Local energy for peace

Publish date 30-04-2023

by Sandro Calvani

The most transparent and truly global single variable to indicate variations in peace and development is energy. Every time humanity has made a great industrial, social, economic or cultural revolution, it is easy to identify a new form of energy as a catalyst for transformation, be it peaceful or violent. Energy systems are today at the center of any form of sustainable progress and seem decisive for the final results.

After World War II, the main catalyst for wars was energy supplies. Often a local conflict becomes a glocal war (fought locally but with global effects) when it creates important effects on energy availability and prices. All indicators of inclusive development starting from the five basic human needs – food, health, education, work, house – are dependent on the availability of energy. Where it is scarce, the poor always resort to emergency solutions that are devastating for the environment.

In 2021, 62% of the world's electricity came from fossil fuels, a poor indicator of the low priority given to decarbonization accorded in the Paris treaty on climate change. Contrary to renewable energy sources (solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass) fossil energy sources are not equally widespread in all parts of the world; they are therefore causes of conflicts and require large global transport networks, which are also very sensitive to conflicts.

In 1985, coal accounted for 38% of global electricity generation. Hydroelectric was 20%, nuclear 15%; natural gas 14%; and oil 11%. 35 years later, coal is still at 36% and gas has increased to nearly 23%. In 2020 and 2021, renewable energy, led by wind and solar energy, grew by 17% compared to previous years, reaching up to 13% of total electricity generation. Clear proof that if the growth rate of renewables were maintained or increased, a few years would be enough to clean the atmosphere.

A major contributor to change comes from Asia. For example, in 2016, China overtook the United States and accounted for almost 60% of total renewable energy production in Europe. In 2021, China surpassed even Europe, adding nearly 290 terawatt hours of total renewable electricity generation in one year. Last year, Japan and India generated a total of 302 terawatt hours.

Sandro Calvani
NP February 2023

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