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Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air


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Table of Contents

I Numbers, not adjectives

1 Motivations

2 The balance sheet

3 Cars

4 Wind

5 Planes

6 Solar

7 Heating and cooling

8 Hydroelectricity

9 Light

10 Offshore wind

11 Gadgets

12 Wave

13 Food and farming

14 Tide

15 Stuff

16 Geothermal .

17 Public services

18 Can we live on renewables?

II Making a difference

19 Every BIG helps

20 Better transport

21 Smarter heating

22 Efficient electricity use

23 Sustainable fossil fuels?

24 Nuclear?

25 Living on other countries' renewables?

26 Fluctuations and storage

27 Five energy plans for Britain

28 Putting costs in perspective

29 What to do now .

30 Energy plans for Europe, America, and the World

31 The last thing we should talk about

32 Saying yes


III Technical chapters

A Cars II

B Wind II

C Planes II

D Solar II

E Heating II

F Waves II

G Tide II

H Stuff II

IV Useful data

I Quick reference

J Populations and areas

K UK energy history

List of web links



About the author

About the Author

David MacKay was a Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Cambridge, a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and Regius Professor of Engineering at Cambridge University.

He studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge and then obtained his PhD in Computation and Neural Systems at Caltech - the California Institute of Technology. He returned to Cambridge as a Royal Society research fellow at Darwin College. He is internationally known for his research in machine learning, information theory, and communication systems, including the invention of Dasher, a software interface that enables efficient communication in any language with any muscle. He taught Physics in Cambridge and devoted much of his time to public teaching about energy. He was a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Climate Change.

From 2009 to 2014 he was Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change ("DECC") and in the 2016 New Year's Honours List was awarded a knighthood for services to Scientific Advice in Government and Science Outreach. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 48.


"For anyone with influence on energy policy, whether in government, business or a campaign group, this book should be compulsory reading."

-- Tony Juniper (Former Executive Director, Friends of the Earth)

"At last a book that comprehensively reveals the true facts about sustainable energy in a form that is both highly readable and entertaining."

-- Robert Sansom (EDF Energy)

"MacKay brings a welcome dose of common sense into the discussion of energy sources and use. Fresh air replacing hot air."

-- Prof Mike Ashby Royal Society Research Professor, Principal Investigator, Engineering Design Centre, Cambridge

"This year's must-read book about tackling our future energy needs."

-- The Guardian

"... may be the best technical book about the environment that I've ever read. This is to energy and climate what Freakonomics is to economics."

-- Cory Doctorow * Boing Boing *

"The book is a tour de force ... As a work of popular science it is exemplary ... For anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the real problems involved [it] is the place to start."

* The Economist *

"The first factual meme on renewable energy? A book about climate change that gets rave reviews from folk at oil companies, environmental groups and the Number One Blog of All Time has to be worth a peek."

-- energysource blog * The Financial Times *

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