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Renewable Energy: A Very Short Introduction

JelleyThe publisher of the Very Short Introduction series, OUP, claim such books (they list over 600 titles) are the perfect way to quickly get ahead in a new subject. But clearly such books are a real challenge to write. To paraphrase Mark Twain, short stories are harder to write than novels, because in a short story every word has to count, while the narrative in a novel can meander. Nick Jelley, an emeritus professor of physics, has taken this challenge to heart by writing a book of 131 pages, 'Renewable Energy: A Very Short Introduction', small enough to fit into my jacket pocket. 

Jelley covers all the essentials needed for anybody to get up-to-speed on all aspects of renewable energy; why they are needed (CO2 excesses, greenhouse effects, climate change, pollution), what processes there are, how these different processes work, the economics and the controversies and, of course, what developments are in the pipeline. Thus we learn about the main renewable sources of energy (mostly derived from the sun, p2), solar photo-voltaics, wind then biomass, hydropower, tidal and wave and from the earth, geothermal. Wind and solar farms can now provide the cheapest electricity in many parts of the world and maybe could provide all of the world's energy needs without contributing to climate change or pollution. Jelley even tells us how huge the turbine blades are, how silicon wafers are made, about energy mining and the innovative developing low carbon technologies, hydrogen, electric vehicles, batteries, heat pumps, energy storage technologies and more. Market forces are fast helping the transition from traditional fossil fuels to renewable energy at country, regional and local levels, but there are strong opposing pressures (particularly political and global power companies) which are outlined. Everything is lucidly discussed.

Throughout this readable text, Jelley emphasises how renewable energy can tackle climate change. Admittedly, some of the illustrations would benefit by being in colour (but this might add to the cost) and I would have liked the list of abbreviations to have been expanded to include some explanations e.g. GDP, fuller definitions of power and energy, the significance of the size of  kilo-, mega-, giga- terra-watts with more examples. Such items may be known to the science-based readers but may not be to those beginning their journey in understanding renewable energy. Nevertheless, Jelley has presented a good grounding on all the essential facts for anybody wanting to understand state-of-the-art renewable energy and its benefits to climate change. Clearly, Nick Jelley has successfully risen to the Very Short Introduction philosophy by writing this easy-to-understand pocket-sized volume. 

By Richard Dawe

RENEWABLE ENERGY: A VERY SHORT INTRODUCTION by Nick Jelley, 2020. Published by Oxford University Press, Oxford, OX2 6DP, UK  168 pp (pbk). ISBN: 978-0-19-882540-1, List price £8.99.