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The “Stone Age” did not end for a lack of stones

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One of the key events of the recently held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, G20 summit, was the announcement that the world’s two major pollutant emitters, namely China and the United States (are jointly accountable for 38% of noxious emissions), have ratified the global Paris agreement on climate change.

To recall, this agreement were developed at the climate conference, which gathered at the end of 2015 an unprecedented number of participants, representing almost the entire humanity (195 countries of the world). The goal was set very demanding – for the first time in the world to achieve the universal and mandatory for the implementation of the agreement transition to the economy, enabling to effectively fight against climate change and accelerate the society consuming less carbon technologies.

Outcome document of the Paris conference came to replace the Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gas emissions and has become a new systematic landmark in the advancement of the mankind to the safe and sustainable development. Its ratification by countries with the largest economies of the world, according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, gave a strong impetus to the implementation of the agreement.

Considerable attention to this issue is not accidental. To date, researchers reliably proved that the Earth’s climate is subject to significant changes. The reasons are external (solar luminosity variations, Earth’s orbit), planetary (changes in topography, location and configuration of the continents, oceans and currents, volcanoes eruptions) and anthropogenic (human-induced) factors. All we perceive these changes, for instance, almost in front of our very eyes there is a growing frequency and destructiveness of extreme weather events across the globe.

The scientists discovered that many of the non-man-made factors are not characterized by long and repeated action (for instance, solar activity, continental drift, etc.). Their superposition results in a complex climate change, in particular to the repeated ice ages: long – glacial eras, which can be a real threat to civilization, and short – not that severe period of relative global cooling.

In particular, the Little Ice Age was underway during the XIV-XIX centuries and based on the average temperature was the coldest in the last 2 thousand years. After that period, the planet entered a period of global warming – since the 20s of the last century, the temperature began to rise rather slowly, but steadily, which is an established fact.

And there is an understanding that this is not only an increase in temperature, but these correspondent climate changes, critically important for global agriculture, economy, environment, throughout the life of mankind.

Another question: what caused this warming – natural (end of the Little Ice Age) or anthropogenic grounds (carbon-energy greenhouse gas emissions)? Unfortunately, modern science still cannot clearly and indisputably separate these two types of mechanisms, so there are still ongoing debates between those who view technological impact as the main cause of global warming, and those who trust in its natural origin.

Meanwhile, the significance of anthropogenic causes is highlighted by the fact that their power, for instance in carbon dioxide emissions, has become comparable or even higher than that of the natural mechanisms (anthropogenic emissions of carbon monoxide, according to US Geological Service estimates, are 130 times greater than the amount emitted by volcanoes). Therefore, it would be logical to assume that the warming is due to some kind of ultimate combination of natural and anthropogenic mechanisms. Therefore, humanity is, in principle, within some framework limitations may already have a real regulatory impact on the processes of global warming and related climate deviations on a global scale. The fundamental decision on the provision of such an impact on a global scale was made at the Paris climate conference.

Its implementation will be difficult, especially in the field of energy, and in one way or another it will be necessary to change the vector of its development from the carbon to the alternative direction. This requires, in particular, the enormous efforts from Asian giant companies from which the atmosphere receives 24% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

In this regard an important event undoubtedly will be the international exhibition “EXPO-2017” “Energy of the Future”, which will be hosted in Astana next year. After all, it will be the first exhibition of such level after the Paris conference.

The special importance is given to EXPO-2017 as it will be held at the background of an ongoing geopolitical crisis in the country, sufficiently endowed with its own carbon resources, for which, as it may seem, it is not so important to draw attention to the alternative energy sources, the latter topic in general being what the exhibition will be devoted to. Moreover, in the opinion of prominent world politicians, voiced at the IX Astana Economic Forum, our country occupies a leading position in the region in the development of “green” energy, and the country President H.E. N. Nazarbayev is the most authoritative politician of the world in this field.

All is explained by the scale of the personality of Nursultan Nazarbayev as a world-class politician, not only dealing with the current issues in his country, but also addressing the problems of global significance, having lasting strategic value for the development of all mankind.

The area of interests of the President also includes the proactive participation in the development of a future global strategy on adaptation to the new climatic conditions, deploying on the earth, and confronting the threats posed by industry related activities of mankind and unnecessarily “carbonated” power energy and the economy.

It is sufficient to recall such deeply developed and affecting many key areas of the world community initiative of the Head of our state, as the Global Energy Strategy for Sustainable Development in the XXI century, the forecast “Energy and ecological future of civilizations” and the partnership program “Green Bridge”, put forward by our President and supported at the highest worldwide level. For each such question our President gives a detailed substantiation and identifies an accurate vector of actions, based on fundamental scientific knowledge and systematic foresight.

