Maximise your power
Energy is the big story in Europe now – and you have a major role to play!
Right now, you’re probably thinking, why should I bother? One small light won’t change the world. Well, just think…
A quick calculation…
One 100W light bulb left on for one hour every day consumes 36,5 kWh of energy per year. There are 75 million teenagers in Europe. If we all switch off one light for one hour each day – that’s 36,5 x 75 million = 2738 million kWh of energy saved.
This would prevent 1.37 million tonnes of carbon being released into the atmosphere – the amount generated by one small power station (150 MWe).
So, you really do have the power to be the hero in our Energy story!
The story doesn’t end there
Switching off lights is a good start. But there are many other ways you can help save the planet’s energy for the future.
CFL light bulbs use one fifth of the energy of traditional bulbs, and last eight times as long. They cost more to buy, but actually save you money because they are so efficient. Encourage your school, your family and your friends to see the light and make the change!
Ditch the duck
Having short showers instead of long baths also helps to save energy and water. The duck may not like it. But every time he takes a dip, he speeds up global warming.
Switch it off!
6% of energy in Europe is used by electrical equipment left on standby. When the red light shows you are still leaking electricity! So remember to always pull the plug on equipment such as playstations, CD players and computers!
Use the sun’s energy
It’s so easy to switch on the heating or tumble drier, we often forget there is a brilliant source of energy in our garden. Always dry your clothes the natural way when possible. On sunny winter days, turn down the thermostat and open the curtains. The sun’s energy will come shining in and heat the house for free!
These are just a few simple example of ways to take Energy Action and help save Europe’s reources for your future.
Energy for life
In Europe our way of life still depends on fossil fuels. These were created millions of years ago from the remains of prehistoric forests.
Beneath the ground, time and pressure slowly turned the trees into vast fields of oil, gas and coal. However, the world has already used up half these fuels, and in a few decades they will be gone forever.
So it is vital that Europe develops safe sources of energy that will not run out; energy from the sun, wind, water and plants.
Renewable energy is nothing new. For centuries, buildings have been designed to capture the heat of the sun. Wood has been used for heating and cooking. Wind energy was used to mill flour, and to transport goods and people around the world on large sailing ships.
The resources of renewable energy may not have changed, but the technology definitely has. Modern wind turbines have become highly efficent and now generate electricity for thousands of homes in Europe. And they don’t produce the carbon emissions that cause global warming.
Solar energy is also becoming increasingly important. Solar panels use photovoltaics made of special types of silicon. These convert sunlight into electricity.
Solar thermal energy is used to provide heat and hot water. The tubes above absorb the sun’s heat in a highly efficient way, and pass the heat via pipes to a water tank.
Hydro power is a major source of power in many European countries, particularly Scandinavia. Dams are used to create reservoirs. Water is then accelerated down steep pipes and used to power turbines that generate electricity. Again, this resource is renewable and doesn’t cause carbon emissions.
The most diverse form of renewable energy is biomass – energy from biological matter. There are many different sources of biomass, including forestry residues, food wastes, animal wastes and energy crops.
Wood, straw and energy crops, such as willow and miscanthus, can be combusted in power stations to create electricity and heat.
Manure, agricultural and food wastes can be converted into biogas. This can be used to generate heat and electricity and as a transport fuel.
Scientists are developing new ways to make biofuels from trees, energy plants, waste materials, straw and even algae (tiny green plants that grow in ponds and the sea). It takes time and money, but the fuels of the future could soon be used by lorries, ships and planes for long journeys. For short journeys in cities, smaller electric vehicles may be the best way to travel.
Fight climate change
Carbon dioxide is a gas that occurs naturally in the atmosphere. As plants grow, they absorb carbon dioxide, which is combined with water to create simple sugars. These are then turned into more complex compounds that form the structure of the plant. Energy for this process (photosynthesis) comes from the sun.
When a plant dies, is burned or is eaten by animals, the carbon dioxide is released back into the atmosphere. The carbon cycle helps create a stable environment for all living things, including us!
Prehistoric forests absorbed millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. As the planet changed, the forests were buried under the ground, with the carbon trapped in the trees.
