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Commentary: Obstacles to Alternative Energy Deployment


In his just-released report, “Nine Challenges of Alternative Energy,” Lawrence Berkeley staff scientist David Fridley assesses the obvious yet often overlooked obstacles to the widespread deployment of alternative energies around the world. These nine challenges are:

  • Scalability and timing
  • Commercialization
  • Substitutability
  • Material requirements
  • Intermittency
  • Energy density
  • Water
  • The Law of Receding Horizons
  • Energy returned on energy invested

“The public discussion about alternative energy is often reduced to an assessment of its monetary costs versus those of traditional fossil fuels, often in comparison to their carbon footprints,” Fridley writes. “This kind of reductionism to a simple monetary metric obscures the complex issues surrounding the potential viability, scalability, feasibility, and suitability of pursuing specific alternative technology paths.”

Fridley’s report was prepared as a contribution to the October 2010 Watershed Media/UC Press publication, The Post Carbon Reader.

David Fridley

David Fridley is the Renewable Energy & Biofuels Fellow for the Post Carbon Institute as well as deputy group leader and scientist for Lawrence Berkeley’s China Energy Group, which collaborates with China on end-user energy efficiency, government energy management programs, and energy policy research. He spent 12 years working in the petroleum industry both as a consultant on downstream oil markets in the Asia-Pacific region and as business development manager for Caltex China. Fridley has been a staff scientist at the Energy Analysis Program at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California since 1996.

Post Carbon Institute provides individuals, communities, businesses, and governments with the resources needed to understand and respond to the interrelated economic, energy, and environmental crises that define the 21st century. PCI envisions a world of resilient communities and re-localized economies that thrive within ecological bounds.

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