Most recently the main argument for the need to find alternative energy sources was the threat of exhaustion of the hydrocarbon fuels reserves (coal, oil, gas) in the world. The latter threat certainly exists. But as the eloquent expression says “the Stone Age did not end for the lack of stones”. Its author is Steven Chu, American physicist, Nobel Prize laureate and former US Secretary of Energy.

And today to the fore go other problems, i.e. global climate changes, disturbance of the heat balance of the planet and the composition of the atmosphere, waste issues and access to resources, biodiversity conservation and the security of energy communications, etc. Most of them can be resolved or, at least, reduced through the so-called “decarbonization” of the economy. That is, the transition from the use of carbon-based fuels to renewable and more environmentally friendly methods of energy production: solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, etc. To a certain extent these methods may include nuclear, and possibly in the future, thermonuclear energy, but these issues are ambiguous and require further elaboration and preventive enhancement of their security.

Since its inception, humanity desires that the resources it requires were limitless. And it is not such a baseless dream. At least, with regards to energy resources – the transition to renewable energy sources is an important step to the actual implementation of such a dream that seemed previously unattainable.

But it is very difficult path. The experience of many countries has demonstrated that the transition to these sources requires new and highly advanced technologies, but it is also quite expensive. In the world today, progress has been made in this area. There is a growing generation of solar and wind energy, for instance, the installed capacities of all the wind turbines at the beginning of 2016 already exceeded the installed capacity of the global atomic power industry. A key factor in this development serves as the improvement of technologies of energy production, as well as its storage and interfacing with the common power grid. Recent trends are particularly important due to the variability of sources (wind, solar) and sharply aggravated by an increase in the scale of power generation.

But the price of energy is the most problematic factor in the transition to the “green” economy and “green” energy. It directly depends on the effectiveness of the used technologies that are now being upgraded at the truly “explosive” pace. Only 10 years ago, renewable energy was de facto uncompetitive based on the energy costs virtually in the entire world (with the exception of local niches, where it was extremely difficult to deliver carbon resources). Nowadays, thanks to the latest developments, expenses decreased by several times, and this process continues. This is a very striking example of the effectiveness of the unity of science, engineering and business interests, with prospects of a great future.

Another aspect. Increased use of renewable energy makes a fundamental change in the energy sector as a whole. If modern industrialized countries produce the bulk of the power centralized in large power plants, such as thermal power plants, nuclear power plants, hydropower plants, new approaches require the transition to a distributed energy concept. At the same time, the clear separation of energy producers and consumers is being lost- part of consumers becomes energy producers for their own needs, and to supply surplus in the overall network.

Distributed energy has a number of features and advantages over the centralized. It gives the possibility, in particular to reduce electricity losses during the transportation because of the maximum proximity of power generators to consumers, reduce the load of the energy transmission lines, improve the safety and reliability of power supply through the local power reservation and reduction of accidents at central power plants and transmission lines, as well as to reduce the environmental impact. This will not only reduce the negative impact of human activity on our planet, but also to better withstand crises and other modern challenges and threats in energy, economic and social development around the world.

In turn, this approach requires the implementation of new approaches and grid management technologies. Here is one more almost unplowed field for scientists and engineers.

In light of the already recognized need to promote humanity in this direction, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan N. Nazarbayev’s initiative on hosting EXPO-2017 “Energy of the Future” in Astana for the first time presented in Spanish Saragossa in 2008, is becoming increasingly timely issue. The exhibition has become one of the key national and global project of Kazakhstan, which, as it was repeatedly noted by Nursultan Nazarbayev, is a historic event.

The head of state stresses that “… at the” Expo exhibitions “all nations of the world are showing their best technological, scientific and cultural achievements. They form a new global development agenda.” At the same time, the President singled out three main factors of a very challenging victory of Astana in the competitive fight to host this exhibition: “Firstly, it is the recognition of our capital as the center, decent to host a world level event. Secondly, the choice in favor of Kazakhstan indicates a high assessment of our country success and underlines the prospects of its development, as well as of the entire Eurasian region. Thirdly, the contribution of our victory was the relevance of the proposed theme – “Energy of the Future.”

