Long gas lines filled with angry customers and the sinking feeling of watching the price tally up at the tank – sound familiar? As of June 2022, Australia’s average wholesale gas prices have risen to more than 80 times their normal levels.
As winter hits, many people have been struggling to heat their homes – and Australian citizens aren’t alone in this. The war between Ukraine and Russia has exacerbated an already strained energy market in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. People everywhere feel the downstream effects of reliance on foreign oil and natural gas. The European Union has recently unveiled a plan to pull the plug on Russian natural gas imports hopefully – but instead of solely planning to drill for more oil in their own countries, their strategy also includes a bold switch to renewable resources.
In many ways, it’s shocking that the world still heavily relies on traditional sources. Renewable technology has been around for over a century in many forms, and reliable, cost-effective methods of harnessing solar, wind, and hydroelectric power have been available for almost a decade. Many prominent scientists and scholars, evidently optimists of their time, had predicted that we would solely use renewables in the 21st century. A 1968 prediction by Stanford Professor Charles Scarlott stated that the world could essentially phase out natural gas in favor of nuclear energy -however, Australia alone sources 75% of its electricity from coal and only 8% from renewable resources.
As change has started taking hold, especially bolstered by recent events. By planning to source 45% of the union’s energy from green sources, the European Union has sent a message to other countries – it’s time to change how we use energy. But this can only go as far as technology allows. While there is the technology for more widespread renewable energy use, the idea of a zero-emissions power grid needs more than just solar panels and wind farms. As renewable energy technologies were innovated, a new need arose: the need for efficient, safe, and environmentally-friendly energy storage systems.
The most common energy storage system, the chemical battery, is the industrial standard for both fossil fuel and renewably sourced electricity – but the devices themselves are not very sustainable. Many of the materials are rare earth metals, which are difficult to source and finite. Moreover, chemical batteries are vulnerable to corrosion and decay.
A new form of energy storage that uses kinetic energy could be the answer – the flywheel. Amber Kinetics, the global leader in kinetic energy storage solutions, hopes the innovation will help countries finally be able to scale up renewable energy to power their cities.
As gas prices continue to soar without an end in sight, the threat of blackouts continues in the European Union, and the effects of climate change disrupt countries worldwide, the tide is slowly turning. Traditional sources of energy are being reconsidered – it’s time we progress towards a sustainable future.