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David Fickling

The Global Energy Drought May Herald a Future of Excess

In producing electricity, a buffer of waste is a good thing. In the renewable era, we’ll need that more than ever.

How to overwhelm an energy shortage.

How to overwhelm an energy shortage.

Photographer: Soeren Bidstrup/AFP/Getty

Our energy system is built upon a mountain of waste. Believe it or not, that’s a good thing.

Look at the journey that power takes to your plug socket from its original source, and you’ll find excess and overcapacity every step of the way. All electricity grids are designed with a reserve margin — some 10% or so in excess of expected peak demand, that can be called on in exceptional circumstances to prevent blackouts.