Access to sustainable energy – a global challenge
Sustainable development and the necessity of sustainable energy systems
Availability of energy is the backbone of modern human life. Accordingly, “energy is a prerequisite for development and sustainable energy systems are a prerequisite for sustainable development.” Thus, the UN Sustainable Development Goals also include a goal dedicated to energy. Access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy enhances opportunities to fulfil basic needs such as food production and cooking, modern communication and studying. Most importantly, the modes of producing energy are the crucial factor for reducing negative climate impacts and to limiting global warming to less than 2°C. Increased provision of sustainable energy can expand social development and provide new economic opportunities. Consequently, eradicating energy poverty is crucial in meeting several of the other global Sustainable Development Goals.
Humanity needs access to sustainable sources of energy. Apart from increased energy efficiency, new energy technologies are central in the indispensable transition from a fossil-based economy into a sustainable energy future. With only a decade left to reach the goal, the progression has thus far remained lackluster, with the pandemic recently exacerbating the situation. Thus, securing universal access to sustainable energy now necessitates urgent redoubling of global efforts.
This session of Aalto Sustainability Talks provides insights into the SDG 7 (Affordable and clean energy) with special emphasis on access to sustainable energy both from the demand and supply point of view.
Jouni Juntunen, Professor of Practice, Department of Management Studies
Energy transition and the role of storages for improved access to sustainable energy
Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
Abstract: The world is in energy transition from fossil based energy to renewable energy, but to really ensure sustainable transition, there are two key issues to be considered: firstly, as the people in developing countries will need access for energy, it is vital to consider what is the most efficient, sustainable and economically reasonable way for providing them secured energy with low carbon footprint. This might not be large scale energy infrastructure but rather localized renewable energy systems with storages as this solution can be provided with lower economical input and clear ownership. Secondly, when implementing large share of renewable energy and accompanied storage units, they need to be planned to be recyclable to ensure that they are truly sustainable solutions and do not end up to burden the planet at their end of life.
Energy for what? A look at users, uses, needs and solutions
Sini Numminen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Design
Abstract: People need energy and fuels for running their businesses and satisfying their very basic needs. What different options people have when energy infrastructures are fragmented, and energy provision unreliable, inadequate or too expensive? For example, cold storage for agricultural products would be practical for millions of poor farmers, but electric fridges cannot always be run due to long blackouts. A barber might need just lighting. Women in rural India, who are often responsible for household chores, need energy for cooking. Sini takes an energy-needs approach and presents both traditional energy use examples as well as solar energy entrepreneurs’ new solutions from rural India.
Converting CO2 to fuels via microbes
Silvan Scheller, Assistant Professor, Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems
Abstract: Many microbes are efficient in utilizing CO2 as a building block for life. In my research, I am developing energy-relevant applications from such microbial metabolisms. In the project presented, the goal is to find new ways to access sustainable energy, namely to produce the chemical compound ethane sustainably from CO2 and hydrogen via microbes. Ethane can be liquefied at room temperature and utilized as a renewable ship fuel, for energy storage, or as a chemical feedstock. We use genetic engineering to modify the microbes to become useful for energy conversions. The ultimate goal is to further amend the process in order to produce jet fuels directly from CO2 and renewable hydrogen.
Jouni K. Juntunen is a Professor of Practice of Sustainable Production and Consumption with a joint appointment at the Aalto University School of Business and the School of Arts, Design and Architecture. His research focuses on crowd-based organizing in the development of sustainability innovations. Jouni teaches Sustainability Management and Sustainability Transition at Aalto University’s Creative Sustainability Master’s Programme, and Tongji University Design Master’s Programmes.
Annukka Santasalo-Aarnio is Assistant Professor of Energy Conversion and Storage at the Department of Mechanical Engineering. In her research, Annukka is fascinated on how we can integrate renewable energy into our energy sector and the role energy storage plays in unlocking the potential. Annukka holds a D.Sc. in Chemical Engineering from Aalto University.
Sini Numminen is perplexed by the global energy inequalities but fascinated by attempts to make energy supply and demand more sustainable, smart and energy efficient. For her doctoral dissertation she studied solar energy technologies and their usage in India, among extremely impoverished rural communities. She holds a doctoral degree in Applied Physics and currently is a postdoctoral researcher at the NODUS Sustainable Design Research Group.