Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Renewable Energy is Real

A certain sort of conservative or curmudgeonly skeptic loves to bash renewable energy: windmills may be cute, but they are just not as serious as mining coal or drilling for oil. The objections people like to raise include cost, problems with the electrical grid, problems with variable supply, and so on. But renewable energy is not a hippie fantasy. Already today more money is being invested in renewable energy generation than in nuclear and fossil fuels combined, and the curves are rapidly diverging; worldwide, the investment in renewable power plants and associated infrastructure was $270 billion last year. Two recent studies, one from the Department of Energy and one from the Rocky Mountain Institute, both found that the US is likely to get 80 percent or more of its energy from renewable sources by the end of the century. Both reports found that no new technological breakthroughs were needed, nor any major changes in the electrical grid. According to the feds, if we keep on doing exactly what we are doing now, with no changes in laws or carbon taxes or anything, the US will still get more than half its power from renewable sources by 2050. Given the huge investments companies around the world are making in energy technology, we should probably expect a game-changing breakthrough somewhere that will shift that curve even further.

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