renewable is cheaper
renewable is cheaper
Technologically speaking, we have all the tools at our disposal required to change the energy infrastructure, and averting runaway climate change. There is no technical or financial reason why this World should not be powered by renewable energy by 2040. The barriers to development are artificial - wrong incentives, weak politics, and insufficient long-term profit seeking on some parts of the energy industry.
Renewable energy technologies have reached technological and market maturity, and can compete with conventional sources in terms of cost. Wind energy is already now cheaper than most conventional fossil-based energy generation.
The main technological barrier to implement large-scale renewable energy infrastructure from the technology perspective is electricity storage. Renewable energy is not primary energy carrier like oil or gas, but utilises natural powers (the sun, wind, flowing water) to generate electricity. The electricity is therefore only available when those powers are available, and electricity cannot be stored in the volumes required to support demand requirements. In order to store electricity, it has to be converted to energy carriers, such as pumping water to higher grounds, or converting water to hydrogen with surplus electricity (when the sun shines, the wind blows). The stored energy can be re-converted back to electricity with fuel cells when required. The hydrogene-fuel cell combination is widely used in specialised applicatons (e.g. in space). However, due to the lack of economics of scale an strategic R&D programs, this technology is still too expensive to be applied at utility scale at this point in time.
...and market distortion: U$500 billion annual subsidies for fossil energy
However, the main barrier is not so much a technical question, but a political. An estimated U$ 544 (2012) billion in direct and indirect subsidies for fossil energy and the lack of a real agenda forward distort the market balance and real prices of non-renewable vs. renewable energy technologies.
Wind mills are a simple technology. Electricity generation from wind is allready cheaper tham most conventional (fossil-based) electricty generation
Solar tehermal power plants concentrate sun rays on a heat carrier that drives a steam turbine, allowing stable base load electricity generation at reasonble cost. The technology could replace most conventional power generation in arid areas
Fossil energy receives significantely higher subsidies than renewable technology. Global subsidies for fossile energy amounted to U$ 544 billion in 2012 (IEA, 2013)