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Sustainability: silver linings v dark clouds

Progress in green technology is rarely hailed simply as a success story - there’s generally a dark cloud hovering nearby.  So when  the German government suggests a 100 per cent renewable economy by 2050, the headline asks if it’s an ‘impossible dream’, suggesting that German bureaucrats may have gone mad.

The figures are unquestionably daunting. The country doesn’t see biomass or CCS as part of its energy future, so is counting on a 40-fold increase in solar wind power to make it happen, plus an extraordinary development of energy storage technologies which use renewable methane and liquid fuels to massively increase what current hydro-electric storage options can do.

Sure, it seems like a huge ask and the infrastructure challenges will no doubt be great, but there’s positive elements to be taken for even accepting that it’s technically feasible to completely overhaul an economy hooked on fossil fuels, and set the wheels in motion to get there.

The logic that big ambitions must mean an imminent fall also applies to Norway, and the country’s progress with bringing electric vehicles into the mainstream. Despite electric cars topping the country’s popularity charts, ‘the affair is coming to an end’ according to this piece.

Oslo will soon have more electric cars than Los Angeles and San Francisco combined, with 10 per cent of car sales of the electric variety. This is put down to generous incentives like free charging (from hydroelectric source), license to drive in bus lanes and exemption from taxes and parking charges - certainly an alluring package for the commuter.

It’s suggested that some or all of these bonuses may be withdrawn when 50,000 sales are reached – it looks like this will be very soon at current rate – and that this be what seemingly inevitably poisons this love affair. Also implied is that increased numbers of electric cars may mean a veritable scrum at charging points.

But there again, perhaps once a critical mass of sales is reached and this has become the ‘norm’, people will keep buying them for the sound economic and comfort reasons cited in our video guides to living with an electric car. And perhaps they could just create a bigger recharging network, a point missed by this particular piece.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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