Futuribles Journal n° 376

Recherche, sciences, techniques - Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement

Renewable Energies: How Far Can We Go?

Par

A little over five years ago, in January 2006, Futuribles devoted a sizeable special number to energy prospects and the greenhouse effect (no. 315). These were already troubling times and the gloomy prospects for the development of energy resources and the problematic of climate change were analysed in a number of articles. According to certain experts, “peak oil” was already reached in that same year of 2006: that is to say, oil production was thought to be at its height and would subsequently be stagnating before a (more or less rapid) decline. Furthermore, gas production ought to reach a ceiling around 2025-2030, as Jean Laherrère showed in these columns last April (no. 373).

In this context and given the undeniable efforts to be made to limit global warming, it has become essential, on the one hand, to act to control energy use and, on the other, to look to other sources of energy production – this second option being doubtless easier to implement than reducing consumption. Incontestably, renewable energies have an essential future role to play in the diversification of the energy mix and its orientation towards sustainable development. Cédric Philibert, a specialist in these forms of power within the International Energy Agency, here outlines their potential and the place they might occupy in years to come.

After presenting the IEA’s scenarios to 2035 and 2050 (which reveal the need for proactive policies to promote renewable energies), he focuses on the two major strands in this sector: wind power and solar energy. He then goes on to the question of what is meant by “renewable”: are these energies 100% renewable or have the supplies to be supplemented, the resources to be stored etc.? He analyses the role renewable energies could play in buildings and in the various sectors of industry and transport and under what technical conditions this might occur. Lastly, Philibert examines the economic aspects: what costs for what benefits? He shows, in substance, that, though the initial investment required is large (particularly in terms of incentive measures on the part of the public authorities), the game is certainly worth the candle in the long term, since “the massive deployment of renewable energies seems to be the key today” for responding to global energy needs and combating climate change.

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