Originally posted in The Daily Star on 06 March, 2023
It is time to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels altogether
Energy security is a pressing issue of our time. Without energy security, we can forget economic growth and prosperity. The power outages that Bangladesh has experienced in recent months may have resulted from the volatility in the global energy market, but they did give a glimpse of what may come if Bangladesh does not act now to secure its energy supply.
While we suffered our own power outages, other countries in Asia were hit equally badly. Some parts of China suffered power shortages due to the worst heat waves in six decades, which forced manufacturers to close factories that produce all kinds of intermediary goods, such as aircraft parts, electronics, semiconductors, solar panels, and batteries. Meanwhile, electricity shortages tied to extreme heat in Pakistan led to the authorities imposing load-shedding blackouts, which left factories and people without electricity for as long as 16 hours a day.
Even the Global North is not immune from the economic impacts of energy security. In the US, California had to ask consumers and businesses to conserve energy or face rolling blackouts. This was due to record-breaking heat.
Energy security has a different slant in Europe. The continent’s dependence on fossil fuels has been ruthlessly exposed by Russia. Electricity prices in the UK have been up to five times higher than that from the previous year due to its reliance on power fuelled by coal and gas from Russia.
It is safe to assume that the world’s energy problems will become more dire in the coming years. Keeping this in mind, surely we need to take major steps now to secure our energy supply, both for environmental reasons and to keep the wheels of our economy turning.
I came across an interesting piece of information recently: a few years ago, a nuclear engineering professor calculated that just 1.2 percent of the Sahara Desert would be sufficient to accommodate all the solar panels to meet the energy needs of the entire world with solar energy. The professor worked out that the cost of the project would be about $5 trillion, a one-time cost.