The energy industry incorporates a broad range of sectors. It covers everything from extraction of resources to generation of a useable form of energy to distribution and, finally, its use. Whenever there has been a need for enriched sources of energy, technology has always provided innovative solutions, from atomic fission to hydraulic fracking for extending our reach for shale gas to groundbreaking organic solar panels that can be printed on fabric.
In the past decade, the energy industry has seen revolutionary changes, not because we are running out of resources, but because our atmospheric CO2 concentration is quickly approaching the critical point after which reduction of CO2 levels will no longer be economically viable. The industry has been continuously growing since the industrial revolution, but it has not yet reached peak demand. Over the next 20 years, more and more fossil fuels will be burned, further increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and driving climate change.
I used to wonder: if technology gave us atomic fission and fabric solar panels, why haven’t we yet come up with a solution to the problem of rising CO2? My inquisitiveness led me to pursue a master's degree in energy systems engineering in the hopes of finding the answer.
I did learn about many technologies designed to mitigate this global problem, but among all the lessons learned, there was one key takeaway: there is no silver bullet. What we need is more awareness and willingness to change. Awareness that we are consuming more than nature can replenish, that we will be responsible for the exhaustion of our resources, and that our future generations may not enjoy the same lifestyle as we do, unless we act quickly. Awareness that we still haven’t developed a technology that can substitute for fossil fuels as an energy source, and willingness to change if we want to halt the terrifying effects of rising CO2, such as global warming, rising sea levels and climate change.
On a personal level, it is my understanding of the gravity of the problem, awareness of the challenges and urge to contribute meaningfully that has led me to make energy the focus of my career. Each and every sector of the energy industry is a large-scale establishment employing a massive human workforce. As an energy systems engineer working on the technical development of PEER, I have a chance to work on how we define, evaluate, measure and verify sustainable grid systems. There are several such opportunities for improvement, not only in technology, but also in the socio-economic aspect of the industry. A well-informed and aware individual will be able to foresee these opportunities and contribute to not only creating more awareness, but also developing innovative, sustainable strategies to mitigate these problems on a global scale.