Quadruple the Potential, Scaling the Energy Supply

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Swarm Planning, 2014, pp. 181 - 195
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The dependency on fossil fuels and the fact that oil, coal and gas are world markets and the rules within these markets dictate what is possible, desirable and realistic, prevent a real transition towards a sustainable energy supply from happening. The traditional approach aims to make the existing system a little bit more sustainable. But still, world market rules define the framework within which the pace of changes is permitted to take place. This way of thinking generally leads to difficult reached agreements on ambitions. The 2020 objectives of the EU (Commission of the European Communities, 20 20 by 2020, Europe’s climate change opportunity, 2007) for example, are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency both by 20 % and aim to increase the proportion of renewable energy to 20 %. The Dutch government formulates its goals alike: save energy by 20 % and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 % in 2020 (CDA et al. Coalition treaty between political parties of CDA, PvdA and Christen Unie, 2207). These ambitions do not seem enough if the IPCC is to be believed. The IPCC has concluded that CO2 emissions should be reduced by 50–85 % in 2050 in order to stabilise global warming between 2 and 2.4 °C (IPCC, Climate change 2007: The physical science basis, working group I contribution to the intergovernmental panel on climate change fourth assessment report, 2007). The IEA states that a global revolution is necessary in the ways that energy is supplied and used (IEA, Energy technology perspectives, scenarios and strategies to 2050, 2008). Current pathways and transition paths seem not fast and ambitious enough. However, the transition can be looked at from the opposite direction. If the availability or regional potential for sustainable energy in a certain region decides on the ambitions and the way energy is produced and supplied and not that global market rules dictate the available space for the use of sustainable energy, the usage of local and regional potentials will increase. The transformation of the energy supply into a renewable energy system, based on the local production of available renewables and a distribution system, which is based on the recent opportunities of communication technology, energy-web, is a new era in energy supply is apparent (Droege, Renewable City, A comprehensive guide to an urban revolution, 2006; Rifkin, The hydrogen economy: the creation of the world-wide energy web and the redistribution of power on Earth, 2002) So far, few studies with the objective to find out how local sustainable potentials can be used are conducted (Van den Dobbelsteen et al., Towards an energy steered regional plan Groningen: spatial steering through energy potentials and heat cascading, 2007; Energy potential study Almere East, 2008; Droege, Renewable city, a comprehensive guide to an urban revolution, 2006; Roggema et al., Pallet of possibilities, 2006). These studies make visible by using maps where the potentials for different sustainable energy sources can be found. When these studies are combined a system can be created, which functions like the famous Droste effect: findings regarding the potentials for sustainable energy supply on the supra-regional scale determines what the potentials are on the regional scale, which determines what the potentials are on the local scale, which consequently determines what the potentials are on the building scale. Combining the potentials at all scales will result in far higher ambitions than the current policies define. The most important constraints include the existing cultural setting of decision-making, the ostensible dependency on large energy companies, the addiction to the existing power relations of important meets important, the seemingly immovable trust in existing infrastructure. Every scale has its own possible contribution and characteristic.
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