Given that sky-high fossil fuel prices are here to stay, and the revived political urgency of bolstering domestic energy generation, solar generation will surge in the coming years – especially in Europe.
The world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries.
Ever since 2013, the installation of new renewable energy capacity has outstripped all other major energy generating sources combined, coal, oil, gas and nuclear. There are impressive figures for all renewables but the growth and fall in costs of solar power has stunned even seasoned industry observers.
Solar power owned directly by the people and neighborhoods who use it creates local jobs, reduces polluting emissions and can save individuals money, The opportunity is there: 42 percent of the country’s residential solar potential is located on the rooftops of low- and middle-income dwellings, finds a National Renewable Energy Laboratory study published earlier this year.
So what’s next for solar? Are we ready to phase out its incentives? Do we still need solar advocacy? And are we at risk of solar becoming so cheap that even solar developers can no longer afford to build it? Does the sun actually need to be tamed?
For the first time in 2017, global solar capacity grew faster than all fossil fuels combined, including coal, oil and gas-fired power stations. That’s one finding of the latest annual report on global trends in renewable energy finance, from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The NAACP is launching a major environmental justice campaign on Jan. 13 to mark the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service. The “Solar Equity Initiative” aims to provide solar job skills training to 100 individuals, install solar panels on more than 30 homes and community centers in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, and strengthen equity in solar access policies in at least five states.
Now solar PV systems are beginning to integrate storage based on lithium-ion batteries, and this storage isn’t just used to supply power when the sun is down; it is providing grid stabilization services too, which only adds complexity to an already-complicated picture for the future of storage…
But these numbers are surely one of the most spectacular examples of how dysfunctional our world can be. Passing The Test does not require re-engineering the world according to some theoretically perfect model. It merely involves making it a little less dysfunctional.
And so to The Test. I make the basic case, and repeat the question that frustrates me so much. How can it be that, collectively, we are missing such an open goal? I am sure that the reasons are multi-faceted. But there is one simple over-arching answer. None of us are trying hard enough. Not governments, not companies, not international organisations, not non-governmental organisations.
Of course, effective climate mitigation is not assured even if the use of solar and wind power rise. In the absence of solid measures to remove coal, gas and oil from the energy system, fossil fuels could co-exist in an infelicitous equilibrium with renewable energies for decades to come. Pricing out polluting coal through carbon taxation would complement policy designed to boost solar’s share of the global electricity mix.
The total solar eclipse that captivated the United States this week was more than just a celestial spectacle (and a reminder to take care of your eyes). It was also a valuable lesson in how to manage electricity grids when a crucial generation source – solar power, in this case – goes temporarily offline.