Over millions of years, heat and pressure turned the trees into oil, coal and gas. In the last hundred years, we have used half of the planet’s fossil fuel reserves for energy and transport – rapidly releasing millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere.
There are not enough plants on the planet to absorb all this extra carbon dioxide gas, so it escapes into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide lets sunlight through, but reflects heat back onto the surface of the earth. This is causing the planet’s temperature to slowly increase.
Global warming may result in rising sea levels, coastal erosion and floods. It may cause drought, leading to water supply problems and crop failure. It may also lead to extreme weather, such as storms and hurricanes, which cause severe damage to buildings, roads and infrastructure (communications, water and electricity supplies).
Go radical – join the transport revolution
In the last century the internal combustion engine transformed the globe. It enabled people to travel faster and further than ever before, by car, by plane, by boat, by train.
But the new found freedom of the 20th Century came at a price. As more and more people travelled more and more miles, sulphur, lead and a host of other toxins were released into the atmosphere. This posioned the environment – damaging plants, animals and people.
However, the biggest problem is carbon dioxide, a gas which is produced when fuels are combusted. Millions of tonnes of this gas are released into the atmosphere every year. The carbon dixoide forms a layer that reflects sunlight back onto the earth, causing climate change.
Scientists vary in their predictions about how bad and how fast global warming will occur. However, there is no doubt that climate change is already affecting everyone in Europe. It causes more extreme weather – storms, floods, droughts – and other environmental problems.
These problems affect crops, animals and water supplies – the fundamental things that we rely on for our survival. To help slow down climate change, we need to change our transport habits now.
Put your best foot forward!
The best and easiest alternative to the car is your own two feet!
Walk to school. Cycle to the shops. You will get fitter and leaner. You will save money and prevent pollution.
Whether you are pounding the pavement or pushing the pedals, every time you leave the car at home you will help slow down global warming.
Take the train!
Of course, it’s not possible to walk everywhere. What about longer journeys? Well, it is so easy to get in the car, we often forget about the bus and the train. These are often much more convenient, especially if you have to travel through a large city, where the roads are congested and parking is very expensive.
Trains and buses are heavier than cars and have bigger engines. So they use more fuel. However, they carry far more passengers, so the amount of carbon dioxide produced per person per km is much lower.
Share your car with a friend
Sometimes, of course, the car is the only option. But, there are still ways to travel more sensibly.
How often have you driven all the way into town right behind a neighbour? Or met someone you know in the car park?
Next time you are travelling to a football match, the cinema, or a school event, check if a friend needs a lift. It’s less boring if you have someone to share the journey with you – and your families can save money.
Discover better ways to travel in your town
Across Europe, there are many schemes that help to promote public transport. Why not contact your local council or energy agency to discover more?
If you are under eighteen, you will often find that you qualify for much cheaper fares.
Cleaner fuels for a brighter future
The world has currently used up half its supplies of fossil fuels. However, new fuels are being developed. These will help our resources of oil last longer and ensure that we have energy supplies for transport in the future.
Meanwhile manufacturers are producing innovative new cars that offer greater efficiency and cleaner motoring.
Many new cars now feature hybrid electric/petrol engines or very economical diesel engines, both of which provide excellent fuel efficiency.
The electric engine takes over in city traffic, helping to reduce pollution, and boosts the performance of the petrol engine only when required.
Biofuels – biodiesel and bioethanol – are also being increasingly used in Europe. A new generation of sustainable advanced biofuels is now being developed. These use agricultural and forestry wastes, vegetable wastes, and energy crops that can be grown on land that is not suitable for food production. New technologies may even soon be able to use algae to produce transport fuels.
Some completely electric cars are now available. These have a limited range, but are a good solution in city centres as they produce no emissions*. Hydrogen and fuel cells are another potential transport fuel. Again, lots more information is available on our web links page.
*Energy is needed to produce electricity and hydrogen. Currently this is likely to come from a fossil fuel source. However, renewable resources can also be used to produce hydrogen and electricty. New technology will help to make these fuels of the future.