Thursday, January 24, 2013

Film shows how society is making the SWITCH to a smarter energy future

The year is 2020 and you are just home from work. You plug in your electric car to charge as the automatic garage door closes. A sensor light illuminates your entrance into the house, where a timer on your oven began cooking dinner an hour ago. You open the fridge for a cool refreshment to wash away the day’s frustrations and flip on the radio for an update on the markets. Your washing machine is monitoring the price of energy on the grid in anticipation of a window of cheap power in order to wash a load of clothes. You notice the house is slightly warm; earlier today the local power authority remotely set your A/C slightly higher to reduce the power use. A scorching July afternoon had created excess demand; reducing the draw from residential air conditioners is a key part of managing it. Unlike the energy surpluses Ontarians enjoyed from 2010 to 2016, the last few years have seen demand start to outpace supply. Ontario is again struggling to ensure capacity for increasingly hot summer days.
As you move through your home, sensors monitor your activity to maximize comfort while minimizing energy consumption. Smart grids combine with smart homes and smart, efficient appliances to conserve your power use.
All those conveniences still require energy. The appliances run on electricity. The food you eat takes energy to grow, harvest, process and transport. Everything in your house needed energy to grow or mine, manufacture and package, transport, display and deliver. Electric vehicles reducing greenhouse gas emissions now compete on the grid for electricity.
The past decade clarified the need to reduce fossil fuel use and improve efficiency of homes, vehicles and electronic gadgetry, but our world continues to create new uses for electricity. In 2020, things have changed dramatically. The electronics that facilitate your lifestyle have become much more efficient. Yet there are many more people and we have all become increasing dependant on electronic automation.
So what will power us through the decades ahead? In 2013, Ontario’s electricity came from nuclear, hydro, natural gas and wind, retiring coal-fired electricity. But now in 2020, nuclear plants we refurbished less than a decade ago are coming to the end of their useful life. Many other industrial nations still depend on burning coal for electricity, an increasing problem of emissions impacting our climate.
So what are the options? What technologies will power our future as we cope with changing circumstance in both demand and supply?
This Saturday, Living Green’s Green Screen cinema project, in partnership with the City of Barrie, will host a screening of the award-winning “SWITCH, the Movie” (trailer at for one showing only at noon at the Uptown Theatre, 55 Dunlop St. West. Join Dr. Scott Tinker on a trip to 11 countries around the world as he explores the energy that might power our society over coming decades, as we transition to a clean, sustainable energy future. Stay after the show as Living Green announces the launch of a wonderful new contest for Barrie residents.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins and Mike Fox are directors of Living Green.

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