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The vision of a 2000-watt society - Whereas a broad consensus exists on the necessity of a strong reduction of global anthropic emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), the prospect of reducing the average usage of energy per capita in industrialized countries is rarely considered. One exception is Switzerland, where the vision of a “2000-watt society”, proposed at the end of the last century (Imboden et al. 1992; Kesselring and Winter, 1994; Jochem et al. 2002, 2004; Novatlantis 2009) and approved in 1998 by the ETH Board1 (ETH-Rat), was adopted by the government in its “Strategy for sustainable development 2002” (Swiss Federal Council 2002) and endorsed by the most important national scientific and technological institutions.
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Marco Morosini
A “2000-WATT SOCIETY” IN 2050:
Marco Morosini
1. The vision of a 2000-watt society
Whereas a broad consensus exists on the necessity of a strong
reduction of global anthropic emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs),
the prospect of reducing the average usage of energy per capita in in-
dustrialized countries is rarely considered. One exception is Switzer-
land, where the vision of a “2000-watt society”, proposed at the end
of the last century (Imboden et al. 1992; Kesselring and Winter, 1994;
Jochem et al. 2002, 2004; Novatlantis 2009) and approved in 1998
by the ETH Board1 (ETH-Rat), was adopted by the government in its
“Strategy for sustainable development 2002” (Swiss Federal Council
2002) and endorsed by the most important national scientific and
technological institutions.
The aim of this vision is to reduce at around 2000 watt (i.e.
2000 joule/second) per capita the mean of permanent flux of power
for all energy needs; this would include, not only electricity, but all
sources of primary energy corresponding in a year to 17 520 kWh or
63 GJ or 1,5 tons. of oil equivalent (toe) per capita. This would mean
a reduction of the national use of primary energy from 1205 PJ in
2001 to 460 PJ in 2050, by an assumed almost constant population
size of 7,1 million people (Jochem 2002). In 2000, the per capita us-
age of commercial primary energy in Switzerland was around 6000
watt, corresponding to 52 560 kWh or 190 GJ or 4,5 tons. of oil
equivalent (toe) in a year; the national per capita emission was 6
tons. of CO2 and 7 tons. of GHGs. Considering also the worldwide
GHGs net emission in order to supply Switzerland with goods and
services, the GHGs emissions of the Swiss inhabitants were esti-
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Department of Environmental Science, Zurich,
1 The ETH Board group, the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, and
the four application-oriented research institutes – the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the Swiss
Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Materials Science and
Technology Research Institution (EMPA) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and
Technology (EAWAG).
A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
mated to be around 10 tons. CO2-equivalent in 2004. Worldwide, the
per capita usage of primary energy in 2004 was approximately, e.g.,
500 watt in Bangladesh and India, 6000 watt in Europe, 12000 watt
in the USA and 16000 watt in Island.
Figure 1. World usage of primary energy.
The emphasis of the vision of a 2000-watt society is on a
strong rise of energy efficiency and a shift towards renewable ener-
gies. According to the Swiss government “The scenario of a «2000-
watt society» serves as a conception guiding energy and climate pro-
tection policy. In the long term, this would require a reduction in
greenhouse gas emissions (primarily CO2) to the sustainable level of
one tonne per capita, with per-capita energy consumption of 500
watts being derived from fossil fuels and 1500 watts from renewable
sources.” (Swiss Federal Council 2002). Therefore, in the long run,
the vision includes not only the reduction of the energy usage, but
also the reduction of the GHGs emission as well as a dominant pro-
portion of renewable energies, and no usage of the atomic energy.
Shall it be possible to guarantee to the inhabitants of an in-
dustrialized country in 2050 a high level of prosperity, probably
higher of the present one, using the same amount of primary energy
(2000 watt per capita) used in the country in the Sixties? Is the
threshold of 2000 watt per person realistic whereas all nations, in-
cluding industrialized countries, use more and more primary energy?
Is this goal realistic, when most economists and mass-media assert
Marco Morosini
that an appreciable increase in energy use is inevitable also in indus-
trialized countries ?
