Energy production since the industrial revolution has been based on the burning of coal, oil or gas to generate heat with which a turbine or an engine that generates energy is started. That is why by burning we are causing a material good to disappear and therefore to be consumed. On the other hand, the energy, once released after burning, we use it, we transform it, we waste it, but we do not consume it. Therefore, the first thing to do is change the language. We do not consume energy but we consume energy materials.
The burning of fossil fuels must give way to capturing the energy flows of the biosphere if we want to survive as a civilization and not succumb to climate change.
Exit the era of fire to enter the era of flows
The second key aspect of entering a sustainable, clean and rational energy culture is understanding the importance of moving from the age of fire to the age of flows. For millennia our way of obtaining energy has been based on burning, first firewood, then coal, oil or gas and also more modernly another form of intensive heat with the use of radioactive fuels is the fusion or fission of the atom from which we obtain something as basic as heat. But the burning of fossil fuels has led us to endanger the planet's climatic stability and nuclear fuels to radioactively contaminate the environment for millennia. Therefore, leaving the era of burning or generating heat to obtain energy is a possible obligation because we can enter into the capture of clean and renewable energy flows.
The paradigm shift is to stop being consumers of energy materials such as fossil fuels or nuclear to be actors in the capture of energy flows. While the burning technology requires a complex sequence that goes from the extraction to the distribution of the energy obtained, the capture of flows is much simpler since it requires only one technology compared to the multiple linked to the cycle of the option to burn or let alone take advantage of the heat of atomic transformation. Being captors of energy flows is within the reach of each person individually or collectively.
The current energy crisis has to do with the prevailing idea since the late 19th century that energy will already be provided to us. The new energy paradigm allows each of us to be individually or collectively. In the same way that we worry about obtaining energy for our food needs, we must participate in the capture of exosomatic energy for our daily activities.
The right and duty of capturing energy flows
For this necessary energy revolution of capturing the energy flows of the biosphere, the right to capture them must be recognized. In each place on the planet these flows are different but they exist: wind, sun, water, tides, biomass, geothermal heat, etc. But in turn, this right is not enough, we must also understand the importance of the duty to do so. Therefore, it is not enough to claim the right but we have a duty to do so in order to be consistent with future generations.
This lack of individual and collective involvement in capturing biospheric flows accepting the consumption of energy materials by burning and burning that we do today is what has led us to the ecological crisis, climate change and environmental pollution. Therefore, each one of us must be energy actors requires that we collectively appropriate technology.
Renewable technology is not complex
When renewable energies were born, stimulated by the oil crisis in the early seventies, they did so from small-scale initiatives in which the social groups involved participated. The Danish cooperatives that powered the wind turbines had no technology at all. They simply put the ingenuity and will to create capturing machines for biospheric flows.
Thus, while in Denmark they focused on capturing wind, in Austria they did so with capturing solar thermal energy. From these pioneering initiatives, by small groups, often with a non-profit spirit, an experience was obtained that could later be translated into the creation of companies that generate technology for recruitment.
In reality they were social movements that developed the renewable technologies wind, solar that we enjoy today. The technologies for capturing biospheric flows are not the work of NASA engineers or large business groups (although later these were also involved). On the contrary, renewable technology came out of small workshops that with ingenuity and participation created it.
We cannot forget that current wind technology arises from a popular movement and the same would be said of solar thermal energy. However, it is no less true that large wind companies such as Vestas or leaders in solar thermal collection such as Green One Tech in Austria have their origin in this will of groups that wanted to be collectors of the energy flows of the biosphere. So part of the renewable technology available today has a popular origin, although now large industrial groups also participate. But these have been placed when it was already a business.
The necessary appropriation of renewable technology
The fourth point for this paradigm shift is the need for collective appropriation of capture technology. It is true that in the beginning, Danish wind cooperatives had only a few associates to obtain it. Today, acquiring a 2.5 MW machine requires thousands of people from popular economies to get together. However, only with collective appropriation can we prevent the technologies for capturing biospheric flows from being once again swallowed up by the large oligopolies. Hence, it is not enough to complain about the environmental and energy crisis, but rather we must be deeply involved because each and every one of us can be actors in capturing energy flows. If we do not do it, the people will do it, the corporations and we will once again be captive consumers as we have been before.
To get involved in the capture of the flows in a communal way, it can do with social groups either by local interest or by community of interests, that is, people from different places who come together with the common objective of being energy actors; although it is usually a mixture of both typologies. A green energy distribution cooperative would be a case of community of interest. Co-ownership of a solar plant to supply a locality would be an example of a community of interests.
Stop investing in burning energy materials
To get out of burning energy materials, we must stop investing in the technologies that it entails. We have to resist creating opinion so that people who participate in investments with fossil or nuclear fuels stop doing it.
Along these lines is the campaign promoted by the international organization 350.org that works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that organizes the Gobal Divestment Day campaign that has already had a notable impact in the United States and is spreading throughout the planet ( also in Barcelona). This is encouraging institutions to do whatever is necessary to avoid the climate crisis by disinvesting from fossil fuels. It is therefore intended that institutions or people withdraw their savings or investments from the economic funds that support the fossil and nuclear industry.
But it is not enough to prevent the growth of fossil and nuclear technologies, we must innovate in favor of capturing energy flows and not only with technology but with formulas for social participation. There are examples of social innovation with initiatives such as Vivir del aire del cielo or municipalities that have become energy agents such as the Schönau rebels. Municipalities have many legal powers to be energy actors with democratic management. Our vote in the municipal elections can be for political options that propose a true sustainable energy revolution based on capturing the energy flows of the biosphere.
Text based on an intervention by Dr. Josep Puig, president of Eurosolar Spain, during the presentation of the book Alta Tensión in Barcelona on February 12, 2015. Images from the Global Divestment Day Campaign and Fundación Tierra.Ecoportal.net
By Dr. Josep Puig