GLP – Presentation by Dr. Dwayne Breger (13-06-13)

19 Jun

On the afternoon of 13th June, we attended a presentation by Dr Dwayne Breger, Director of Renewable Energy Division at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources. Dr Breger started by presenting some reasons for promoting such sources of energy. I learnt that, apart from the common reason that fossil fuels alone will not sustain our long term energy needs, Massachusetts also imports most of its energy from other states and countries, which presents economic and security concerns.

As we know, there is often no economic benefit to energy providers to use renewable energy sources over conventional sources. I was impressed that, in order to account for the positive externalities that renewable energy provided, Dr Breger’s team and other policymakers have been ensuring that a stipulated (and growing) fraction of energy provided by utilities companies comes from renewable sources. To me, this clearly shows the Department’s commitment to achieving their goal.

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Later on in the presentation, a graph left a particularly deep impression on me. It shows the amount of greenhouse gases emitted in Massachusetts starting from 1990. The black line shows the State’s 2020 target while the purple line represents the cumulative decrease in total emissions if all of the sectors (buildings, electricity supply, and transportation) were to reduce their contributions as targeted. It seemed impossible to me that the emissions level can achieve such a steep decline over 6 years, considering the emissions levels over the past 23 years. When I presented this doubt to Dr Breger after his presentation, he confidently told me that the Department was sincerely committed to achieving the target, and that they will do the best they can to achieve it.

This presentation offered me a new perspective of what it was like for policymakers to promote renewable energy. I also realised from the statistics in the graph that it was most probably not enough to merely promote renewable energy. Energy conservation and efficiency also play a critical role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As Dr Breger himself mentioned, energy efficiency is our first resource, since it reduces the need for any source of energy.

As I re-looked at the graph and thought about my experiences over the past two weeks in Massachusetts, I thought of an interesting analogy. All of us in the more developed world are on a travelator (also known as a ‘moving sidewalk’) that leads towards a degraded and polluted Earth. Many of us have stopped walking because we realise that the destination is not a pleasant one, and we want to delay our reaching it. A few have even turned around, and are ready to walk in the opposite direction. But faced with the masses walking and standing against them, the step backward becomes an extremely tedious one to take. At this juncture, I would like to invite you, after this post, to consider your role on this travelator – and if you’re walking forward, whether you are ready to stop, turn around, and take that small step backwards…

P.S. If you would like to discuss with me about my experiences that led to this analogy, or the analogy itself, please feel free to leave me a message on Facebook or send an email to yiyang_li@mymail.sutd.edu.sg.

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