Theme 1: The Energy Context
What are the geographical dimensions of energy transitions?
Nearly everything that we identify as “modern” across our global landscape has emerged because of humanity’s energy innovations. In cities and towns buildings are lit and made comfortable, regardless of season, by all manner of energy solutions and design. Food has been cooked using wood and later by gas, electric, and even solar devices. Landscapes have been reshaped by combustion engine machinery. And, human mobility far and wide has co-evolved with the harnessing of wind, coal, oil, and electricity. The nature of these various energy resources has driven profound geographic changes to land, water, and air at local, regional and global scales from every phase of energy development and use. This session will help to build a shared understanding of how energy of all kinds has shaped the modern global landscape and identify key transitional moments in this energy history.
Theme 2: Environmental Consequences of Energy Supply and Demand
How important are location, scale, and networks in influencing the ecological consequences of energy?
Energy systems have clear ecological consequences that have impacted the sustainability of particular geographies over time. Fossil fuels have brought with them a geography of resource exploitation, distribution, and use that have hardly been pristine – with oil spills, brownfields, and pollution from emissions. Modern electrical generation, whether driven by coal, natural gas, or uranium has shaped cities and rural localities. The growing energy usage of a global population has created a geography of pollution that can only be understood by mapping change over time. This session will take a geographic lens to understanding how energy-fueled progress can be weighed against its ecological consequences.
Theme 3: Geopolitics of Energy Systems
What will be the global energy map and its geopolitical implications in 2050?
Understanding the current and projected changes in the global energy map is critical. Industrial interests, government regulatory agencies, technological advances, as well as existing and new distribution systems will shape the global energy landscape. Surveying these developments through a geopolitical lens underscores the dynamic and volatile features of energy production, potential conflict areas, and potential areas of cooperation. This session explores the geopolitical dimensions of energy futures.
Theme 4: Emerging Energy Technologies
What new technologies and approaches will reshape the energy terrain?
Many new technologies, business models, and public policies will reshape global energy patterns of supply, demand, impact, and human well-being. Shale and the exploitation of natural gas resources have had huge impacts on the energy landscape over the past decade, a trend that will likely continue. Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass are growing at explosive rates over specific geographic areas, due to various policy, price, and environmental factors. The long-time investment in Generation IV nuclear power plants promises the potential of highly distributed, long-term base load generation. New materials like graphene, local microgrids, and new forms of energy storage offer the potential for more resilient energy infrastructures. This session investigates new energy technologies, and new technologies shaping energy, that will impact the changing geography of energy.
Theme 5: Geospatial Technologies and Energy
How will the production, distribution and consumption of energy be influenced by geospatial technologies?
Geospatial technologies and geospatial data sources have opened new frontiers in investing, monitoring, and distributing energy sources. Geographic Information Systems (GIS), remote sensing, crowdsourcing technologies, geospatial big data, geospatial twists on Artificial Intelligence, and automation are enabling geographic insights to be derived and applied at the global scale to energy systems. This session will explore how geospatial technologies will shape the future of energy discovery, exploitation, generation, storage, transmission, distribution, and consumption. It will also focus on how geospatial technologies and geospatial data sources will help us tackle the complex social welfare and environmental justice issues that naturally arise from humanity’s quest for energy.
Theme 6: Social Dimensions of Energy Access
How will the growing demands of the world’s 9 billion people influence energy access, especially in the developing world?
While the industrialized countries of the world generate and consume the vast majority of the energy on the planet, they hold a minority of the global population. As the developing world hosts the rise of the global middle class, their appetite for energy will grow enormously while capital investment and access to energy may lag. There are opportunities for the developing world to leapfrog old energy technologies the same way they used wireless communications to avoid the developed world’s costly legacy of wireline telecommunications. Yet considerable social justice issues are at play, including the environmental consequences that will shape their everyday lives. This session will explore the geographies of energy poverty and energy access across the developing world, including indigenous peoples, and how we can find our way to an energy resilient future that support social justice and protect our planet.
Theme 7: Energy Adaptation Strategies
How will energy systems adapt to climate change?
Climate change will profoundly influence the adaptations that our energy infrastructure will need to accommodate. As weather patterns change, sea level rises, plants and animal distributions adjust, human migrations continue to escalate, and disease vectors are altered, energy planning will face major challenges that will impact capital investment, commodity pricing, and geopolitics the world over. Sea level rise alone will threaten an enormous proportion of generation assets located in coastal and riverine areas. As populations adapt to these changes, generation equipment, resource movement and transmission will forcibly adjust in response. Investment in new generation technologies will place increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, new forms of energy production will emerge to meet new ecologically minded demand in both old and new spatial patterns of settlement. This session explores how various climate adaptations will fundamentally reshape the future geography of energy.