How much energy will a Fossil Free society need?

Interesting discussions I have these days. Where climate change deniers usually just ignore the question of energy security (Big Oil will deliver) pro-nuclear folks acknowledge the climate issue and the scale of the needed transformation. That makes them good discussion partners.

Pro-Nuclear points out that if every kWH of energy used today needs to come from alternatives, “the renewables” are going to be highly inadequate and only nuclear can deliver the required base load. This is where the subject of this blogpost comes from. I want to show that a Fossil Free economy needs massively less energy, that can be supplied by the Renewables.

The point is that the Fossil economy is exactly that: an economy running on Fossil Fuels so it’s no wonder it uses a lot of energy. But what if we think of a fossil free society, what chunks of energy will just drop out of the equation?
I don’t have figures (yet) so it’s going to be quantitatively at this moment, if you do have figure please share them with me.

Fossil Mining requires massive amounts of energy, in drilling, blasting, digging, breaking, transporting cleaning and refining. In a FossilFree society the activity ceases to exist. As resources become ever less in quality the energy per unit of product will soar, even to the point where energy out < energy in (only sustainable by accruing debt)

Transport of energy sources
Transporting all the fossil fuels uses a lot of energy : truck diesel, train diesel, pipeline pumps….no longer needed

Fossil mining and transport industry
Coal diggers, mega trucks, oil tankers, storage tanks, pipelines, deep sea platforms, off shore helicopters, tugboats … Not needed anymore… We will need fewer Iron Works, steel factories, machine factories, maintenance crews, security groups,

Energy infrastructure
All the above are hard at work to feed these: the coal plants and oil refineries. No more coal harbors, compression stations, oil refineries. The highly inefficient coal plants and gas stations (turning 50% of the embedded energy into waste heat) can shut down.

By now we must have saved absolutely massive amounts of “energy”, but it gets better

Food production
The world on Fossil Fuels, Monsanto and Unilever is supposed to eat processed foods and minced cows. The embedded energy in a hamburger is absolutely horrifying : the industrial wheat, transported across the globe and made into highly refined flour for the buns, the cows eating fossil fuel created corn that came half way round the world. The whole processing and packaging, freezing and storage industry….. Waste, waste, waste to,create empty calories that turns your body in a hunger machine : waste food in, more hungry feelings within an hour, fat stored in your body. A fossil free society will eat locally produced real food.

Global transport (sea and air)
$0,25 garbage toys from Shanghai thrown away broken after 10 minutes, brought into first world harbors by the container load. It will stop. It has no value. Flying on tax free kerosine? A memory of the past. Tickets that have all embedded social costs calculated into them? Unaffordable. Flying as we know it will stop. Massive amounts of energy saved again.

Civilian transport
Walkable neighbourhoods, Cities with integrated work/living areas, transport by cycles, e-bikes, EV’s, hybrid busses, light rail. Obscene amounts of energy to be saved here

Urban transport
Last mile transport with electric vehicles, absolute nobrainer.

Household appliances
PassivHaus, Heatpumps, LED-lighting, hotfill washing machines and dishwashers, OLED-TV’s, 5V central charger with house wide distribution: saving possibilities by the shipload

Electricity production
After we’ve created our Fossil Free society we will need some power to keep it going. With all the aluminum smelters and refineries gone we will need energy mostly for households. We make is with wind, solar, biogas, algae diesel, molecular heat storage, hydro, reverse osmosis, tidal and what makes sense locally. The massive amount of EV’s will buffer and redistribute all this abundant energy so that the lights stay on at night and in the winter.

I’ve fired all the rednecks and oil tanker captains, what are they going to do?

New industries
Electricity generation
Wind farms, Solar PV farms, CSP farms, biomass production……loads of jobs here.

Electricity storage
We need bio plant operators and workers to create algae diesel, power2gas, elephant grass, cannabis fibers. We need lots and lots of hands there to maintain these systems.

Local food
People will quickly adopt to Grasshoppers (chocolate dipped or plain) and fish. The energy per Calorie is orders of magnitude lower than Fossil Meat. Towns will be full of mixed agricultural activity with chicken and pigs, rooftop agriculture.