The vision of a 2000-watt society implies a technological, a
cultural, and a political challenge. Eco-efficient technology comes
ahead in the most common advocacy of a 2000-watt society in Swit-
zerland. The key for a reduction of two thirds of the energy usage per
capita as the vision is propagated would be a dramatic increase
in energy efficiency, i.e. a strong reduction in energy losses in the
transformation chains from primary energy to final energy services.
To associate a physical reduction goal to the idea of progress is a
great cultural change if one considers how deeply the idea of human
progress has been recently associated with an increasing per capita
energy use. Furthermore, reducing energy usage in industrialized
countries is a political challenge, because few are inclined to re-
nounce to some immediate consumption in favour of both soberer
lifestyles and more investment in energy efficiency. Finally, for a
global energy policy, the objective of the standard of 2000 watt per
capita in an industrialized country would be a political message with
far-reaching consequences, especially for developing countries.
2. Proposals of an energy-sober society
In the last decades some authors suggested to consider the op-
portunity of a voluntary ceiling to the amount of primary energy used
per capita. Wolfram Ziegler proposed a voluntary limit in the use of
primary energy in central Europe under the level of 0,16 W/m2
(Ziegler 1979; 1996); this level was based on ecological arguments and
was intended to limit the anthropic pressure on biodiversity. Starting
from Ziegler’s arguments and data, Dürr calculated and suggested a
global value of 9 TW as a voluntary limit in the use of primary energy
by mankind (Dürr 1993); this level would be around one fifth of the
amount of solar energy transformed by terrestrial organisms, esti-
mated by Dürr at 40-50 TW, for a human population of 6 billions at
the end of the last century, Dürr suggested consequently the vision of
a “1500-watt society”. Goldemberg et al. (1985; Goldemberg 2004)
claimed that 1000 watt of primary energy per capita would cover “ba-
sic needs and much more”. Spreng et al. (2002) suggested to steer
human societies towards an “energy window”, defined by a lower so-
cial limit and an upper ecological limit in the use of primary energy.
In Switzerland, the idea of setting a ceiling to energy usage was for-
mulated at the beginning of the ‘90s (Imboden et al. 1992; Imboden
1993). Paul Kesselring (Paul Scherrer Institute, Switzerland), and
Carl-Jochen Winter (German Aerospace Research Establishment,
DLR) punctually suggested a “2000-watt society” as worldwide plau-
A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
sible vision achievable within 50-100 years (Kesselring and Winter
3. Controversial points on a 2000-watt society
In the last years some authors considered the objective of a
2000-watt society in Switzerland to be less binding. In this century, a
higher level of primary energy per capita (4000-6000 watt) was con-
sidered plausible in Switzerland and in the world2 (Boulouchos et al.,
2008), the target of 2000 watt was dropped as “a metaphor” and the
focus was shifted from the energy policy to climate policy, launching
the slogan of a “1-tonne-CO2 society” (Boulouchos 2008). Leading
newspapers published articles with headlines such as “Energy saving
is out – The ETH abandons the “2000-watt society” in its new energy
strategy” (Bergamin 2008) and “2000-watt society A metaphor or
a goal to pursue?” (NZZ 2008). In the following chapters, I will ana-
lyse some of the controversial points on the feasibility of a 2000-watt
society in Switzerland.
3.1 Time horizon
The proponents of the vision of a 2000-watt society set the
time horizon to 2050 (Jochem 2002, 2004; Novatlantis 2008) and
stressed, that reforms had to start promptly. Other authors and pol-
icy makers considered a 2000-watt society plausible in Switzerland
only in 2100 or 2150 (Koschenz and Pfeiffer 2005) or never, while
others opposed the vision; one Zurich politician declared, that “the
2000-watt society would lead to a standard of living like that of the
Republic of Congo”.
