BBC World News - Horizons

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We have an incredible energy challenge ahead of us. The planet’s growing urban population needs more energy to power economic growth and meet society’s needs.

Oil, gas and coal are finite fossil fuels so we will need more renewable energy and more efficiency in the years ahead.

What’s driving our thirst for energy? More of us moving around the planet, spiking energy costs, growing competition for supplies and the increased stress on an ageing energy infrastructure. If Thomas Edison, the inventor of the commercial light bulb were alive today, he would still be familiar with many of the technologies used in the transmission and distribution of power.

In the late 1970s, physicist Amory Lovins established the notion of “negawatts”- the idea of meeting energy needs by improving efficiency rather than increasing production.

More energy hits the Earth from the sun in one hour than mankind uses in an entire year. If we are to move to a low-carbon economy we have to be smarter at harnessing this resource and capturing the carbon we release into the atmosphere.

One area with great potential is in learning from Mother Nature. Scientists have been trying to mimic plants for the last 100 years; some now believe we are only a few years away from being able to utilise the process of photosynthesis itself.

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