1 Solar power
Spain is leading the way with solar power. The PS10 solar tower is already in operation near Seville, producing electricity with the aid of more than 600 large movable mirrors called heliostats. The country’s largest solar-power station, which will store heat for up to 15 hours in molten salt, is under construction in Cadiz. It will be operational in 2011. Heat-generated steam will drive a turbine that will power 25,000 homes.
2 Carbon capture and storage
Coal and waste materials are burnt in permanently-running power stations that provide electricity, heat and sometimes hydrogen. The carbon dioxide this creates is captured and sent, safely, to be disposed of in disused oil wells and aquifers. Carbon capture and storage has been practiced in the North Sea by the Norwegian company Statoil since 1996. EU leaders have promised around 12 pilot projects attached to coal-fired power stations.
3 Smart meters
Home electricity is likely to be managed increasesingly by smart meters to cut wastage. The Italians are leading the way. Some 85% of households have one; there are more in Italy than in the US.
4 Wind power
The government’s Climate Change Committee estimates that wind power could provide 30% of Britain’s energy by 2020. Offshore wind power is the key to that and the UK is already the world leader in installed offshore wind. The next development is likely to be wind farms on floating platforms anchored in deeper water. The first floating turbines were inaugurated 10 kilometres off the Norwegian coast in June 2009.
5 Nuclear power
Thanks to its reliability, nuclear power is already enjoying a renaissance with 53 reactors under construction in 13 countries, notably China, South Korea, India and Russia. A series of applications to build reactors, offering safety improvements on existing designs, is being made in the UK; the government may introduce a carbon tax to cover the nuclear industry’s unpredictable costs. A repository to contain Britain’s existing legacy of nuclear waste, however, remains 25 years off.
6 Solar panels that heat water have long been used in sunnier parts of the world and are becoming more economic in UK.
7 Personal Rapid Transit
By the 2030s, many more vehicles will be powered by mains electricity or fuel cells run on hydrogen produced by renewable or nuclear energy. Personal Rapid Transit, based on existing technology, will eventually bring driver-less trains to our cities. Prototypes have been tested at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
8 Carbon trading
New financial mechanisms, funded by carbon trading, are likely to be set in place in Copenhagen in December to tackle the destruction of the tropical forests such as the Amazon.
9 Wave power
Britain has the potential to dominate the global wave-power market, with 25% of wave technologies being developed here. Two different snake-like devices that move up and down with the waves offer the best prospects. Pilot wave farms are in operation off Portugal and Scotland. Wave power is 15 years behind wind power in being commercialised so it is unlikely to make a significant contribution to the national grid before the mid-2020s.
10 Eco aircraft that resemble “flying wings” have been designed by the Royal Aeronautical Society and shown to be up to 25% more...