Blog 3: Can a new energy source replace fossil fuels?

22 July 2020

This is the third blog in a new series from Alasdair Green, a senior member of the AAB Energy Team and Head of E&P; “Balancing the Green Energy Agenda”. You can read the blog series from the beginning here

No other naturally occurring fuel energy source looks like it will take over the dominance of oil and natural gas quickly in the 21st century.  There most likely will not be a bio-matter based replacement, and their existence by their definition is finite eventually (with the exception of wood, if tree planting is quick enough and on a very large scale).   

Nuclear energy could also be classified as a naturally occurring fuel.  A clean non-carbon fuel, it is usually classified as a finite or non-renewable resource however as it is derived from a rare type of uranium.  Whilst nuclear is clean and highly productive, it has its serious challenges such as public perception, safety and very long term waste containment. 

Looking at the trend, which energy source do we expect will ultimately take over the dominant top spot?  Or is it more realistic to expect there to be a balanced portfolio of energy sources?  Some believe that the modern large scale development of hydrogen as a fuel may one day have the potential to be a significant energy source (either blue hydrogen from natural gas or green from water electrolysis using renewable electricity, or a combination), however this is still a very small sector by comparison and could take a very long time before it is big enough. 

When it comes to renewable energy, resources such as hydro, tidal, wind and solar drive our turbines and photovoltaic cells.  Hydro energy has been harnessed for more than 150 years and whilst it is an important contributor, its scale and capacity will always be limited to physical locations in our upland regions adjacent to centres of population.  Tidal energy may also have the potential to be an important contributor, but this is still a relatively new sector.  It could be argued that tidal power could be one of the most reliable energy sources, driven by the very presence of the moon, but its scale, capacity and location constraints are similar to hydro. 

Wind and solar are perhaps the more widely recognised and favoured renewable energy sources in the modern energy transition debate.  Both resources are rapidly developing and growing sectors globally and have huge potential.  They do require sufficient high volume with reliability of wind and sunshine however to be regarded as major contributors.  There are also serious environmental consequences to consider in the development of these renewable sectors.   

The next topic in this series is “The often misunderstood environmental impact of green energy” 

To discuss any points raised in this blog, or throughout the series, you can contact Alasdair directly by email or on LinkedIn. His details can be found here

To find out more about AAB's expertise and service offerings within the Energy sector, click here

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