Repair/Circular economy
Things break, but because in a FF-society we make repairable goods we get a whole, refurbishment industry. Lots of work for creative people. Having a circular economy will keep the energy embedded in products in the system in stead of dumping it in a landfill after initial use.

Community services
Because we no longer are relying on Big Banks supported HealthIndustry to “cure” sick people created my Monsanto, McDonalds and Unilever we can have community based health centers where broken bones are healed and I’ll people are cared for regardless of income or social position.

So the point I’m trying to make is that Nuclear may not be that necessary in a society that said goodbye to Chevron and Shell, maybe we can even do without it as the great yellow fusion reactor gives us way more than we can ever use. Just capture, store en distribute.

….And we live happily ever after and tell our children horror stories of the a black world where people believed they needed Hummers to drive 50 miles to Malls to buy new plastic dolls each and every Christmass and eat boxes of Chocolate coated corn flakes jus to be happy.



Liep vandaag tegen een mooie persoonlijke blog aan over een geërfde ring. Omdat ik zelf vorige week het horloge van mijn pa erfde raakte dat stuk me, en wil hier nu graag het verhaal van mijn nieuwe klokkie vertellen.

Eerst maar eens wat over mijn pa vertellen. Gerard Boelen was projectleider bij de Hollandse Beton Groep, buitenlandivisie Interbeton. Tegenwoordig heet iedereen die de upgrade van Office 2010 naar 2013 begeleidt “projectleider” maar mijn pa was van het soort die met een arm vol injecties tegen ziektes die nu niet eens meer bestaan midden in het oerwoud gedropt werd en tegen zijn mannen zei: links de ingang van het vliegveld, rechts de toegangs weg : “GO”….. En dan een jaar later klaar was, binnen budget en met minder doden dan gepland. Zo’n man dus.

Ons gezin was mee en woonde in Port Harcourt. Communicatie met Nederland ging nog via Radio Scheveningen en later met een telex op kantoor in de stad. Brieven van opa en oma kwamen op heel dun blauw vloeipapier. Naar school gingen we op de Shell Compound. Prachtige herinneringen.


In 1975 bouwde Saoedi Arabië een nieuwe containerhaven bij de stad Dammam. Een Duits-Nederlands conglomeraat (DC22) bouwde de haven voor de kust met baggerschepen en een eindeloze hoeveelheid caissons (waar mijn pa voor tekende). Tijdens de voorbereidingen kwam mijn pa een keer terug op Schiphol voor overleg op het hoofdkantoor in Rijswijk. De reis werd toen tweewekelijks gemaakt dus het ophalen was, hoewel elke keer feest, routine geworden. 1 van die keren duurde het een hele poos voordat Pa langs de douane mocht.

Wat bleek? Hij had in Saudi besprekingen gevoerd en die waren blijkbaar tot genoegen van de dienstdoende Sjeik verlopen want die had mijn pa en zijn Duitse compagnon een klokkie kado gedaan. Je moet hier weten dat mijn vader echt helemaal niets gaf om statussymbolen. Hij droeg nog het opwindhorloge uit zijn studententijd en de enige luxe die hij zich permitteerde was een nieuwe Samsonite elk jaar (die dan ook volkomen versleten was van alle MacGyver avonturen). Afijn. De douanier van dienst zag het klokkie om pols van mijn pa en vroeg of hij het eens mocht bekijken.
Mijn pa gaf het horloge af en kreeg even later te horen dat hij 2000 gulden invoerrechten moest betalen. Mijn pa moest keihard lachen en zei dat ‘ie het horloge mocht houden. Aangezien we twee maanden later zouden emigreren naar Saudi stond de douanier uiteindelijk toe om het horloge weer mee te nemen. Het horloge heeft daarna 20 jaar non-stop perfect gewerkt in de meest extreme omstandigheden en toen ik het vorige week in handen kreeg begon het, na 18 jaar stilstaan, mijn pa overleed in 1997 aan malaria, door de beweging vanzelf weer te lopen.

