Tom Rand believes if we don’t wean ourselves off coal, oil and gas and “do things right, by 2050 we'll be committed to a future climate in which there (will) only be a quarter of us left.”
Rand is the founder and director of Voice Courier Inc. Green Funds, and author of the recently published “Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, Ten Clean Technologies to Save our World.” He spoke at the Building Owners and Managers Exhibition and Conference (BOMEX) at the Delta Hotel Tuesday.
“We need to see ourselves as global citizens; cities around the world all face the same problem and have the same opportunity and we need to look past the next quarterly statement,” he said.
Rand gave brief overviews of renewable energy sources, including the pros and cons of each, and talked to the audience about economic propositions that could unlock the potential of using buildings to kick the fossil fuel habit.
“The energy use of these buildings can be dynamic, and that’s absolutely key to unlocking the Energy Internet, a phrase I borrowed from Thomas Friedman.”
He describes the Energy Internet as a low-carbon, continent-wide distributed energy system. Rather than using one form of renewable energy it incorporates a number of forms, powering the economy with technology that’s already been invented. The energy sources form a grid over vast geographic areas, broken down into continents, countries, regions and communities.
“If we’re not going to think on that scale, we’re just playing around,” he said. “The Energy Internet is key to kicking the fossil fuel habit. Renewables become reliable only in the context of this larger sort of Internet picture.”
He compared the costs of building a clean energy system with the costs of a fossil fuel system.
“The only way to compare clean energy (and fossil fuels) is to compare similar capital investments. ... What do you get for a trillion dollars?” he asked.
“I’m talking about replacing all nuclear, all natural gas, all coal, all oil. It’s a complete myth that renewable resources are the new kid on the block. They’re not,” he stressed.
Enhanced geothermal energy, mostly untapped, can supply between three and 30,000 times current primary energy needs, he said.
“You drill down six to 10 kilometres — anywhere — you reach hot dry rock, you fracture the rock in the same way as you fracture rock to get natural gas. But you’re just deeper and you extract heat instead of gas, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
His own hotel in Toronto, which he says is North America’s greenest, is run geothermally.
“Seventy-five per cent less carbon emissions,” he said. “I unlocked five per cent of my building’s capital to do the energy retrofits and I got 75 per cent reduction. The loan payments are less than the energy savings. I’m wealthier as a hotelier by having reduced my carbon.”
Aside from focusing his efforts on carbon mitigation, Rand is active in Cleantech venture capital, technology incubation and commercialization, and public advocacy.