3.2 Environmental quality of energy: different impacts of different
energy transformations
Some critics argue that a ceiling to the energy usage per se
would be wrong. What really matters is not the quantity of energy
per se, but the its amount and the variety of damages and risks asso-
ciated with each type of energy source and related technology. Ac-
cording to this viewpoint, in the next decades, no overall ceiling to
the individual average energy use would be reasonable. Basing on
macroeconomic models, most global energy scenarios (e.g. those of
IEA, OECD, IIASA) estimate that the global energy usage will in-
2 “The global energy system can also be configured in a sustainable manner at a level of 4 – 6 kW
per capita of primary energy” (Boulouchos et al. 2008).
Marco Morosini
crease – mostly through fossil fuels - by at least a factor of three up to
the year 2050 (Imboden 2000). Insofar some authors consider real-
istic an usage of primary energy of 4000 to 6000 watt worldwide be-
fore the end of the century.
Some studies tried to compare the environmental impact of
different energy technologies, especially those used to produce elec-
tricity (Hester 2003). Most studies reduced the metrics to simple pa-
rameters like monetary costs (cost-benefit analysis), or estimated
mortality and morbidity risks (risk analysis). According to Stirling,
who carried out a survey on 32 of these studies (Stirling 2003), meth-
ods and assumptions were quite different among them and each of
these studies must be judged “seriously incomplete”; in fact they gave
a very wide range of outcomes. Consequently, Stirling suggests to
compare different energy technologies through an approach based on
the precautionary principle3 and proposes a framework based on it
(Stirling 2009).
3.3 Climate change
On one hand, some authors say that a ceiling to energy use per
se could make more difficult to mitigate anthropogenic climate
change. In order to reduce the greenhouse effects of technological en-
ergy transformations, fossil fuels should be substituted as soon as
possible with fossil-carbon-poor or -free energy sources. One strategy
to do this is to force the electrification of many energy services (Bou-
louchos 2008), including public and private transportation, as well as
heating of buildings through heat pumps (Switzerland is pioneer in
this field). Electricity should be then produced without operational
emission of fossil carbon, e.g. through atomic, hydro-, solar, wind,
geothermic or biomass energy. An energy ceiling – it is argued - could
limit the availability of fossil-carbon-free electricity, which would be
necessary in large quantity to replace fossil fuels. In many cases the
electrical option implies a longer and less efficient chain of energy
transformations, so that, at the end, more and not less, primary en-
ergy would be needed. Insofar a trade off more-energy-for-less-
carbon” should be accepted. For this reason a rise of the usage of pri-
3 “For its part, a precautionary’ approach reflects a rather different perspective, introducing a
wider range of emerging issues in the general sustainability debate. At root, the precautionary
approach contrasts with the more reductive ‘risk-based’ approach in giving equal attention to
those effects that may be less readily quantifiable. It addresses issues such as the complexity,
variability and potential of non-linear vulnerabilities in natural and social systems. It highlights
the consequent potential for ‘surprises’ affecting all op tions. Precaution places greater emphasis
on active and dynamic choices between technology and policy alternatives than to ‘risk-based’
approaches. It makes a point of including a wider range of social and political values, rather
than those that happen to be embodied in the relatively narrow com munity of technical special-
ists.” (Stirling 2003).
A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
mary energy to 4000-6000 watt per person worldwide is taken in ac-
count (Boulouchos 2008).
On the other hand, leading advocates of a 2000-watt society
consider energy saving as the most plausible and probably the only
effective strategy to reduce the energy related emissions of CO2 (Im-
boden 2000; Jochem 2006). According to Imboden (2000) there is
an incongruence between the expected energy usage and the CO2 sce-
narios for the next decades. Based on macroeconomic models, most
energy scenarios (IEA, OECD, IIASA) estimate that the global usage
of primary energy will increase mostly through fossil fuels - by at
least a factor of three by the year 2050. On the other hand, the IPCC
claims, in its fourth assessment, that global GHG emissions should
be reduced by 2050 of 50 to 85% of the level of 2000 (IPCC 2007). If
these scenarios are realistic, according to Imboden (2000) the previ-
ous targets of the IPCC (IPCC 1995) can be reached only if a decar-
bonisation of at least factor three will be attained. Instead, the decar-
bonisation rate of the global energy system in the last decade of the
past century was only of 0,3%. The relative affordability of fossil fuels
and of their technologies compared with carbon-free technologies will
determine a significantly higher rate in the next decades. If continued
until 2050, this trend would give a decarbonisation of factor 1,16. This
would mean that CO2 emission of the energy system would be 2,6
times (3 / 1,16) greater than today, bringing the CO2 concentration
well above 500 ppm in 2050 (Imboden 2000).
