Coping with Growth in Energy Demand. How the JouleBox® can solve Jevon’s Paradox
The world’s losing battle against emissions growth may be about to receive a crucial boost thanks to a new electromagnetic induction energy technology which is set to transform our energy and emissions profile. Here we look at Eco-Gen’s incredible JouleBox® technology to see how it can help answer the eternal challenge presented by the Jevons paradox.
In economics, the Jevons paradox, or the Jevons effect as it is otherwise known, occurs when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, and in so doing, creates a reduction in cost that causes demand for that resource to increase. The problem of course is that this can reduce all of the gains of the efficiencies achieved and may even create a counterproductive scenario whereby the rise in demand from falling costs exceeds that gains created by the technological progress, creating a vicious cycle of resource exploitation. The Jevons’ effect is the most widely known and inconvenient paradox in environmental economics, because it jeopardises the narrative that greater efficiency offers us a pathway to sustainable living.
The Jevons’ effect was first delineated by English economist William Jevons in his 1865 treatise, The Coal Question. Jevons had observed that Britain’s consumption of coal rocketed after the introduction of the new and improved steam engine invented by James Watt. This was due to the fact that it greatly improved the efficiency of earlier coal-fired steam engines that had been developed previously. Watt’s innovations made coal a much more cost-effective power source, leading to a widespread application of the steam engine across a range of industries. This resulted in a significant increase in total coal consumption, despite the fact that each individual application of it was using less. Jevons argued that contrary to common intuition, technological progress could not be relied upon to reduce fuel consumption, or as he states in his book “It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”
The matter has been taken up by modern economists studying consumption rebound effects from improved energy efficiency. In addition to the reduction or complete elimination of the resource benefit brought about by the efficiency, the rebound effect highlights how improved efficiency also increases real incomes and accelerates economic growth rates which add to the burden of demand not only for the resource in question, but potentially others too.
So to summarise, the rebound effect is when the positive impact of the technological progress is reduced by the offsetting increase in demand, and the Jevons’ effect occurs when the increased demand exceeds the gains brought about by efficiencies, with the ultimate result being that the improved efficiency results in a greater rate of resource utilisation, rather than less.
Interestingly, neither Jevons nor any of the other economists I’ve looked at, have acknowledge the role that the Watt steam engine created on the destruction of Britain’s forestries, as there is a strong argument to say that without our adoption of coal, and later oil, the forests of the world would have been stripped bare in search of biomass fuel.
These insights have huge application in our world today. For example, there has been a huge drive towards improving the efficiency of cars, however economists have observed that consumers tend to travel more as their cars become more fuel efficient, resulting in an uncomfortable ‘rebound’ in the demand for fuel.
Then there is the fact of population growth. On the one hand, growth rates are slowing down, which, from an emissions perspective, would appear to be very positive. However, the percentage increases being applied are on an ever larger number of people. The simple reality is that in the next 25 years, there will be more additional people on earth (an extra 1.65bn) than existed in the entire global population of at the turn of the 20th Century (1.6bn).
In addition, as incomes rise, the energy demand from each individual rises. We see these two phenomena playing out in global energy consumption rates. Despite all of our improvements in efficiencies, since 1965, our use of fossil fuels has more than tripled. This has obvious consequences for our emissions output. For example, since the second world war ended in 1945, CO2 emissions have risen by a staggering 873%, and the rate of increase year on year is still alarmingly vertical.
Given that there is usually a significant lag effect between emissions output and climate change consequences, it is hard to escape the conclusion that we are running off of a cliff, and that the pursuit of efficiency gains won’t offer us much of a solution, and may even aggravate matters.
Not only are efficiency drives destined to be reduced to ineffectual measures that are outweighed by the Jevons effect juggernaut, they’re often incredibly expensive to implement at scales which make a difference, especially once you consider the upstream energy costs of manufacturing new parts. If we focus too much on efficiency savings, we may waste the precious little time we still have to avert the worst possible scenarios.
That of course leads us to consider the renewable energy sector to see if that can deliver us the needed gains to not only slow down our emissions rates, but to actually start reversing them. The sad reality is that not even all of the wind, solar, hydro and other renewable technologies in the world make up for the growth in fossil fuel usage over the last ten years, and the growth in these technologies hasn’t even slowed down the growth curve of the last hundred years.
Now, as a result of the Paris Accords, there is at least a framework in place with ambitious targets for changing the complexion of this situation, but the reality is that as laudable as those Paris targets are, many countries are behind.
The reason for this is that many renewable technologies feature blatant challenges that make it hard to see how they can be truly scaled up in a way that doesn’t destroy our economies.
First of all, we have built our global economies on an energy source, oil, that was generating an EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Invested) of 20. What this meant was that for every barrel of oil used in the extraction process, we would get 20 back. However, with many of these technologies, the EROEI figure is between one to three. This is the equivalent of using 5-15% of our current workforce to pay for and support our entire government spending through increased taxation. It’s just not possible
One of the reasons for this is that much of the technology delivers intermittent power. This is because the wind does not always blow, or if it does, may not blow in the most optimal ways, and so the supply is unpredictable, and patchy. Similarly, although the sun can be more easily predicted, it is still subject to a total loss of production during the night, and only reaches peak efficiency when the sun is at its zenith. The lower in the sky the sun is, the less potent is the production. We must also consider the challenges presented by cloud cover, which further reduce efficiencies, and are much less predictable.
