Presentation: “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”

Presentation: “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air”


Professor of physics David MacKay wrote “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” (SEWTHA) in 2009 in attempt to bring quantification to the discussion on sustainable energy. Regarding the debate surrounding various forms of energy, he suggests we need fewer adjectives (in his view “hot air”) and more numbers. MacKay takes the UK as the boundary for his energy analysis, and using high level quantification and sound physics reasoning, attempts to quantify the per person energy use of a typical UK citizen and then compares this against the energy that might conceivably be supplied by sustainable sources. He consciously does not consider cost or economic factors, but seeks to determine from a laws-of-nature point of view if a sustainable UK is even possible. He concludes that a sustainable energy UK might be possible, but would require radical and sweeping changes to the both UK society and the landscape. He also discusses how his method can be used for other jurisdictions.

This presentation is a summary of the book, its approach and findings, and it briefly examines how the results might suggest a pathway for long term investment in the energy and infrastructure sectors.


Steven Lightfoot, Eng., SNC-Lavalin Thermal Power Division, Montreal

Presentation time:

45 minutes (approximately 45 slides)