Ik vond het nooit een echt mooi horloge, maar het voelt toch heel bijzonder om het nu te dragen. Ik zal veel aan hem denken als ik de verantwoordelijkheid voor de upgrade naar de nieuwste versie van Office op me neem.

Opportunity to become part of BStriker

Regular readers know by now that I crowdfund invested in a disruptive Dutch software startup called BStriker. Since this was my first investment ever I was not well prepared for what was going on in startups, so I got in touch with the founders. There was a lot to learn for me. As an early investor you hope that 1 round of funding will be enough to concur the universe, but that is wishful thinking of course. Building an enterprise takes time and thus money. “We” already have a sell-able product and customers paying the bill, so that part of the plans has worked out fine. Now BStriker is looking for extra funding to accelerate growth and they’re doing this using a convertible loan. This is a smart idea because it protects current investors (me) from watering down at too low a valuation (now) and gives new investors (you) the opportunity to become shareholders at a nice discount.

Below you will see one of the regular updates the CFO John Berkeljon posts to the current shareholders in which he invites the inner circle to help fund this growth. It was OK to share this one with you, so this means it is available for all serious parties. Normally this type of loan is only available to professional parties, but now you can participate for as little as 5000 Euro.

Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

Remember : only invest what you are prepared to lose!
More articles about BStriker


John =

Lars =

Update 15-12-2014: Two more customers boarded our ship today!!

An inconvenient truth about solar panels?

Yesterday I came across this article, pointing to the ugly downside of solar energy: to create the panels you apparently need
* to burn coal to create electricity to make silicon.
* use chemicals to clean the panels that are 24.000 times more heat capturing than CO2
* toxic metals like Cadmium to change the properties of the silicon to turn it into PV material
* massive amounts of aluminum for the frames
* people driving around in Diesel trucks to deliver the panels
* slaves
* ambulances running on petrol to collect roof workers falling of roofs
it goes on

I know this game now. I’ve debunked the “wind is dirty” bit, so I know what to look for.
Usually they assume that the production needs coal power to run the plants, data used is old, incomplete and cherry picked. And it is not different this time around.

I will only say one thing about the electricity needed for making silicon: it is absurd to assume that PV-factories can only run on coal. Elon Musk is building the worlds largest battery plant with an immense PV-array that will make more energy than the plant uses. I am sure new PV-plants will do the same thing.

Luckily I discovered a coalition in California,, that actually keeps track of the whole PV-industry performance and guess what? As a consumer you can already buy panels that score an almost perfect 92% on every aspect of PV production one can think of. More interestingly, even in the below average group GHG-chemicals and energy use are already fully under control by 30% of this group.

The problem is, again as with the Neodymium magnets, small Chinese producers that do not have to comply with regulations. So a consumer label showing the sustainability score will help consumers identify the black sheep.
Choosing non-sustainable panels thus becomes a consumer choice where individual buyers can be held accountable for.
The PV industry is getting its act together very quickly, something that cannot be said for Coal Diggers and Burners.

Here the latest 2014 list:

Non stop renewable that would end the nuclear debate

The IPCC proved this week that mankind is changing earth’s climate at an alarming rate. Greenhouse gases are the culprit. We need to act really really fast if we want to have a chance of staying within 2 degrees temperature rise compared to pre-industrial times.

“Wind power and solar are going to save us” was my state of mind for years. Especially PV is becoming so cheep so fast that it is inevitable that it will become a serious source of electricity in our lifetime. Wind and sun have some very important drawbacks that make them unsuitable to run a whole modern society on:
– the energy is available intermittently : PV doesn’t work at night and in the winter, wind is predictable but not always there
– the solutions are very dispersed, you need vast amounts of area to gather significant amounts of energy
– suitable storage solutions (power2gas and flow batteries) are a long way down the road

So I have come to the conclusion that we need yet another source of electricity. Nuclear has crossed my mind I must admit because it solves a couple of important issues:
– very energy dense
– very high load factor (hours running/hours in 1 year)
I got enthusiastic about 4th generation reactors: Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor. Only problem, it’s fantasy technology, nobody had got it working and nobody has plans to go that way. Older reactors running on Uranium are not feasible because there is not enough Uranium ore available.