3.4 Rebound effect
Energy efficiency does not save energy, some authors say.
Starting with William Jevons (1865) several authors pointed out that
technological improvements, able to reduce the usage of primary en-
ergy for a given good or service, can lead to a lower price of that good
or service and to a greater demand for it, insofar offsetting part or the
whole efficiency gains (Saunders 1992, Musters 1995, Herring 1999,
Rubin and Tal 2007). This phenomenon has been called rebound ef-
fect or energy paradox; when more than 100 per cent of the effi-
ciency gain is offset, this is called Jevons paradox or backfire; Khaz-
zoom-Brookes-Postulate is another name for this phenomenon
(Saunders 1992). There are several reasons for this contra intuitive
occurrence: lower prices of an energy service mean free new purchas-
ing power that can be used to buy more of that energy service or
more of other energy demanding services; furthermore, lower prices
of energy services stimulate economic growth generally leading to
more energy usage.
Marco Morosini
Figure 2 – Switzerland: greenhouse gas emissions (Mt of CO2-equivalents) do not sink. Source:
Federal Statistics Office. 725. html
Based on theoretical and empirical considerations, there is
controversy on the reach of the rebound effect at the micro- and
macro-economic level. However, several authors agree that, in indus-
trial countries, more energy efficiency will not lead per se to less en-
ergy use, unless restrictions are established by public authorities (e.g.
energy taxes; cap and trade) or by self-limitation (Herring 1999,
Rubin and Tal 2007). According to Flueeler et al. (2007) “increasing
energy efficiency is a necessary but not sufficient means of limiting
either energy use or GHGs emissions. (omissis) Without an adequate
integral and transdisciplinary framework, energy-saving technologies
can even have counter-productive (rebound) effects”.
A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
Figure 3. USA: Higher energy efficiency and higher energy usage (1975-2005). Source: Rubin
and Tal 2007, economic _public/download/snov07.pdf
3.5 Invention
As Thorstein Veblen put it, “Invention is the mother of neces-
sity” (Wikiquote 2008). Indeed, technological invention not only
meets better the existing needs but it creates new ones. When speak-
ing of technological innovation and sustainability, the focus is gener-
ally on energy efficiency. In fact, history shows that, parallel to effi-
ciency progress in most devices - just driven by it - technological and
marketing innovation lead to growing demand for new devices (e.g.
mobile phones, computers) and for more sophisticated types of old
models (e.g. cars); in most cases the result is a net increase of the
overall energy demand. For example, technologists can probably im-
prove of a factor ten or hundred the efficiency of spaceships; but if
this will create a market for spaceship tourism – something previ-
ously not perceived as a need – this efficiency progress would lead to
use more primary energy, not less.
3.6 Marketing
Many of the people’s wishes in 2050 cannot be known. How-
ever, if one considers past evolution, in the next decades billions of
people are expected to consider reasonable to claim for energy de-
manding devices and services, which do not exist today and some
others, which nowadays are considered extravagant. Not only elec-
tronic and mechanical engineers are at work, but also “desire engi-
neers”, i.e. millions of marketing professionals who created a science
Marco Morosini
and a multitude of techniques to shape desires and transform them
in needs4. The global cost of marketing and advertising is reckoned to
be more than 1000 billion US dollars per year. Several corporations
spend much more in marketing than in research and development,
being aware that engineering desires is more profitable than solely
engineering devices. Some technologists seem to overrate the poten-
tial of technical efficiency gains and to be not used to consider suffi-
ciently cultural and social phenomena, which lead to overall higher
usage of energy.
