We are now in the early stages of an energy revolution that is profound and rapid as the one that ushered in the age of oil in the 21st century. This new energy system – highly decentralized, efficient, and based increasingly on renewable resources and hydrogen fuel- is already beginning to emerge in other parts of the world. Without visionary leadership, there can be a risk falling behind its economic competitors and compromising its political credibility on the international stage which will be judged by the extent to which it embodies the following principles of a 21st century energy system:
1. Energy Efficiency: investments in energy efficiency-obtaining the same services of lighting, cooking, heating, mobility, and industry will lower energy requirement.
2. Natural Gas: Natural Gas is the cleanest and fastest-growing fossil fuel, and despite the recent increase in price, has become the fuel choice for power generation. But the challenge with natural gas is not to drill for it ecologically-sensitive areas, but rather to develop highly-efficient new uses include co-generation or the combined use of heat and power and micro-power technologies.
3. Nuclear power & clean coal – The cost of nuclear-generated electricity is roughly double that of other energy sources now in the power market. This expense, combined with public opposition, has brought new construction nearly to halt around the world. private investors are unwilling to throw serious money into nuclear power. Although nuclear power is now still a major energy source in major countries, its has its risks. The nuclear fission process still causes the production of harmful radiation. Research is undertaken in an intensive manner to generate energy through nuclear fusion. Major breakthroughs have been achieved recently in the quest for this abundant and clean source of energy. It will probably take another 20 years or so before the first nuclear fusion power plants will be built in various countries. It will be another 30 years before these fusion power plants will be seen on a global scale.
4. Renewable energy: petroleum emerged first in niche markets, then grew rapidly. wind and solar power are doing the same, growing at double-digit annual rates globally. This has mainly been caused by the dramatic decrease of costs related to the production of energy through wind turbines and solar panels. It will take another 20 years before the renewable energy sources will be available for a large part of the human race.
Overall the prospects of availability of clean and cheap energy sources look good. Large investments are undertaken to develop the technology and power sources of clean and cheap energy.