Physicist and economist
Workshop : 2050, game over for the climate emergency ?
Denis Bonnelle is a physicist and an economist. For 20 years, he has written various books, notably in English, about climate change and renewable energies. His current researches are about the conditions required for solar and wind energy to provide, within a few decades, a major contribution to climate change mitigation, without jeopardizing the economy. According to him, this requires notably to bring them to a much greater scale, to seriously address the questions of their intermittency and to the grid’s stability if their market share was to become dominant, and to develop the use of electricity in other sectors, all of this being done in a very industrial mood. He has been a member of a researchers task force about climate geoengineering. He is the treasurer of the French NGO Observ’ER, who publishes the reviews: « le journal du photovoltaïque », « le journal de l’éolien », and « le journal des énergies renouvelables.
123 years ago, Svante Arrhenius had computed that an unlimited use of fossil fuels could warm the climate by 5°C. As the New York Times recently reminded us, during the 80’s, the main leaders had quite made the decision of seriously addressing the climate issue. Now we must completely change, inter alia, our power system, before 2050. The technologies are available: photovoltaics, wind energy, etc., are perfectly mature. Their economics are very favorable, provided that they’d be financed by long term and low rate loans. This is equivalent to reasoning with a remote time horizon, which is relevant if we work for future generations. Then we must manage their time variability, i.e., further progress about electricity storage, either on a daily, or a seasonal, or an intermediate, basis. The most convenient solution is pumped hydro, using dams or lakes, to fill from beneath. It is different from classical hydropower, so that it is wrong to say that 100 % of the potential is already used. But making sure that all the required facilities will be ready by 2050 is probably today’s greatest emergency.