3.7 Social distribution of energy usage
Most surveys on energy macro-trends consider one country
per capita energy usage, but not its social distribution. Delivering sta-
tistics in which energy usage per person is displayed in function of in-
come classes would be useful to highlight the connection between in-
come and energy usage and conceive innovative, not technology-
based, energy policies. With present technologies, achieving higher
energy efficiency or higher shares of renewable energy requires often
higher investments; thus it could be expected that the higher the in-
come, the more can be invested in energy efficiency and renewables.
Luxury is considered legitimate for higher incomes. But, just as high-
income citizens pay progressively higher taxes, they could also be
asked to invest more in energy efficiency and renewable energy. A
flexible energy fee could be conceived: lower prices for basic energy
consumption and progressive higher prices for conspicuous energy
consumption; an extra fiscal return could be devoted to finance sus-
tainable energy technologies. Taxing consumption instead of incomes,
first proposed by Thomas Hobbes three centuries ago and a recurrent
theme in economics, could be applied to energy policy, with better
chances, if compared to plain technological innovation, to reduce
overall energy consumption. Progressive energy taxation could not
only lower the energy consumption of the upper class but also moder-
ate the emulative consumption of the much larger lower income
4 Daniel Goeudevert, former CEO of a leading German car company, put it as follows in his
speech for the 150-year celebration ceremony of the VDI, the Association of German Engineers
(Berlin, 16.5.2006): “Finally the focus is no longer on meeting needs or solving problems, but
upon creating more and more exigent expectations, and then satisfying them profitably.”
(Goeudevert 2006)
A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
3.8 Emulation
More than a century ago, Thorstein Veblen analysed the role of
emulative consumption in the USA, pointing out that the endogenous
needs of isolated rational economic actors are not the only drivers of
economic behaviour: “With the exception of the instinct of self-
preservation, noted Veblen - the propensity for emulation is
probably the strongest and most alert and persistent of the economic
motives proper.” (Veblen 1899). Nowadays the analysis of Veblen is
even more valid than then. Today the propensity for emulation has
become stronger for three reasons. First: what Veblen called the “lei-
sure class”, which practices “conspicuous consumption”, is now much
more numerous, representing no longer few persons in thousand but
perhaps one tenth or more of the population in industrial countries;
insofar, the lifestyle of this class and a supposedly easy social mobility
are strong stimuli for emulation. Second: much of the consumption of
the leisure class is now more public and exhibited. Third: also lower
income classes are exposed to an inescapable, ubiquitous and emo-
tional propaganda for energy intensive goods and lifestyles, which of-
ten they can hardly afford. As an eminent French advertising profes-
sional said, the goal of part of advertising is “to try to convince people,
that can not afford them, to buy things that they do not need”. Fur-
thermore, the tension created between ubiquitous commercial pres-
sure and unaffordable consumption aspiration is accompanied by ex-
tensive “buy-now-pay-later” facilities and by political propaganda
(“Work more to earn more”). All this together, brings many individu-
als to sacrifice other aspects of their life in order to afford energy con-
spicuous consumption, what in fact they often succeed in doing.
Economist Robert Frank (1999a, 1999b) applied to our times
an approach similar to that of Veblen and advocates a moderation of
emulative consumption through a shift in the taxation system towards
a progressive consumption tax. The treadmill of emulative consump-
tion affects a good deal of the energy relevant behaviour of large parts
of the population, so that addressing this phenomenon would be
probably effective in order to moderate the demand of final energy
services and energy intensive goods.
3.9 Efficiency, sufficiency and quality of life
In Switzerland most communication on the “2000-watt soci-
ety” focuses on watts, not on society. Technological change is to the
fore, not social change. For that matter, leading advocates of the
2000-watt vision are very optimistic on the potential of technology
improvements: “The vision of a 2000-watt society would mean re-
Marco Morosini
ducing the energy demand per capita in industrial nations by two
thirds within five decades. If one assumes that income and consump-
tion will continue to grow by two thirds during this period, this
would mean using energy five times more efficiently.” (Jochem et al.
Figure 4 – Switzerland: end energy usage (kWh) pro capite does not sink. Source: Federal Sta-
tistics Office. http://www. portal/ fr/index/themen/21/02/ind7.indicator.
