The energy efficient solutions of the future need to be built on the basis of an overall picture of how energy efficiency will or can be created in the total system of society.
There has to be overall assumptions about the volumes of goods and people that will need to be transported in the production systems and for leisure in the future. There hass to be assumptions about the role of the cities, their level of self-sufficiency and the role of the countryside, and the location of industry, and administrative functions. The assumption put forward in Global Energy Transformation is that many things will need to change rather dramatically, because we will not have enough energy to maintain current systems in the form that we see them at present. This is due to the global peak in oil production (Peak Oil) that is imminent.
Based on a few overall scenarios, we can model the transportation systems of the future. We need systems for intercontinental transportation of goods and people, based on energy efficient means of transportation, and we need similar systems for medium range (within countries and continents) and local and regional transportation. Again, we need to model these systems on estimates of future transportation volumes.
Once we have developed realistic visions of future logistics, we can discuss the different systems. Clearly, there are differences between countries that force us to use different solutions. In the United States there is a need for connections between a number of very large metropolitan areas, with relatively little people in-between. In Europe, the population is more evenly spread out, but there are significant metropolitan areas that need efficient connections between them. In a country like Sweden, we have a few medium sized centers, with a number of smaller nodes between them.
We know that in order to maintain systems that are similar to the ones that we have, we will have to develop very large amounts of renewable energy very rapidly. We can start to calculate the amounts and the volumes of raw materials or solar energy that we will need. We may be able to reduce the amount of energy needed, if we aim to change production and transportation structures. We can calculate the energy need within different future systems, based on different assumptions of the future.
One thing we can also be certain of is that a future situation will appear, regardless of what we do, but in order to create a future that we want, we need to manage the process of transformation. If we want to create new transportation systems, we cannot only focus on transportation technology and systems, we need to understand the context within which transportation functions, and model transportation solutions based on expected changes in the overall system.
This argument is developed in more detail in “Global Energy Transformation”: