Even if we use the enormous potential for saving energy unnecessarily spent, we need to intensify in parallel the development of energy production technologies as an alternative to fossil energy. The generation of nuclear energy does not emit CO2 in the energy generation process (but during uranium mining, transport and waste storage). It has therefore gained many advocates recently in the debate around CO2 reductions and responses to growing energy demands. Nuclear energy is based on uranium as raw material input. Uranium reserves are estimated to last no longer than oil, and thus nuclear energy can only offer an intermediate solution as an alternative energy provider. Nuclear energy supporters
downplay the enormous risks associated to an operating nuclear power plant. But because of those and the unresolved problem of storing increasing amounts of radioactive wastes resulting from nuclear fission, the development of new nuclear powerplants is in many countries all but well accepted among citizens.
The International Energy Agency, keen to promote the use of the most abundant energy source of all, the sun, has started a Solar Heating and Cooling Programme (www.iea-shc.org/solarenergy). Solar thermal energy is appropriate for both uses. Key applications for solar technologies are those that require low temperature heat, such as domestic water heating, space heating, pool heating, drying processes, and some industrial processes. Solar cooling works where the supply of sunny summer days is well matched with the demand – the desire for coolness indoors. The Agency says the main barriers preventing the greater use of solar energy are cost, the way current government policies benefi t non-solar technologies, and the failure to take into account the environmental costs of using fossil fuels. Its programme is working to educate users and decision makers, expand the solar thermal market, and carry out research, development and testing of hardware, ma-
terials and designs.