Earth or Mars, the future is all about reusability

From recycled products to a circular economy, we must invest more to create an innovative energy future.

We are all caught up in a culture of consuming, using and disposing of things. But these things’ then become waste that clogs up the Earth’s ecosystems. So we ask: what is more logical than creating or harnessing things that we can use again and again? It saves us money in the long term, avoids unnecessary waste and opens up possibilities that we have only dreamed of.

So here’s the good news. A tidal power station in the Pentland Firth between mainland Scotland and Orkney broke the world record last month for electricity generation from tides.

During August, two tidal turbines produced enough energy to power 2,000 Scottish homes. And studies have showed that this site alone has potential to generate 43 per cent of the total electricity used in Scotland. Scotland is also host to the world’s first community-owned tidal power turbine, which started exporting electricity to the local grid back in 2014. This shows that communities can be in control of building a new energy future.

Then there’s Mars. Elon Musk is certainly pushing the boundaries of energy creativity on Earth right now, making electric cars economically viable and desirable. But for his pet project of building a human colony on Mars, he has established reusability as a key challenge. And this is all about economics. Musk said: To make Mars trips possible on a large enough scale to create a self-sustaining city, full reusability is essential.”

So, whether we are talking about our plans to build thriving communities on Earth, or on Mars, it won’t happen unless we really commit and invest in solving our reusability challenge.

Change takes time, so there’s no time to waste. Successes like tidal energy in Scotland are only possible with long-term commitments to guide investment.

Unfortunately, the UK government doesn’t seem very interested. Almost half of the money the UK spent on energy abroad in recent years went on fossil fuels while barely more than a fifth was spent on renewable energy sources. And, despite having the relatively low target of getting 15 per cent of all energy from renewables by 2020, the UK still has more ground to make up than all but three of the other European Union countries.

Change takes time, so there’s no time to waste. Successes like tidal energy in Scotland are only possible with high-level long-term commitments in place to guide the investment that is needed. Businesses, local authorities, innovators and communities are still waiting for a clear commitment from the UK government to long-term innovation funding for renewable energy sources, including community-led energy projects, and to rapidly phase out support for fossil fuels.

A new economy based on reusability is not only desirable but possible. No matter how hard the challenge might be, once we know what we want to achieve, we are already halfway there. So let’s not stop now.

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