This book is a window on practice operating in the vicinity of the 100 per cent renewable ideal. It is about a number of approaches, more and less partial, none perfect, some more, some less flawed. But jointly, these references and models are a powerful encouragement to embrace 100 per cent as the only sensible target to be pursued at this very late point in time.
One way for a company, community or person to reach a theoretically and practically pure, 100 per cent renewable support base is to escape the carbon spider’s web by living in isolation, on a real, virtual or artificially defined island. Indeed, the construction of partially energy autonomous islands of sorts is the secret of success for many fully renewable entrepreneurs at all levels today, from Surrey’s Woking Council to Israel’s Better Place. To the hopeful and optimistic, these islands will proliferate fast and extensively as they connect into a new and renewable reality.
But the label ‘100 per cent renewable’ in the somewhat less-than-ideal sense can also apply to aspects of people’s lives, or communities and their support structures. For example, households and businesses can operate their own domestic or corporate renewable energy system by installing photovoltaic panels, a woodchip-fired combined-cycle heating plant or biogas powered tri, quad – or even quint-generation system, also treating and recycling water and sequestering CO2, besides supplying power, heat and cooling. Or local governments can act in this way by investing in a solar thermal field or a wind farm, or by contracting the delivery of renewable electricity from a private supplier, within or beyond the local borders. For instance, a new partnership in solar power development will help yield 100 per cent renewable electricity for all households for a large city such as Munich, Germany – a city long devoted to gains in energy efficiency in its building stock and district heating networks.
As another example of a partial, or ‘systems focused’ 100 per cent policy, the UK government pursues the goal for all new homes to be ‘zero carbon’ by 2016 – implying the need for a massive proliferation of local, distributed energy supplies. The fact that only 0.1 per cent of UK renewable energy capacity is generated on public land has been used to illustrate both the woefully inadequate state of local community and city participation in renewable generation and its extraordinary potential as a future source (Slavin, 2007).