We live in a world where renewable energy is taking place and the kind of energy won't be the only thing to change. In a few years we will face the necessity of a new, modern and efficient global energy system, i.e. a structure including:
I. Searching of energy sources. The search of sources such as oil, natural gas and coal will reduce through the years since the search of renewable sources (solar, wind, hydro) will be integrated in the proper power plant. This is one of the great advantages of renewables; fortunately we don't have to extract wind and bring it to a power plant.
II. Production of energy. This category includes every kind of power plant. The construction of renewable power plants is rapidly increasing and new renewable technologies are being developed (such as Concentrated Photovoltaic, Enhanced Geothermal, Biofuels...).
III. Energy storage. It's an essential part of global energy system and like energy production, energy storage will evolve adapting itself to new kinds of energy. New energy storage systems are the smart grid or hydrogen cells (part of the hydrogen economy, i.e. an economy system where fuels are substituted by hydrogen).
IV. Energy transport. Pipelines, transport ships, gas-ducts... Leaks and incidents make these transports ways unsafe and for sharing energy at a global level innovation is required. The first step to the future of energy transport? Wireless energy, i.e. the transmission of electrical energy from a power source to an electrical load without man-made conductors. It sounds impossible but it is. The most common form is using direct induction followed by resonant magnetic induction. Other methods are electromagnetic radiation in the form of microwaves or lasers.
V. Energy sharing. It already exists, just think to the quantity of oil that is transported from one country to another. Changing the production of energy also the way energy is shared is going to change. It's unbelievable that the 0.04% of solar power of Sahara can meet Europe energy demand. There are ongoing energy infrastructure projects to connect different countries with different and complementary energy sources.
VI. Energy usage. The last part of the process. The ways to distribute energy are many and some of them very innovative. For example a smart grid: a modernized electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.
This system will drastically reduce any kind of waste of energy. There are issues and controversies regarding each of these new ways to build a more functioning world but I think it's inevitable and most of all it's better, for us and for the environment.
Photo from NASA. Representation of space-based solar power. The future of photovoltaic?