Energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie says that until 2035 crude oil will remain the most high-demand fuel source in the world, closely followed by coal and natural gas. Nuclear power, meanwhile, will remain a key mid-level energy source.  Growing industrial demand from the Asia-Pacific region is likely to see oil sustained as the top energy source. China’s total energy demand by 2035 will be about 28% of total world energy demand.  David Brown, a Senior Product Manager at Wood Mackenzie, expects India’s energy demand to nearly double over the next 20 years:

“The industrial sector is on pace to be one of India’s largest sources of demand by 2020, supporting the country’s industrialisation process. India’s swift demand growth and infrastructure requirements will increase demand for coal, despite the ramp-up of gas and renewables.”

Dutch energy company NRG has embarked on a series of experiments testing the use of molten thorium salts in producing power from nuclear fission, the first of their kind since the early 1970s. Thorium is a cleaner and safer alternative to uranium as a fuel source and is harder to weaponise. A significant advantage of using thorium over uranium is it doesn’t produce the same kinds of heavy isotopes, meaning its waste is considerably less toxic over long time scales. Its fuel can also be reprocessed without needing to throw in additional mined resources. NRG’s goal is to study the energy production from thorium salts suspended in a molten mixture and develop efficient processes including efficient salt mixtures. With its abundance of the resource, India is already working on developing nuclear reactors that make use of thorium rods.

The government of the state of South Australia is looking to depend on solar energy to supply all of its needs by 2020. The state has awarded a 20 year contract to construct a 150 megawatt thermal solar plant at the town of Port Augusta. Construction will begin in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2020. A thermal solar power plant uses thousands of mirrors (heliostats) to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto a central receiver on top of a tower. The process heats molten salt, pumped to the top of the tower and flowing through the receiver, to 565 degrees Celsius. The molten salt provides a stored heat source which is used to generate steam to drive a single turbine that generates electricity. The facility can generate power at full load for up to eight hours after sunset.  Energy can be dispatched into the state electric grid when needed – even when the Sun isn’t shining. Any electricity produced in addition to the state government’s needs can be sold into the electric grid. Last year the state suffered state-wide energy blackouts when its wind turbines failed to operate during extreme storms coming off the Southern Ocean.

Serbia’s announced the total renewable energy capacity of the European country will reach 600 megawatts (MW) in 2020. This will include 500 MW of wind power capacity and 100 MW of biomass and hydropower plants.

As of April of this year, the US state of California had 1600 hydrogen fuel cell vehicles on its roads.  The state also had 29 public hydrogen fueling stations operating and this number is expected to rise to 34 by the end of the year. The California Air Resources Board projects a total of 13,400 fuel cell vehicles will be driving in California by 2020, and 37,400 by 2023.

Britain’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles announced plans to invest 23 million pounds (US$29 million) in a Hydrogen Transport Programme. The goal is to expand the network of hydrogen refueling stations and increase the number of fuel cell vehicles on UK roads. The funds will be open to competition from private sector firms and will provide matching funding to build stations as well as assist in the production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Self-driving lorries (trucks) are coming to the UK next year. The Transport Research Laboratory will test a number of partially autonomous lorries on UK roads, with up to three lorries travelling together in formation. A human driver will control the lead vehicle, with acceleration and braking mirrored by the other lorries using wireless technology. Humans will be in control of steering of the semi-autonomous vehicles. The close formation of the lorries, with the front vehicle pushing air out of the way for the others, could lead to more efficient travel and low emissions.

 

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