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Most governments have recognized the need to shift to sustainable energy production and storage. And yet, there still isn’t a clear, defined way to move forward.

“Energy is the biggest question on the planet,” says Warren Mabee, Canada Research Chair in Renewable Energy Development and Implementation at Queen’s University.

“Fossil fuels are limited resources – we have to find better ways of generating the energy that we need,” he says.

As Director of Queen’s Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy, Mabee researches policy and technologies for renewable energy, in hopes of predicting the best ways to generate energy in the future.

“Right now, renewable energy is around the margin of our non-sustainable resources, but we need renewable energy to become dominant,” he says.

Whether it’s looking at the potential of wind power or solar power, or harnessing biomass more effectively, Mabee says, “new energy technology is essential to moving energy and business forward.”

One area of focus is agricultural biomass, which is derived from plant materials. Biomass can create heat or be converted to liquid biofuels, depending on the harnessing technology that’s being used.

And these harnessing technologies – in addition to renewable energy technologies – are evolving too.

“Just look at solar panels as an example. They’ve quickly become more cost-effective,” says Mabee. “We are making more and getting better at doing it.”

As part of their work, Mabee and his team look at how governments can best address their energy needs.

“We try to keep track of what is working and what isn’t, for example, diesel fuel versus alcohol-based fuel,” says Mabee. They also factor in economic considerations, and environmental and lifecycle assessments.

“Energy policy is based on science – not wish fulfillment,” says Mabee.

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