Amid increasing concerns about the impacts of climate change, many countries are seizing the opportunity to develop new and innovative ways to create a sustainable and healthy future.
In recent years, Pakistan, Barbados, the United States, Japan, Denmark, and Kenya, among others, have all had something in common. These countries have made huge efforts either to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions or to boost their clean-energy production, or they are finding innovative ways to become energy efficient. Here are just a few quick examples:
Japan: Fukushima, the Japanese province affected by 2011’s tsunami and nuclear disaster, has pledged to switch to 100%-renewable energy by 2040. Already, the area has turned on its first 2MW wind turbine, which is providing clean energy to the region.
Pakistan: After receiving $137 million from the European Investment Bank, Pakistan will begin constructing a 128-Megawatt (MW) hydropower plant, which is set for completion in 2018 to boost the country’s clean-energy production and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The country already produces 19,000 MW of clean energy each year, which the government has committed to increasing to 24,000 MW by 2018.
Barbados: With approximately 90% of the island country’s electricity produced by fossil fuels, the government of Barbados has committed to introducing clean-energy technologies and energy conservation to maximize energy efficiency and achieve environmental sustainability.
The United States: Having recently launched the City Energy Project, mayors from ten of the United States’ largest cities have pledged to take action on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions from their buildings. Combined, these reductions in emissions will be equivalent to eliminating the emissions released by 1.5 million cars a year.
Denmark: Copenhagen is on track to become the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025, with an emphasis on renewables, energy efficiency, and public transportation.
United Arab Emirates: In February 2014, the United Arab Emirates and Denmark signed an agreement to collaborate on renewable energy and global sustainability. Meanwhile, the country is at the forefront of developing renewable energy in the Middle East–North Africa region, including the construction of the world’s first carbon-neutral, zero-waste city.
Tunisia: Tunisia has become the first country outside of Latin America, and the third country worldwide, to make a constitutional commitment to address climate change. The country also plans to increase the percent of renewables in its energy mix from its current 5% to 25% by 2030.
Sweden: By investing in solar and biogas, Stockholm is on track to meet its goal of slashing carbon emissions by 44%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2015. Växjö, meanwhile, has pledged to become fossil fuel-free by 2030.
Kenya: After investing $1.2 billion jointly with private companies, the Kenyan government will begin construction in 2014 on nine solar plants across the country. Once the plants are complete, by 2016, solar power will generate over half of Kenya’s electricity.
Brazil: Brazil’s ‘solar capital’, Belo Horizonte, is developing legislation and incentives that encourage investment in renewable technologies. Sao Paulo, meanwhile, is focusing on shifting its entire public transportation system to operate on renewable energy.
Spain: In 2013, 42.4% of Spain’s energy production was generated by renewables, reducing the country’s energy-associated carbon dioxide emissions by 23%.
Canada: Surrey has developed a ‘Sustainability Charter’—a vision of how the city can become fully sustainable within 50 years. Edmonton’s ‘The Way We Green’ plan uses community commitments and public-engagement actions to achieve a carbon-neutral future.
Indonesia: The country is focusing on reducing transport-associated emissions by installing a new bus system in Semarang. The city is also replacing public lighting with LEDs.
Mexico: By introducing new carbon-trading plans, Mexico aims to boost investment in clean technologies and reduce industrial polluting practices.
Belgium: Ghent has developed ambitious CO2 and renewable-energy commitments to reach their goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.
Finland: Lappeenranta, the 13th-largest city in Finland, already produces 90% of its energy from renewable-energy sources.
Colombia: Monteria has implemented a ‘Green City’ roadmap that aims to raise awareness of climate change. Examples include car-free days, tree planting, and schools powered by solar energy.
South Africa: Durban has achieved great renewable-energy production from its hydroelectric turbines and from energy produced by landfill waste.
As these changes in lifestyle and political commitment make clear, countries across the globe are serious about making sustainable changes. One technology that can benefit nearly all of these locations by helping them reach their clean-energy and emission-reduction targets is Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC). By tapping into our most abundant resource, our oceans, OTEC can allow us to meet energy and water demands sustainably by utilizing temperature differences between warm surface water and cold deep water, all without the use of fossil fuels.
With the thermal resources of the ocean available day and night, and with only relatively small variations from summer to winter, OTEC can produce clean energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week, giving it a great advantage over other important, yet intermittent, renewable-energy sources.
OTEC’s ability to help countries reduce their energy-related carbon dioxide emissions is staggering. One 10-MW OTEC plant alone can provide clean, reliable energy for approximately 10,000 people, replacing the burning of 50,000 barrels of oil and preventing the release of 80,000 tons of CO2 per year into the atmosphere. When the plant’s energy is not in demand, that same 10-MW plant can produce as much as 75 million liters of fresh drinking water on a daily basis via desalination (removing salt and other minerals from seawater). Worldwide, the surge in proposals, bidding, and deployment of desalination plants reflects an awareness of the climate-proof potential for desalination and its capacity to separate industrial water demand from public water supplies. Already, countries including the United States, Australia, and China manage water shortages via desalination plants. Meanwhile, countries such as the United Arab Emirates, India, Chile, and Saudi Arabia recognize the crucial role of desalination and have plans to build plants in the near future.
By using the deep cold water in OTEC plant pipes, energy-intensive central refrigeration methods can be replaced by Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC), helping countries reach emission-reduction targets. For large buildings and hotels, particularly in tropical climates, air conditioning (AC) is the single greatest demand on energy and is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions. Seawater Air Conditioning (SWAC), by comparison, has been proven to deliver huge energy savings (up to 90%) and to reduce cooling-associated emissions significantly.
OTEC’s services can be delivered worldwide. Its global importance is recognized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE), which has listed 68 countries and 29 territories as suitable candidates for OTEC plants. Furthermore, a study performed by Dunbar identified 98 territories with access to the OTEC thermal resource.
With OTEC plants offering products and services including clean energy, fresh drinking water, and energy-saving air conditioning, the technology is perfectly positioned to help countries successfully restrict fossil fuel use and move toward clean energy.