Switch – The Movie. What is the future of Energy?


“Switch” is a film produced as part of a project of the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas. The project’s aims are to build a base of understanding about Energy, to promote its conservation and efficient use and to provide an objective view on how the world can meet both increasing demand for energy and environmental goals.

In September 2013, the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society teamed up with the Institute of Professional Engineers NZ to host a screening of the film, followed by a discussion led by a panel of experts.

In the film, Dr Scott Tinker, Director of the Bureau, leads the viewer on a 90-minute tour to illustrate the different ways the world produces the energy it consumes. Using the amount of energy the average person in the Western world consumes per year as a handy metric, he compares the amount of energy each primary or secondary source can produce. He vividly makes the point that despite measures to conserve energy and increased production efficiency, global demand will continue to grow in step with the economies in developing countries such as China and India.

“Switch” owes its title to the notion that, given the earth’s finite resources and mankind’s environmental consciousness, at some point in the future, oil and coal as primary sources of energy will be overtaken by cleaner and more sustainable alternatives (gas, nuclear, and renewables such as hydro, wind, geothermal and solar). “When,” it asks, “is that likely to take place, and how will the energy mix look when it does?”

Following a break for refreshments, we reconvened to hear the views of Geothermal Energy specialist Ian Thain, Electrical Engineering Consultant John Geoghegan, and John Penny from ABB Power Electronics. They were able to give a New Zealand perspective on this topic and answer some of the many questions that the film had generated in our audience of over 70.

We thank Eastern Institue of Technology (EIT) for hosting the screening at their Taradale campus.

To stage this event, the HB Branch of Royal Society purchased the rights to show the film for educational purposes. If any schools or colleges would like to host a screening, we would be happy to help; please contact Antony Steiner using the “Council” link at the top of this web page.

Reviewed by Antony Steiner

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