The future of energy is both about the power of the rich (and the riches in the energy markets) as well as the dangers of certain energy sources. So it is about fundamental resources, ongoing innovation, economic risks and rewards as well as environmental and human costs.
Growth of Demand
Demand for energy, as well as other core human consumption resources (air, water, food), is projected to grow fairly steadily. Only some kind of incipient disaster or dark ages would reverse this, and then only for a certain amount of time. From this vantage point the future looks good for energy-rich countries and public utilities (aka the Middle East, Venezuela, the US, Canada and Australia, among others). However, things are not so rosy, or simple...
Advancing Sophistication of Consumption
While demand will grow as the world becomes more populated and more developed, the flip-side is that demand will lessen due to new technologies that dramatically reduce consumption. For example, LED LCD TVs are much more efficient than CFL LCT TVs, and those were more efficient than CRT TVs. Granted, people are increasing the size of their screens, but this is more than offset by the technology. Now, of course there is energy consumption at the production end of the spectrum, but we are seeing efficiencies there as well. When LED gradually replaces all lighting the savings will be fairly dramatic from a global perspective. In terms of big data + analytics, some great innovation is taking place at, of all places, Microsoft's 125-building campus.
Office buildings, hotels, stores, schools, hospitals, malls and other such commercial buildings are responsible for up to 40 percent of the world’s total energy consumption. In the U.S. alone, businesses spend about $100 billion on energy every year.
Low Power Innovations
There are several low-power innovations. These include both microgeneration (small scale energy creation) and microconsumption. These generally rely on more sustainable technologies, such as solar, wind, small-scale hydro and evaporative cooling.
Solar Power Generation and Applications
Solar power is very sensible to drive drip irrigation water pumps:
Solar Powered Refrigeration
There are a variety of solar power refrigerators to explore.
There are many uses for Solar beyond power generation, with the main ones being visible light itself (to replace artificial illumination) and evaporation (created by solar heat). One of the more interesting and ingenious is the Solar Light Bulb.
Evaporative Cooling Technologies
There are some great cooling technologies due to evaporation (of one liquid or another). In the case of simple water evaporation, entire refrigeration (or at least much cooler than ambient).
There is also the case of a device that can be heated (by any kind of source) and then used for cooling effects for a day.
Dramatic Threat of Microgeneration to Utilities
There is a dramatic threat of microgeneration to utilities, as the entire generation and distribution of energy is disrupted. The utilities are fully aware of this threat.
Natural Gas Microgeneration
Besides solar and wind microgeneration, natural gas is also a single home source of power, especially as deployed by Houze construction, and available through Freewatt and ClearEdge Power.
Multi-source Offgrid Power
A great combination of solar and wind can provide a non-grid solution for things like roadway lights.
Various Dangers of Traditional Fuels
And now on to the dangers. We didn't want to start with these, but they certainly exist, and drive demand into newer, cleaner technologies and energy consumption innovations.
Dangers of Oil
Oil spills are regularly catastrophic in the US, and elsewhere. This is not to mention the air pollution, greenhouse gases and global warming.
Dangers of Natural Gas
Natural Gas can be catastrophic. This is Derweze, Turkmenistan, and this fire has been burning since 1971:
This is not to mention the air pollution, greenhouse gases and global warming.
Dangers of Coal
In the US, the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania has been claimed by eminent domain due to the effects of a coal mine fire which has burned for the past 50 years and will continue for another estimated 250 years. This is not to mention the air pollution, greenhouse gases and global warming.
Dangers of Nuclear Power
Nuclear meltdown is the biggest problem, and it is the energy utilities which usually are to blame (though of course nature is a prime factor).