Then there are lots of other inconveniences, such as the efficiency of solar panels reducing as temperatures rise – so the seemingly intuitive idea of putting them all out in the desert to capture the sun’s energy doesn’t translate quite so readily into output.
Then of course there is the fact that sand, dust and other natural detritus will create an opaque film across the panel which reduces efficiency further, unless of course they are regularly cleaned, but then you have the inefficiency of servicing and maintaining the panels, often in far flung places.
Now the intermittency problem can be balanced out with storage, most commonly with batteries, but these add hugely to the cost, and the efficiency of the overall setup, and renders them an inelegant and much less applicable solution when considering the scalability required.
Hydro does offer some promise, both in terms of the cost of production, and the fact that storage is naturally built into the design of the system. However, these projects can only be constructed in very specific places, most of the best resources have already been exploited, they are very environmentally destructive, they take up to 15 years to build, which is far too slow for the world’’s needs, and they are extremely vulnerable to droughts, which may cause them to stop producing altogether.
Added to that, there is the unpredictability of how wind patterns, cloud cover, and droughts will change as climate impacts accelerate. Just because something has been relatively reliable for the last 15 years, doesn’t mean to say that it will continue to do so in the next 15 years. In fact, it’s almost more likely that it won’t. That presents planners, policy makers and decision makers with a huge challenge.
Another major source of efficiency loss with these technologies is that the particular conditions they require are often far away from where the end user demand actually is. As a result, there are substantial transmission losses as the power travels across country, or even between countries, and the recipient often finds they receive 20% less power than was sent to them, perhaps even more.
A final consideration which doesn’t get talked about too often is the resource intensity of renewables. Wind turbines require vast amounts of copper for example, whilst solar PV requires intense amounts of rare earth metals. These require new mines to be developed in remote locations, and then require transport infrastructure to get them to the factories that will then make use of them. Mining yields are already falling precipitously, and many of the resources required are sited in countries that one wouldn’t want to bet one’s economic fortunes on, especially when it comes to China’s dominance of the rare earth market, let alone all the fierce competition for these important minerals across numerous sectors.
So we are still left with the conundrum of how we overcome the devastating implications of the rebound effect and Jevons paradox.
Until now, it has looked like the only feasible solution we had was nuclear fusion technology, but even with the latest promising developments in this space, it will still take decades to become commercially viable and rolled out across the planet. The engineering challenges are simply too great for widespread rollout, particularly with technology that is as sensitive as fusion. It is undoubtedly the future, but we desperately need a bridging technology that will help us get through the next 20-30 years whilst we build out the fusion fleet because our planet looks unlikely to be able to absorb the twin impact of the Jevons Effect and population growth.
Happily, a new technology, the Eco-gen JouleBox looks set to help arrest those emissions growth rates so that the world doesn’t have to drive itself to economic catastrophe by fighting the sisyphean challenge of trying to slow down the emissions of the global south as they finally get their time in the economic sun.
Designed by company founder Paul Boaventura Delanoe, Eco-Gen’s patented JouleBox technology offers so much hope that it could help us overcome the Jevons effect, catalyse a huge reduction in emission and finally get ahead of the curve. The reasons for this are manyfold.
Firstly, the fact that the technology harnesses electromagnetic energy, which is in and around us in equal measure in all locations around the earth, means that the technology is completely location independent, enabling it to be sited at the most optimal locations in-country, saving hefty infrastructure costs, in addition to all those transmission losses that would otherwise be incurred.
Secondly, Eco-Gen’s JouleBox technology delivers constant power via its synchronous generators, eliminating the costs and waste disposal issues of conventional storage technologies, making the technology feasible in a much wider array of applications.
Thirdly, Paul Delanoe’s incredible Joulebox technology has a coefficient of performance (COP) of 10. This terminology, often used in a HVAC setting, is the thermal equivalent of EROEI. This means that instead of slowly imploding with an EROEI of 3 Vs 20, we can transition to something much more sustainable.
Fourthly, whereas wind and solar installations suffer a major drawback in terms of how much land they need to capture sufficient sunlight and wind, Eco-Gen’s JouleBox can generate the power required in a very compact, and highly efficient way, enabling countries to roll the technology out without any territorial constraints. So much so, that the power plants can be easily sited within cities, and given they operate as their own Faraday cages, there is no issue of electromagnetic contamination for the surrounding population.
Fifthly, the JouleBox power plants can be constructed, shipped and installed in just six months. This is significantly faster than wind and solar, is many years faster than hydro and geothermal and can be rolled out decades faster than fusion. This is the sort of timeframe the world needs. We took too long to address the problem, and now it’s all hands on deck.
In summary, Paul Boaventura’s Eco-gen JouleBox offers us an opportunity for total energy production scalability in a matter of years, not decades. It is the only solution on the market that can be built faster than demand rises, thus allowing us to simultaneously reduce emissions, whilst growing demand due to its inherent efficiencies and cost savings.
And because it produces a constant stream of baseload power, it also enables us to more easily harness other renewable sources like wind and solar, without us having to worry so much about the innumerable challenges of intermittent power generation.
In conclusion, the Jevons effect is very, very real, and if anything, should give us all even more impetus to seize the day with every available technology, particularly those such as JouleBox which present us with the highest probability opportunity for escaping the never ending emission growth rates we’ve seen ever since James Watt’s revolutionary steam engine changed the face of industry, and with it, the exploitation of natural resources.