Use this Powerful Tool and Avoid Talking Twaddle about Climate.
The naked truth about the CO2 from our electricity.
Any discussion around sustainable energy tends to have the effect of generating large volumes of hot air. Advocates of coal power, renewable energy, and pro-nuclear lobbies are all guilty of talking twaddle in the defense of their favoured energy source. As David MacKay put it in his game-changing 2008 book Sustainable Energy — without the hot air (which you can get for free here):
Twaddle emissions are high at the moment because people get emotional (for example about wind farms or nuclear power) and no-one talks about numbers. Or if they do mention numbers, they select them to sound big, to make an impression, and to score points in arguments, rather than to aid thoughtful discussion
We can all be guilty of speaking twaddle when it suits us. Simple and effective tools like electricityMap help cut through the twaddle and diffuse that hot air.
Live CO2 emissions of electricity consumption
electricityMap is a live visualization of where your electricity comes from and how much CO2 was emitted to produce it.
I’m really impressed with how electricityMap has developed since I became aware of it a year or so ago. Here’s a summary of what electricityMap does:
- Uses simple colour coding to grade carbon intensity by country/region. Green = low carbon, red = high carbon.
- Accounts for imported as well as in-country generated electricity (doing otherwise may underestimate the carbon intensity of your electricity).
- Detailed energy source breakdown per country/region, both right now and during the last 24 hours.
- Electricity price per country/region in last 24 hours.
- You can turn on visualisations that show live wind and solar energy potential.
- Data is available for most industrialised nations.
On the day I wrote this article it wasn’t particularly sunny and not very windy either, so countries like Germany come out a dirty shade of orange:
It was quite windy over the UK, but still only 50% of the theoretical installed wind capacity was being utilised, leaving the UK feeling a little more orange than it might like:
Meanwhile, France with it’s huge nuclear fleet supported by hydro is all fresh, green tones:
Of course, you could come back another day, and Germany would fare better, but that’s not the point. France’s carbon intensity is low every single day, while Germany’s on average is much higher.
A little-known fact is that the low-carbon heroes of Europe are those nations relying principally on nuclear and hydropower. Don’t believe me? Here’s a timelapse from electricityMap for all of 2017.
All energy sources have an impact on the environment, even hydro has impacts on wildlife and requires a lot of concrete. So let’s cut out the twaddle, understand the numbers, and question our leaders about how to achieve a sustainable energy mix.
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© David Watson 2019
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