For the first time, US scientists have achieved a fusion reaction with net energy gain. But the dream of limitless zero-carbon energy is still a long way from reality.
Video timeline: 00:00 – What powers the universe 01:04 – ITER: the biggest experiment in human history 04:28 – What is fusion? 06:38 – Replicating the sun 08:38 – The US breakthrough 13:46 – The investors 20:40 – A new class of magnet 24:30 – Dream or reality?
The FT’s Simon Mundy meets scientists and investors in the UK, France and US, to see how close we really are to commercial fusion power.
Twenty-five years ago, the philosopher Richard Rorty accomplished something many writers aspire to but few ever pull off: he predicted the future. Toward the end of his 1998 book Achieving Our Country, Rorty considered the possibility that “the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments.”
DW Documentary – Energy is life – these days, Europeans are experiencing that first-hand. For far too long, Europe has depended on coal, oil and gas imports from around the world. Not only have these fuels been driving the climate catastrophe, but they also serve as a dangerous bargaining chip for geopolitical interests.
Energy is essential — and it is a major problem. The war in Ukraine has shown just how dependent Europe is on fossil fuels. This has weakened Europe and given export countries – frequently governed by authoritarian rule – a geopolitical means of leverage. Now, war on the European continent has eclipsed concerns over the climate Crisis. The increased consumption of harmful fuels is creating economic and political problems.
Yet, against the odds, decarbonizing Europe remains a widespread priority, and alternative solutions are already available. In France, Denmark and Ukraine, civil initiatives are taking energy supplies into their own hands and investing in the joint production of their own solar energy. In some cases, privately produced solar energy has proven much cheaper than what national solar energy providers offer.
These initiatives show that decentralizing energy production could be the key to transforming our energy supply. Poland still depends heavily on coal, but is offering re-training programs for employees in the mining business to help them transition to green jobs. An estimated one million such green jobs are expected to be created in Europe by 2030. Green hydrogen, currently still in the development stages, could be a sustainable and profitable alternative for industries in the future.
Across the continent, workable alternatives are emerging. The current quick succession of political crises has now joined the ongoing climate crisis to show just how important it is to act now.
Financial Times – Wind power is the number one source of renewable energy in the US, but nearly all this stems from onshore wind. The US offshore wind industry is underdeveloped and, with only two small offshore operations to date, it lags far behind Europe and China by comparison. The FT’s Derek Brower looks at why progress is slow, and what the White House is trying to do about it.
Nuclear projects are getting a boost of investment as countries try to tackle an energy crisis sparked by the Ukraine war, while also pursuing emissions targets. WSJ looks at how start-ups say their alternative designs can help solve past issues.
The ocean’s waves are immensely powerful. Harnessing that energy for grid-scale electricity production would be a major boon to the clean energy industry, but building durable, powerful, and cost-effective wave energy converters has proven difficult.
Chapters:1:46 The challenges 4:05 Wave energy in the U.S. 4:49 (Subchapter) CalWave 6:05 (Subchapter) Oscilla Power 7:34 (Subchapter) C-Power 9:00 Wave energy in Europe 11:51 The future
Now though, an influx of federal funding is helping many U.S. companies gear up to test their latest wave energy technologies, giving many in the industry hope that wave power will see massive growth over the next few decades.
Heavy industries must decarbonise dramatically to reach net zero. Replacing fossil fuels with green hydrogen, created with renewable energy, is one way to reduce emissions. Examples of green hydrogen being used in various industries are emerging, but as the FT’s Sylvia Pfeifer reports, this carbon-free innovation faces a major challenge to scale up.
For some, nuclear power may conjure images of mushroom clouds or bring back memories of disturbing nuclear disasters like Chernobyle and Fukushima. But despite public fear around nuclear power, the technology has proved to be an emission-free, reliable way to produce large amounts of electricity on a small footprint.
As a result, sentiments about the technology are beginning to change. Both the U.S. government and private companies including X Energy, NuScale and, Bill Gates-backed, TerraPower are pouring money into developing, what they say will be smaller, safer nuclear reactors. CNBC visited Idaho National Laboratory to see the Marvel microreactor firsthand and learn what such developments could mean for the future of nuclear power.
After humankind discovered nuclear fission, the first applied use was the atomic bomb. The study of fission for electricity production came later. In December 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave his fateful Atoms for Peace speech, an impassioned plea to reconstitute the power of the atomic bombs dropped in World War II for a more noble cause.
“Against the dark background of the atomic bomb, the United States does not wish merely to present strength, but also the desire and the hope for peace,” Eisenhower told the United Nations. Almost 70 years later, the tension between those end uses still underlies the space today. From the 1950s through the 1970s, the United States dramatically increased its nuclear energy generation.
But the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and Chornobyl meltdown in 1986 changed the landscape, spurring fear that nuclear energy could not be controlled safely. Since the 1980s, nuclear energy capacity and generation in the U.S. has largely stayed flat. Today, the country’s fleet of nuclear power reactors produces only 19% of the country’s electricity, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration.
In more recent times, the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan in 2011 — and earlier this year the capture of nuclear power plants in Ukraine by invading Russian forces — have added to public concerns. But despite its fraught origin story and the psychological effect of high-profile accidents, nuclear energy is getting a second look. That’s largely because nuclear energy is clean energy, releasing no greenhouse gasses.
Meanwhile, the world is seeing more of the effects of climate change, including rising global temperatures, increased pollution, wildfires, and more intense and deadly storms. “We need to change course — now — and end our senseless and suicidal war against nature,” Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, said in Stockholm on Thursday. “There is one thing that threatens all our progress. The climate crisis. Unless we act now, we will not have a livable planet,” Guterres said. “Scientists recently reported that there is a 50-50 chance that we could temporarily breach the Paris Agreement limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the next five years.”
Fossil fuels still supply about 80% of the world’s power. How can energy be produced and used more sustainably to meet climate targets? We answer your questions. film supported by @Infosys
Timeline: 00:00 – Why energy needs to become more sustainable 00:33 – How much energy should come from renewables? 01:19 – Why isn’t nuclear power used more widely? 02:19 – How can solar power be made more efficient? 03:34 – Will biofuels become widely used? 04:30 – Do electric vehicles make a difference? 05:10 – How heating and air conditioning can be more sustainable
Space launch costs are dropping rapidly. Solar panels are cheaper than ever. Could space-based solar power soon be price-competitive with nuclear? Promoted as a zero-carbon solution, classified military space planes have also been conducting experiments into wireless power transmission. The FT’s Peggy Hollinger looks at whether space-based solar power can move beyond science fiction.