In fact, the prospect of a sizable reduction of the usage of
primary energy in an industrial country is divergent from most en-
ergy scenarios, while substantial progress in this direction is not in
sight in Switzerland or elsewhere. The belief that an improvement of
factor five in energy efficiency is “technically feasible” (Jochem et al.
2004) is encouraging, but of little help, being the fortune of tech-
nologies entangled with cultural, social and economic systems.
“Smarter living” and “new forms of lifestyle” are indicated by
the Foundation Novatlantis as instrumental, but it is officially stated:
“The quality of life in the 2000-watt society does not undergo any re-
strictions” (Novatlantis 2008). This promise is ambiguous and per-
haps maintanable/keepable/deliverable. In fact “quality of life” in-
cludes material and immaterial things. The more material things and
services one person considers necessary for his own “quality of life”,
the more it is likely that restrictions in the usage of material things
and services and insofar in his perceived “quality of life” - will be
A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
unavoidable, if one wants to be serious about a worldwide conver-
gence and redistribution of energy usage. For example, if in 2050 8-9
billions people would like to travel by air as much as the top one bil-
lion consumers do now, airplanes will then have to fly with little
more than one tenth of the primary energy per km they use now or a
new technology with very low environmental impact will have to be
found or a greater overall environmental impact shall have to be ac-
Indeed, a 2000-watt society in industrialized countries will
need no restrictions only if technical improvements in energy effi-
ciency will allow supplying at least the present final energy services
with only one third of the primary energy used today or with just
one fifth if further growth of economy and population will happen.
As nobody can guarantee this in practice, a proper mix of energy-
efficiency and energy-sufficiency strategies seem to be necessary.
More energy-efficiency means technological improvement, which re-
duces primary energy usage for a non-changing final service. More
energy-sufficiency means reducing the demand of final energy ser-
vices. Two sorts of sufficiency reforms can be considered: satisfac-
tion-neutral changes (i.e. avoiding wasteful consumption entailing
moderate utility, e.g. turning off electricity to billboards in public
spaces at night) and satisfaction-non-neutral changes (e.g. using
consumer goods longer, eating less energy-intensive food, travelling
less by car and by plane, using smaller and slower cars)5.
According to the leading proponents of a 2000-watt society
“If efficiency gains are chronically inadequate to effect a reduction in
total or per capita energy use, or are even indirectly fuelling the in-
crease as demand co-evolves in lockstep, a “sufficiency” revolution
may be needed in addition to an efficiency revolution.” (Jochem et al.
2002). Indeed, for decades efficiency gains proved to be “chronically
inadequate” for reducing the overall energy use in industrialized
countries. In spite of this evidence, social reforms towards sufficiency
are rarely considered as options, debates on them are frowned upon,
and, instead, vast resources are still invested to convince people to
boost their consumptions.
5 In this respect unusual are the considerations on energy usage, human needs and sustainabil-
ity presented by Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French engineer educated at the Ecole Polytechnique
and corporation consultant on technology and climate policy: “When have we “met our needs”?
When we have 10 m2 of heated dwelling per person? Or only when every earth inhabitant will
have 150 m2 of heated dwelling, plus Jacuzzi bath and private sauna? (…) Do we “need” to
travel by airplane 1, 50 or zero times in our life? Do we “need” to eat 20 kg meat in a year (as in
France in 1800), or 100 kg (as it was in 2000) to be happy? Do we “need” to have 1 or 10 gifts
for each birthday?” (Jancovici 2003).
Marco Morosini
Avoiding to envisage a restraint of final material consumption
and trying to disguise this necessity with euphemisms like “smart”,
“intelligent” or “new” lifestyles can accumulate not maintainable
/keepable/deliverable/ too high expectations on technological
change and make things worst later on.
