Energy Sessions

Introducing Energy Sessions, a new forum which invites top researchers to give their thoughts on the BIG questions in energy. In the first installment of this series, three experts talk about the future of energy generation and use in relation to Goal 7 of the recently-announced UN Sustainable Goals.

Social and behavioral dimensions

Dr. Benjamin Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Sussex and Director of the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand and Editor-in-Chief of Energy Research & Social Science, believes the social and behavioral dimensions of energy use will have an impact on how we approach access to energy in future:

“You might be quite shocked to realize that something like 1.6 billion people around the world have no access to electricity and more than twice that depend on wood or coal or solid fuel for cooking. … These lives are very, very different, and that’s why I think this goal of universal energy access might be the most important of them all.”

Decarbonizing the system

Sir Chris Llewelyn Smith, Director of Energy Research at Oxford University, says decarbonizing the energy system might be challenging, but it’s the only way to achieve sustainable energy in the future:

“Decarbonizing the energy system will take time, so we need to get on with it. If we’re not optimistic, we certainly won’t get on with it and we won’t succeed.”

Surprising new ideas

Dr. Robin Grimes, Chief Scientific Advisor at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and professor of Materials Physics at Imperial College London and a board member of the journal Solid State Ionics, says we’ll achieve SDG7 through a systems engineering approach that’s culturally sensitive. The new ideas we develop to make energy more accessible and sustainable may not be the ones we set out to find, he explains:

“I’m a research scientist and engineer. … I want to discover new ways of thinking about energy generating systems. When I do research, I don’t expect necessarily the answer I thought I’d get in the first place. It’s really exciting, but it’s uncertain. The way we look at Sustainable Development Goal 7 will be similar. … Hopefully we’ll find even better solutions we weren’t expecting.”

Read the full story on Elsevier Connect: How can we make energy sustainable?