And yet .... there are some indications that the shift has already started, and will only accelerate:
- Through October this year, 70% of new electricity generating capacity in the United States was renewables. The rest was gas, which is useful to the grid because it can be turned on or off quickly and thus will help fill gaps caused by the variability of renewables supply.
- Here are two very brief talks by the CEO of a German Grid operator, who talks about how they expect the percentage of renewables in the power supplied to the grid to keep rising by 1 or 2% per annum, and how they too can take renewables to 70% of the grid without needing storage.
- Wind and solar costs have now fallen to below the costs of new coal-fuelled power. And their costs continue to decline.
- China, the largest CO2 emitter, is committed to switching its energy supply to renewables not just because of global warming but because such a switch would reduce their horrendous air pollution as well as bringing them energy independence. China has more renewables installed than the next 5 largest emitters added together.
- Coal exports to China and India are peaking as a result of these countries' switch to renewables.
- The percentage of total global power produced from solar has doubled every 2 years for 30 years, and although it is still tiny (1%) in a global context, we are just 7 doublings away from the ability to produce 100% of all our electricity from solar.
- The battery in your laptop cost $2500 15 years ago, $250 4 years ago, and below $100 today. This collapse in battery costs will continue, and will make cheap large scale storage possible for the grid, as well as allowing electric vehicles (EVs).
- As battery costs fall, EVs have doubled in sales every 2 years globally and in the US.
I read 15 or 20 articles every day about global warming and renewables, and most of them point towards a future in which global CO2 emissions peak and start falling, quite fast, in which renewables energy just gets cheaper and cheaper, in which the ingenuity of mankind allows us to go green with no effect on growth or living standards. This shift poses major challenges to energy producers and to grid operators. But just as technological change expanded their markets, so change once again is contracting their markets. As for Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other major oil producers, the sooner they diversify their economies, the better. This new green energy world is not going to go away, whatever they think. And the switch is accelerating.