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Energy and material consumption

Transition to a more sustainable society is to a high extend constituted by profound changes in two areas: our production and consumption of energy and materials. But these cannot be considered as purely technical issues; they depend on and involve social dynamics at all levels.

Sustainable energy supply is about increasing the use of renewable energy sources and making our use of energy more efficient. Sustainable use of materials is about increased reuse and recycling of scarce goods and resources. Transition in both these areas comprise changes in the economy, in everyday life and the interaction between people and technology and in social norms and values.

We assess the preconditions for and consequences of sustainable solutions regarding energy supply, energy consumption and use of materials, and how solutions can be integrated and regulated at all levels of society. Our analyses include both direct and indirect consequences of the solutions. Not all renewable energy and recycling solutions are necessarily environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. Some solutions are associated with considerations and contradictions e.g.:

  • There are potential conflicts regarding the siting of windmills, solar panel farms and biogas facilities.
  • Recycling the resources in waste requires source separation at household level and cooperation between many actors throughout the waste stream.
  • Many energy solutions are based on the involvement of citizens and businesses, who contribute by reducing energy consumption, installing solar panels and other micro facilities for energy production and adapt to flexible energy grids.
  • Producing biomass requires land, which is a scarce resource. We must therefore prioritize whether we will use the land to produce biomass, food or preserve nature as it is.
  • Several interests must be taken into account when we use political instruments to develop sustainable use of energy and materials. We must therefore balance between what is overall beneficial to society and what is feasible and useful for the individual company or household.