I've just settled down to play Chevron's new climate simulation game 'EnergyVille'. It's a bit like Sim City, you get given a city of 3.9 million virtual people, and you have to power it. Join me, as I discover just how far an oil company simulation can go toward a green future...
OK, at first glance it seems like my city is pretty well situated. I've got some hills in the north, a big river to the east and ocean on the west. I've also got a range of technologies available to me, namely biomass, coal, hydro, natural gas, nuclear, petroleum, solar and wind. The game works in two stages, first from now to 2015, and then from 2015 to 2030.
Play along by going here http://www.willyoujoinus.com/energyville/
In each stage you choose a power-mix for your city, and then either a 'do nothing', 'do something' or 'do a lot' approach to energy conservation. Well, how can I resist the chance to implement my own Energy Revolution? Here we go...
I decided to start out with Hydro power. While I'm doing this Chevron tell me that Hydro power can be bad for the environment, and is vulnerable to drought. Yikes. After hydro comes wind power. I'm allowed to put some in, but this time I'm told that too many wind farms takes up too much space; *and* while I could build an offshore windfarm doubts exist as to whether it could withstand storms. So I can't.
Next up solar. Solar I'm told is viable, but has security implications. Large solar farms are, it seems, vulnerable to terrorist threats. Quite why this doesn't apply to damns, power plants, windfarms or anything else isn't really mentioned.
By now I've got a warning. It says
"Warning! Gotham needs petroleum. Though alternative fuels can reduce the need for petroleum airplanes and a significant portion of ground vehicles will continue to rely on petroleum for fuel." - I'm starting to detect an agenda here... This warning is also covering the thing that lets me see how much of my energy needs I've met.
Anyway, onward to biomass. 3.9 million people produce an awful lot of combustible material. But it turns out that the game is talking about bio-fuels for cars, not biomass for say co-fired power generation which isn't even on the menu.
Ah well, finally, with nothing left to do I add an oil rig, and lo and behold my city is properly powered. Now I get some options about policy over the next 8 years. I can do nothing about energy conservation, I can do the cheap stuff, or I can pay up front. I opt to be radical and go for the expensive conservation stuff.
Then I get a nice little run through of what happens to my city. In 2010 my Dam becomes more efficient. In 2013 ethanol from 'switchgrass and biowaste' kicks in big time. Then I get to play on to 2030.
The first thing I note about 2030 is that my overall energy needs have risen by 50%, leaving me with only 2/3rds of the power I need. So I upgrade all my renewables and once again I'm told I just don't have enough petrol for all those cars. Maybe I should invest in better public transport - but there's no button for that. Still, remembering that biomass has improved I wonder if I can upgrade that - and I can! So no increased production of fossil fuels needed to get from 2015 to 2030.
Once again I get to pick an energy conservation strategy, and once again I go for the aggressive options. In 2022 the prospect of war disrupts oil supplies. In 2027 all new cars have to be flex-fuel powered or plug-in hydrids. Looks like my biomass plant is paying off..
So how did I do? Well I'm ranking 11500 out of 118000 players, with my green city. But I'm sure I can do better. After all, my solar plants are worryingly vulnerable to terrorists! Perhaps I can replace them with something else, and of course I keep spending money on expensive stuff, like energy conservation and wind-farms. Maybe I can do better if I think like the executive of an 'energy' firm, after all my city of the future gets only 8% of it's energy from fossil fuels...
Check back later for part 2, in which I try and take the top spot and deconstruct some of the thinking behind the game...