure.

Can sub-Saharan Africa achieve sustainable access to energy for all by 2030?
In 2019, the global population without access to electricity dipped below 1 billion for the first time.

An all-organic proton battery energized for sustainable energy storage
Sustainable energy storage is in great demand. Researchers at Uppsala University have therefore developed an all-organic proton battery that can be charged in a matter of seconds.

Mandatory building energy audits alone do not overcome barriers to energy efficiency
A pioneering law may be insufficient to incentivize significant energy use reductions in residential and office buildings, a new study finds.

Towards a sustainable future -- Novel technology to measure energy conversion efficiency
Conversion of energy is a constant process but measuring the efficiency of this conversion is not an easy task.

Model shows how to make on-farm sustainable energy projects profitable
Researchers have developed a model that could boost investment in farm-based sustainable energy projects by allowing investors to more accurately predict whether a project will turn a profit.

Sustainable supply of minerals and metals key to a low-carbon energy future
The global low-carbon revolution could be at risk unless new international agreements and governance mechanisms are put in place to ensure a sustainable supply of rare minerals and metals, a new academic study has warned.

Mapping the energy transport mechanism of chalcogenide perovskite for solar energy use
Researchers from Lehigh University have, for the first time, revealed first-hand knowledge about the fundamental energy carrier properties of chalcogenide perovskite CaZrSe3, important for potential solar energy use.

Read More: Sustainable Energy News and Sustainable Energy Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.