4. Conclusions
Possible trade-offs between the goal of a strong reduction of
the CO2-emission and the goal of lowering energy use per se are a
comprehensible concern. Nevertheless this concern is not strongly
founded. On one hand, the goal of a 2000-watt society in 2050 in
Switzerland encompasses the goal of 1-tonne-CO2 society; an effec-
tive energy policy, aimed to systematically save primary energy,
would favour a general energy-saving awareness, which, in turn, will
help to reduce the use of fossil fuels as well. On the other hand,
should no one single industrialized country be able to live in shared
prosperity without much less than 6000 watt pro capita, this would
be a dangerous message for the developing countries: many of them
will probably feel legitimate to pursue an energy level of 6000 watt,
and for several of them coal will be the cheapest and more accessible
energy source (Paschotta 2008).
Furthermore, legitimate concern about climate change brings
some authors to argue as if climate change were the only undesirable
consequence of a too high level of energy usage; in doing so, they
seem to consider possible an unrestricted expansion of energy use, if
only this would be fossil-carbon-free. In fact all the known fossil-
carbon-poor or -free energy sources are associated with environ-
mental and societal costs or risks, although different for different en-
ergy sources.
More founded is the concern upon the compatibility between
two goals: on one hand an unrestricted consumption of energy de-
manding goods and services and on the other hand a lower use of
primary energy or a lower emission of greenhouse gases. Energy effi-
ciency is surely to be pursued. But focusing on technical efficiency
while neglecting to communicate the need of energy moderate life-
styles will hardly lead to an energy sober society and to lower emis-
sion of greenhouse gases.
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A “2000 Watt Society” in 2050: a Realistic Vision?
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... The EU average is 6.2 and USA 15.5 tons [30]. When the Swiss 2000 Watt vision was developed [31], it implied a reduction of around two thirds, which includes both direct energy consumption as well as mobility, embodied energy, and consumer goods. ...
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There are many common misconceptions about sustainable living. These hinder both an understanding of the benefits, and broader acceptance of sustainable solutions. Professionals within sustainability know of many good project examples, but these are still little known amongst the broader public; and in many countries hardly at all. Four such misconceptions or “myths” are briefly described, and then countered by a selection of examples. Most of these have been extensively studied and are arguably largely success stories, covering many aspects of ecological, economic and social sustainability. Four points are then noted which whilst not new, demand increased attention: an integrated view of city and countryside; the still underrated role of dynamics and process; social science insights into consumption and sociotechnical change; and emerging questions about sustainability in dense settlements, i.e., urbanity in general. This paper thus argues for a synthesis perspective; some quite new research perspectives are emerging. The paper is based on the literature as well as over 25 years of professional experience, visits, workshops and in-depth exchanges with most of the projects presented. Whilst remaining attentive to obstacles, weaknesses and challenges, a key task is to achieve wider dissemination of “the good news” about sustainable settlements and living.
... This concept therefore demands both energy efficiency and a transition to renewable energy. On one hand, attaining this target in Switzerland would necessitate slashing energy demand — equivalent to around 6000-watts continuous power demand in the year 2000 (Morosini, 2010) — by two-thirds, and over a timescale of fifty to 150 years (Jochem, 2004). On the other hand, sourcing seventy five percent of a 2000-watt energy demand from renewables would cut GHG emissions to one tonne of CO 2 e per capita per year. ...
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At the turn of the century, the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology (ETH) launched an implementation platform to translate the scientific vision of a '2000 Watt Society' to a reality. Scientists teamed with government and industry practitioners to utilise the City of Basel, Switzerland, as an experimentation arena for sustainability advancing technologies in transport, buildings, urban development and energy. With over 15-years of accumulated experiences, the still 'living' 2000 Watt Society Basel Pilot Region (2000WS-BPR) offers rich insights into long-term life-cycles of urban living labs and various strategies for advancing societal sustainability. Focusing on three key stages (set-up, initial implementation, restructuring/re-implementation), we investigate strategies in 2000WS-BPR for designing projects, factors affecting their social legitimacy, processes for fostering innovation, strengths and limitations, iterative learning and principle outcomes. As key mechanisms to spur low-carbon innovation in industry, the complementary approach of implementing technical demonstration projects whilst reforming rule and governance structures for the building industry is noteworthy. So too is transfer of the lab's ownership to the municipality. Coupled with unwavering political commitment, this has assured the lab's long-term survival despite retirement of key players and reduced institutional support from ETH. Although this case demonstrates clearly positive outcomes from top-down approaches to engineering urban infrastructure for greater energy efficiency, we emphasise the limitations of technocentric approaches, and highlight the eventual need to tackle lifestyles and citizen engagement.