All these factors are valid also today; when before the opening of EXPO is slightly more than six months. It is based on these factors; with a deep understanding of global issues it was possible to build a unique concept, the objectives and content of the exhibition. The exhibition is conceived as a large-scale project, the theme of which is energy as a factor determining the existence of human communities and the daily life of individuals in these communities. The exhibition will present strategies, programs and technology achievements, to develop sustainable energy sources, improving the reliability and efficiency of energy supply, renewable energy, the development of energy-efficient production and efficient use of energy resources. In addition, as it was noted by the Chairman of the Board of JSC NC “Astana EXPO-2017” Akhmetzhan Yesimov, a special pavilion “An area of best practice” will be organized for the presentation of the most impressive and effective global projects, selected by a special international commission. The latter includes internationally recognized scientists, including Nobel Prize laureates.

In addition to showcasing the achievements of the participating countries, which will be more than 100, Kazakhstan in the course of construction of facilities and through the hosted events lays down the foundation using the latest technologies in accordance with the theme of “Energy of the Future”, which will be displayed to visitors “live”, in the fullness of its practical implementation. Thus, the level of achievements demonstration in this field is expected to be very high.

But no less important is a lively exchange of views on key issues of the future, a creative discussion of the basic directions of scientific research and engineering developments, technology improvement, the forecast on consequences of changes in the energy future of a mankind. For this end, within the framework of the EXPO is scheduled – a unique scientific event, the World Congress of engineers and scientists WSEC-2017. Its main organizers are the National Engineering Academy of Kazakhstan and the Kazakhstan National Academy of Natural Sciences. The Congress theme “Energy for the future: innovative scenarios and methods of their implementation” is completely correlated with the topic of the world exhibition. Therefore, the Congress will provide a significant synergy effect in discovering, understanding and practical implementation of the EXPO-2017 potential, which will be the key to the new role and relevance of science, technology and innovation in the new efficient and low-carbon economy of the countries entering the path of the energy modernization.

The idea of the Congress, with no analogues in the world practice, aroused a great interest and support of authoritative international organizations: the International Renewable Energy Agency IRENA, the Institute of Science and technology Masdar, a non-profit organization for the establishment of an inter-tional prize “Global energy”, Total (France), Siemens (Germany), University of Oldenburg (Germany) and others.

At present, more than 500 potential delegates from 80 countries have been identified; among them are the laureates of “Global Energy” Prize and international awards, renowned experts, prominent scientists and engineers in the field of energy. The Congress is supported by the Ministry of Energy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Science of Kazakhstan, International Academy of Engineering (46 member states), the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, the Federation of Engineering Institutions of Islamic countries, FEIIC (21 member state), International Agency IRENA (181 member country).

The Congress theme is very extensive, its work will be conducted in five main areas: “Prospects and scenarios for the development of global energy until 2050”, “Balance of the energy trilemma: safety, availability and environmental sustainability”, “Trends in the development of the world energy resources”, “Energy Market” and “Scientific Human Resourcing.”

In preparation for the Congress a preliminary “trial run” of the planned approaches has been held. At the special panel session “Energy for the future: global trends and technologies” under the auspices of the IX Astana Economic Forum presentation and discussion of the papers on this subject have been done. The session attracted great interest of the international scientific and engineering community, eminent scientists from around the world participated in discussions which confirmed the correctness of the choice of conceptual provisions, themes and institutional mechanisms for WSEC-2017 preparation.

Therefore, there is confidence that the complementary outcomes of the World Congress and International Exhibition “EXPO-2017” will give an important cumulative effect in the development of the energy potential of the modern world, positively impact economic, energy, industrial and innovative development of Kazakhstan, which has a unique chance to accumulate the most advanced ideas and developments of the future world energy.

At the same time, energy as one of the basic foundations of the real economy and social sphere of the country should not be exposed to the risks of insufficient sound drastic changes, which have a number of examples in the world practice. On the contrary, it must grow steadily and systematically combining susceptibility of the new to the efficient use of the already accumulated capacity and resources. In this regard, the balanced position of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan headed by the Minister Kanat Bozumbayev is appreciated. The long-term plans of the Ministry includes both the rapid growth of renewable energy use (8-fold increase in the share of renewable energy up to 2025), and careful attention to the efficiency of traditional types of energy.

I believe we should promote this approach in the course of scientific and engineering capacity development, which determines the future of the country in this area, solving the dual task.

Firstly, to be at the forefront of global progress, proactively participate in solving global problems and challenges of modern time.

Secondly, treat energy innovations and realities in the most pragmatic way – to pick up and develop a progressive, but do not forget about the existing energy and wealthy resource base of the country, which is our significant advantage.

It is this combination that the political course of the President of our country, H.E. Nursultan Nazarbayev, demonstrates a combination of scientific foresight, care about the future and informed pragmatism. It really strengthens the position of Kazakhstan in the global community, supports the stability of the course on the development and progress even through the most violent storms and typhoons of this very difficult time.

 

Bakytzhan Zhumagulov, аcademician

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