Generating Sustainable Power: What Are the Considerations?

Joao Neiva de Figueiredo and Mauro F. GuillĂ©n recently edited and published a book titled Green Power: Perspectives on Sustainable Electricity Generation, which provides a systematic overview of the current state of green power and renewable electrical energy production in the world. 

During a recent conversation with Joao Neiva de Figueiredo, I asked: "What are the key considerations for adoption of sustainable power generation practices around the world?” 

Here is his very enlightening response: 

In analyzing different examples and situations of power generation around the world, it becomes apparent that some conditions favor sustainable energy practices: 

1. Consistency with a country’s or region’s geographic, climactic, anthropological, historic, and social characteristics. Understanding a country’s natural and cultural endowments is necessary for the development of a successful green energy set of policies. Electricity generation technologies must be consistent with a region’s environment. For example, the fact that important energy sources in Iceland are geothermal, in Canada and Brazil are hydro, and in Denmark are aeolic, indicate paths to success in each of those parts of the world. 

2. The need for a systemic approach when considering the mix of different potential generation technologies to be adopted. It is necessary to consider the interaction among the different components of the electricity system (generation, transmission, distribution) and of those with a country’s traditions to propose sustainable programs. For example, Germany capitalized on a strong bottom-up sentiment in favor of green energy (resulting from a cultural tradition of respecting nature) to implement successful policies. 

3. The advisability of incentive alignment not only among different stakeholders at each point in time, but over time. Because power generation projects need high levels of capital investment, take time to be developed and built, and have a very long useful life, consistency of policies over time is extremely important. Northern European countries have provided a positive example of this as energy policies benefited from continuity (albeit with slight adaptations) even as different political parties alternated in power. The counterexample is French Polynesia, where in the first decade of the millennium alternating political parties in power led to inconsistencies in energy policy. 

4. The desirability to continue research and implementation efforts to mitigate the negative effects of fossil fuel. Because some countries do not have natural endowments favoring the immediate adoption of green energy sources, there will be a transition period during which fossil fuels are a major component of energy generation. China’s efforts to improve “cleaner coal” generation technologies alongside the effort towards wind and solar generation are a case in point. 

5. The necessity for increased efficiency in energy consumption. It is encouraging that in recent decades some countries (albeit few) have been able to decouple their per capita GDP growth rate from their per capita energy consumption rate. The path towards a sustainable world is not limited to electricity generation: better use of energy generated is also a requirement. 

What do you think of Joao's explanations? How has green power production and dissemination in your part of the world affected your business? Has your organization established a "lean and green" initiative?