Energy Return on Investment (EROI) is an important figure of merit for energy sources that tells us whether we get out more energy than we put in, and if so, how much effort it takes to run a vibrant society. I ask 'the father of EROI', Professor Charlie Hall, whether renewable energy is actually a sustainable resource able to power society's transition from fossil energy. In this interview, Prof. Hall describes how renewable energy sources are only sustainable when they form a small fraction of our electrical grid.
World-renowned Professor Emeritus Charles Hall has been a research scientist since 1970, and started teaching in 1972. His work has focused mainly on energy sources. As cheap high return energy sources start to decline his analysis of the impacts of energy return on investment on society have gained prominence. He is interested in understanding the effects of peak oil and declining EROI on economic growth and possibilities, and how that might play out in the developing world. Many of these issues come full circle to the limits to growth arguments that emerged in the 60’s and 70’s.
He is an AAAS Fellow, a Fulbright Fellow (Argentina) and was named one of the 100 Outstanding World Scientists of 2004. He is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Creative Research, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Society for BioPhysical Economics. His work with Murphy and Balogh, “What is the Minimum EROI that a Sustainable Society Must Have?”, was featured as the 10th Anniversary Best Paper published in the Journal Energies for Hall, Murphy and Balogh.