Energy Arithmetic without the hot air

It is over two years since I first read the book ‘Sustainable Energy without the hot air‘  by Prof. David Mackay (Available for free download) and I din’t expect that I would get an opportunity to listen to his talk and today it just happened. Prof David Mackay spoke on the topic ‘Energy Arithmetic’ drawing on from his work and the book on how the climate change problem should be addressed.

Prof with energy arithmetic case study
Prof with energy arithmetic case study

In this talk Prof. Mackay stressed on the need to limit the global energy temperatures and cut down the emissions. In addition to his now famous energy balance calculations in which he calculates the energy need and the energy production capabilities he also spoke about what he calls the “Inconvenient Truths”.


The inconvenient truth

  • We got to get the emission rate down from business as usual (if possible get it to zero)
  • People are unaware of the scale of action required
  • And they are misled by myths
  • Low carbon technologies are expensive
  • They have front loaded costs

Can we reach the goal?

Prof. Mackay demonstrated a few tools which simulates our energy consumption pattern and predicts the future.

The Global Calculator

Global Calculator

And for Indians there is India Energy Security Scenario

Indian Energy Securities scenario

And finally what if we miss the targets, any back-up plans??


Geoengineering maybe!!


[1] ‘Sustainable Energy without the hot air‘ 





  1. Thank you for reminding me of Mackay’s book. It inspired me some years ago, and I think is one of the most important ever written. I am if anything a little more optimistic than Prof Mackay. I think some serious reductions can come via behaviour change enabled by IT – for example in the field of travel, shared electric car use can reduce vehicle miles travelled and the number of cars that must be manufactured – better communications can reduce the need to travel – IT can bring expertise to where it is needed – e.g. medical specialists, and so on.

    The global calculator is also useful. For example I’m always surprised about the impact of food changes. We are destroying the planet for such trivial reasons….

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