Changing How We Power Our Lives, Scaling Up Renewables

Changing How We Power Our Lives, Scaling Up Renewables

The latest IPCC report on climate solutions released in early April was the first to include a section about innovation and technology development. Even with wind, solar, and batteries becoming better and cheaper, fossil fuels still supply 80% of global energy, so there’s a long way to go. The technology itself is cheap -- the price of energy from solar photovoltaic panels has declined a whopping 89% in the past decade. But there are still plenty of costs associated with getting those panels online: nearly three-quarters of the cost of residential solar is wrapped up in permitting, inspections, and other "soft costs.”

"The technology itself still has room for improvement,” Vox writes, "but what’s needed is not so much a better wind turbine or solar panel as much as broader policy changes that encourage more widespread adoption.”

Bloomberg: Scaling Up Renewable Energy Usage, March 16, 2022.

TODAY: Off-Shore Wind Farms Provide Promising Roadmap For More Clean Energy, September 19, 2021.

Why This Matters

Changing how we supply the energy that powers our lives is essential to tackling the climate crisis. Economics alone don’t solve the problem. In some parts of the world, putting in new wind or solar power is cheaper than running existing fossil fuel power plants. But to actually be built, these alternative energies need the backing of policy. Also, there are lessons to be learned from the sharp decline in solar and wind costs in order to maximize clean technology moving forward, such as modular, scalable systems are beneficial. When multiplied, those small changes make big impacts; changing the energy supply doesn’t need to be swapping one giant power plant for another.

Bloomberg: Social Capital-Backed Startup Scales Residential Solar, May 10, 2022.

US Department of State: Scaling Up the Global Clean Energy Economy, July 21, 2021.

International Renewable Energy Agency: World Energy Transitions Outlook 2022, March 22, 2022.

Hitting All Renewable Energy

The figure above, stating that fossil fuels still supply 80% of global energy, is only an average. Some places have been able to achieve fueling their energy needs by 100% (or close) from renewable sources already. Earlier this month, for the first time, the entire state of California was powered entirely by renewable energy for a few minutes. Nationwide, about 90% of Kenya’s grid is renewable. As of last year, nearly 100% of Uruguay’s energy for the whole country was renewable.

Bloomberg: How China Plans to Win the Future of Energy, March 15, 2022.

IEA: A 10-Point Plan to Cut Oil Use, March 18, 2022.

Grist: This tiny model town shows how we could achieve 100% clean energy, January 7, 2021.

WW0: Heather Zichal and Amanda Little Facebook Live conversation, February 18, 2021.