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This paper explores a global trend where universities are collaborating with government, industry and civil society to advance the sustainable transformation of a specific geographical area or societal sub-system. With empirical evidence, we argue that this function of 'co-creation for sustainability' could be interpreted as the seeds of an emerging, new mission for the university. We demonstrate that this still evolving mission differs significantly from the economic focus of the third mission and conventional technology transfer practices, which we argue, should be critically examined. After defining five channels through which a university can fulfil the emerging mission, we analyse two frontrunner 'transformative institutions' engaged in co-creating social, technical and environmental transformations in pursuit of materialising sustainable development in a specific city. This study seeks to add to the debate on the third mission and triple-helix partnerships. It does so by incorporating sustainable development and place-based co-creation with government, industry and civil society.
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The current level of per-capita energy use in developing countries could be sufficient to support the creation of an industrial infrastructure and a standard of living ranging from that presently found in developing countries to that found in Western Europe. This would depend on the extent to which there is a shift to modern energy carriers, an emphasis on energy-efficient end-use technologies now available, and a commercialization of advanced energy-saving technologies. -Authors
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Macroeconomic models predict that the global primary energy demand will increase by a factor of 2–4 by the year 2050. In contrast, climate analyses made by the IPCC claim that CO2 emissions in 2050 should not exceed the values of 1990 or even be 20% lower. By 2100 emissions should be reduced to one third of the present value. The common wisdom to deal with these opposing trends is the concept of de-carbonization, i.e., the continuous decrease of the carbon emission per unit energy utilization. De-carbonization rates needed to compensate for the growing demand while keeping the CO2-emissions constant should at least be 2% per year compared to actual values of 0.3%. The potential of different de-carbonization rate measures is analyzed. It is argued that the goal can only be met if per capita energy utilization in the industrialized countries is significantly reduced from their typical level of 5000–10 000 W. As a realistic target we suggest 2000 Watt per capita, the present global average. This would leave expansion capacity for the developing countries which presently have per capita demand between 300 and 1000 W. Based on the example of Switzerland it is shown that the two key issues to attain this goal are the quality of buildings and the demand for mobility. It is concluded that the conversion of the present energy system into a 2000 W system is neither limited by technology nor by finances but by the acceptance of a new life style in which energy is used more efficiently and more intelligently than today.
Robert Frank caused a national debate in 1995 when he and co-author Philip Cook described the poisonous spread of "winner-take-all" markets. Now he takes a thought-provoking look at the flip side of spreading inequality: as the super-rich set the pace, everyone else spends furiously in a competitive echo of wastefulness. Frank offers the first comprehensive and accessible summary of scientific evidence that our spending choices are not making us as happy and healthy as they could. Furthermore, he argues that human frailty is not at fault. The good news is that we can do something about it. We can make it harder for the super-rich to overspend, and capture our own competitive energy for the public good. Luxury Fever boldly offers a way to curb the excess and restore the true value of money.
Sustainable development in its literal meaning as a strategy which depends on renewable resources cannot be attained for the present global energy needs. A more realistic goal, the concept of constant time of safe practice, is proposed according to which the time into the future should not decrease during which the actual strategy of development (as given by the overall policy regarding population growth, energy, economy, land use, et cetera) can be guaranteed - to the best of our knowledge - as being safe and sustainable. Since every mode of energy supply, whether from renewable sources or not, limits the society's option to some extent, it is proposed to put an absolute limit to the level of energy use. The principle of energy bounds is meant as an alternative to the method of energy taxation. The former addresses directly the ultimate goal to reduce our energy dependence while the latter, due to adjustment of the energy needs to the new prices, may not be the adequate tool to bring about, in the long run, a smaller rate of energy degradation.