Out of all the creatures that had ever existed and are still there on this planet, it is the conscious intelligence, vast sense of memory, and imagination that make humans stand strong, apart, and in power. It is the virtue of intelligence and imagination that we have advanced in a way that no one could have anticipated 100 years back. The rapid advancements, however, were gained at a cost of ill-exploitation of the only habitat planet that we have so far. One of the major sectors of development that personally intrigues me due to our incredible dependence on it is energy.

Tracing back to the Edison Electric Light Station in 1882, the coal was nothing less than the magical lamp of Aladdin. With a clear-sighted vision to light the world and with abundant fossil resources, the innovation was stretching its wings. 140 years down the line, we share an electrified world still majorly fuelled by fossils. As of 2021, the world has already exhausted one-third of its natural resources in the past three decades. Amidst the money-grabbing plans of monopolized coal corporates, thanks to visionaries who could see the future through the enwrapping black smoke. While there are platygaeanists who would condemn the wind turbines for their aesthetics and noise with little clue of the dreadful scene in the mines. To all with persistent vexatious debates who have denounced the wind turbines for the waste it creates post decommissioning, it will be hard to absorb SGRE’s new recyclable blade technology. Sustainable innovation needs a vision that is greater than ourselves. The low carbon value chain created by several ideas like Modvion’s wooden wind power towers, the hydrogen energy storage by Engie, the solar roofs, biofuels, and many more typify the development that is indifferent to the affluent grounds.

HyNetherlands: large scale green hydrogen. Source: Engie

When the first coal-fired electricity plant was started, the world population neared 1.4 billion. With an increase in population by 450% in the last 140 years, it is dire to reflect on the ways we exploit the energy for our comfort. As per the report by Statista, the world population is estimated to be 9.7 billion by 2050 and a report from US EIA indicates nearly 45 trillion kWh of electricity generation to fulfill this demand.

Estimated global population from 10,000 BCE to 2100 (in millions). Source: statista.com

The net share of coal-fired generation will still be 22%, which puts a question on our ability to remain below 1.5 °C. The complete phase-out of the coal is the only way to align the development with the benchmark set by the Paris Agreement. As per the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, fossil-based electricity generation is the reason for 1 in 5 death globally every year. The cheapest new coal plants in 2019 resulted in a far higher power cost than the newly installed renewable energy facilities.

PPCA (Powering Past Coal Alliance) Global Summit Highlights, 2-4 March 2021

What stands ahead of us to move towards a sustainable energy innovation? Bygone are the days when coal brought electricity, jobs, and comfort. All it brings now is the smoke and the deaths.