That was a long introduction to get to what I came across today: Plant-e (pronounce – plenty). A Dutch startup/spinoff from Wageningen University.
They discovered that soil microbes excrete electrons as part of their metabolism. The electrons are a real waste product for them. If you are able to collect these electrons, run ‘m through a bulb and return them to the soil you have a sustainable, unstopable, vast amount of “free” electricity. The microbes only stop when it freezes, but huge wetlands (rice fields) never freeze and could deliver enormous amounts of energy. The facts look something like this :
* 280 MWh/ hectare / year
* 3-5 years until hectare scale size
* original function of soil remains in tact : pasture land, wetland, rice fields
* electricity gathering with long pipes buried in the wet soil (no figures on density yet).
* The low energy density is not really an issue here because of this fact because the energy is removed as a bonus from the land use, it’s not the main “task” of the land

The main question is what the cost price per hectare will be. The electricity it gives of would be worth $15000 a year (@ 5ct/kWH). So if you require a 7 year payback time you have a $100.000 budget. I believe the electrodes will be placed in the form of pipes.

At this moment I am cautiously optimistic that this could actually work. It would deliver base load electricity in parts of the world where reliable energy is now not available and truly sustainable. Question: How are we going to help them get the first hectares up and running as they’re only testing small patches now? If this actually works it needs industrial style upscaling ASAP.



Could our world run on nuclear fuel?

Reposted blog by Luis Baram

Introduction : With IPCC’s latest report is has become 100% clear that our Fossil Society is totally unsustainable. It is Force Majeur, we need to act now or else…. I’ve been reluctant to think about the nuclear option, but I think our problems are so dire that we have to look at every option to reduce our carbon GHG emissions. The following blogpost shows that the nuclear option doesn’t look good though:

Nuclear power has many advantages about which we have written extensively in the past but there is a question we need to ask today.
Do we have enough uranium reserves to power a “nuclear renaissance?” Let’s run the math.

Today, our global total primary energy supply (TPES) is equivalent to 12,717 Mtoe (million tons of oil equivalent).
For the year 2035 the IEA (International Energy Agency) predicts two scenarios, one at 16,961 and the other at 14,870 Mtoe. For simplicity let’s use the mathematical average of the above: 15,916.

Today, nuclear energy provides 5.7% of our TPES.
In order for nuclear to be a very significant energy source that would help us to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, let’s say we target for 25% of our TPES by the year 2035 to be uranium based nuclear power.
How much uranium would we need per year and, most importantly, what are our current known reserves?
According to MIT (below), 200 tons of natural uranium are required to produce one Giga Watt of electricity for a full year. That means currently we use close to 65,000 tons per year**.

For the 2035 scenario, we would need grossly (25% / 5.7%) x (15,916 Mtoe / 12,717Mtoe) * 65,000 tons = 356,802 tons every year.
According to Wikipedia (below) the current uranium reserves are around 5.5 million tons, so this would turn out to be around 15 years of supply. Not very encouraging. Sure, more reserves will be found, but still…

On the other hand, today we have close to 430 nuclear power reactors. Assuming the same average power from new reactors as we have right now, we would need an additional 1,930 reactors, in other words, commissioning an average of 88 new reactors EVERY year for 22 consecutive years (and this without decommissioning any of the current ones).
Sorry, but this ain’t going to happen.

With respect to the uranium shortage, thorium looks, on paper, quite promising, but even if it did go mainstream soon, the thorium build out would have to be of monumental proportions (see above).

Conclusion: moving to a low carbon economy is MUCH more difficult than is generally realized.

**Annual nuclear electricity production: 2,765 TWh * 1,000 = 2,765,000 GWh
2,765,000 / (1GW x 24 hrs. x 365 days) x 200 tons = 63,128 tons.


Labels: electricity, energy, nuclear, thorium, TPES, uranium