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Bold’s Best of 2023: Advances in Energy Solutions

a helmet showing energy solutions in 2023

Climate change and environmental protections loomed large in 2023. As such, there have been notable advances in energy technologies that strive to address these issues. Key developments related to nuclear fusion and hydroelectric power made headlines this year. Likewise, support for pursuing energy solutions in 2023 increased through federal legislation. Despite this progress, however, the international shift toward cleaner energy solutions has been approached with caution–if not outright ambivalence. With this in mind, the following is a recap on the advances in energy technology that were most notable this year.

(Catch up on how trends in transportation shaped 2023 with this Bold story.)

Progress in Nuclear Fusion

a dude figuring out energy solutions in 2023
New energy solutions in 2023 included advances in nuclear fusion, which has long been a tough nut to crack.

It’s been suspected for some time that nuclear fusion represents the future when it comes to clean energy. Nuclear fusion is what fuels the sun and the stars, and it’s attractive because it creates more energy that it requires. In other words, there is a positive net gain in energy. Likewise, it has no carbon emissions, and it only requires water as an input resource. However, advances in energy technologies involving nuclear fusion have been difficult. This is because it requires massive amounts of heat to fuse hydrogen atoms. In the past, large magnets have been used to achieve this feat, but costs and logistics make this impractical. Russia, in fact, led the way in this regard.

(2023 was a big year for advances in nuclear fusion energy–read more in this Bold story.)

Energy solutions in 2023, however, showed that lasers could be used to achieve the heat required for nuclear fusion. A collaborative among 35 nations called ITER used lasers to generate 2.5 megajoules of energy. Even more noteworthy is that this only had an energy cost of 2.1 megajoules. This has further fueled private investments into these technologies estimated to exceed $5 billion. Thus, these advances in energy technologies look increasingly promising for the future. Though still a decade or more away, nuclear fusion offers great promise.

Solutions Involving Hydroelectric Power

Nuclear fusion was just one of the energy solutions in 2023 to make news. New advances in energy technologies involving hydroelectric power also were noteworthy. Previously, hydroelectric power relied on dams to regulate the release of water to generate electricity. As far as costs and climate issues related to this approach, there were many downsides. Notably, materials and construction costs were substantial, often contributing to carbon emissions. Likewise, dams disrupt existing ecosystems, and the dammed water is prone to evaporate. These issues made hydroelectric power less attractive. Advances in energy technologies this year have improved on existing hydroelectric power.

Labelled pumped storage hydropower, new designs utilize natural terrains where higher and lower water reservoirs exist. When the electricity grid generates excess electricity, this is used to move water to the higher reservoir. Then, when electricity shortages occur, water flowing down the lower reservoir can generate needed power. This is much less costly and environmentally friendly. Currently, these systems are being developed in several countries including the U.S. However, China is leading the way with roughly double the U.S.’s capacity. Regardless, these energy solutions in 2023 made significant headway.

(There was a new means of hydroelectricity production developed–read all about the innovation in this Bold story.)

a cartoon showing clean energy solutions
The world has been slower to adopt cleaner “green” energy solutions–and with good reason.

Clean Energy Tales of Caution

In addition to nuclear fusion and pumped hydropower, wind, solar and other clean energy technologies made progress this year. But applying these energy solutions in 2023 too quickly in replacing existing energy options has its risks. There’s no question that climate change and global warming are concerns, especially given the increase in wildfires. Likewise, sustainability and environmental protections are notable endeavors. At the same time, however, ignoring existing essentials for social welfare can result in bad outcomes. This was the case for Sri Lanka as it implemented advances in energy technologies too quickly. The country banned chemical fertilizers in an effort to be more “green.” But in the process, its agricultural industry suffered resulting in widespread poverty and political upheaval.

In Europe, some nations have moved away from their own coal and nuclear energy too rapidly, as well. This resulted in excessive dependence on other nations like Russia when demand increased. And there’s certainly financial and climate cost considerations when dealing with clean energies. Materials such as concrete, copper, and steel are required for wind technologies, for example. As far as these energy solutions in 2023 go, these costs are often prohibitive without subsidies. In time, advances in energy technologies will make these more feasible as part of energy solutions. But until then, how these are implemented must be used with a bit of caution.

A Call for Energy Solution Collaboration

advances in energy technologies as shown by a substation
What new advances in energy technologies will the new year bring?

Advances in energy technologies are moving along quite rapidly. This was evident in terms of a variety of energy solutions in 2023 that were enhanced. Battery technologies notably improved as did support for solar and wind. But while these improvements are encouraging, there are some major concerns globally when it comes to energy. Notably, some of the most populated areas are not advancing in terms of energy solutions. In portions of Africa, roughly 70% of individuals lack electricity. Thus, it’s not surprising that renewable energy solutions represent less than 5% of the total energy strategies there. This is even more concerning since it’s estimated that 75% of carbon emissions will come from developing nations in 2050. Statistically, less than 2% of all funding for advances in energy technologies go to developing countries. This is because isolationism has influenced many nation’s energy policies. For example, the U.S., Russia, and China invested heavily in domestic energy solutions in 2023.

But efforts to collaborate with other countries to solve global energy concerns remains lacking. In the past, such collaborations were highly impactful. In terms of solar energy collaborations, it is believed to have saved the U.S. $24 billion. Recent efforts from Ford to collaborate with Chinese battery firms have been met with Congressional resistance. Due to concerns over national security, legislators have threatened withdrawal of energy subsidies. Not only will this delay advances in energy technologies, but it will ultimately cost the U.S. and the world dearly. Overall, 2023 was an incredible year for energy advances. But much more needs to be done, and working together will be an important part of that.

 

The Global Green Energy Movement Is Useless If The Entire World Doesn’t Participate!

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