In this week’s Energy Trends – 4 Reasons to be Hopeful About Renewables & Solar we take a look at some trends in renewable energy and solar and focus on some of the positive news coming out of the industry.
The last week has been buzzing with Elon Musk’s appearance on a chat show, the Joe Rogan Experience. On the show, Musk rails against the fossil fuel industry, calling what we’re doing the ‘dumbest experiment in human history’.
Obviously, his appearance has attracted attention for other reasons, specifically smoking a blunt. However, don’t let that distract you. What Musk is saying about our addiction to fossil fuels is critical. By using fossil fuels and not transitioning to renewables, Musk argues we are subsidizing oil and gas since the pollution they cause has to be paid for by us all in the long run.
He could’ve elaborated more on how fossil fuels are subsidized directly and indirectly by governments and taxpayers. For example, oil companies receive tax deductibles depending on their agreements with specific governments for things such as exploration costs in searching out new deposits. Canada alone gives $3.3 billion in subsidies via extraction incentives and research and development policies as detailed in this article from 2016.
We need to move away from using fossil fuels today. As Musk points out, if we know that one day there will be no oil, why procrastinate and cause more damage to our planet by waiting? It’s because of people chasing easy money according to Musk. We need a system where renewables are subsidized, fossil fuels are not, and one where polluter pays for externalities, such as pollution.
So given all this ranting and raving… and fretting over the future of our beautiful planet, do we have any reasons to be cheerful on this weekday in September? How about five reasons with a focus on solar?
1. California’s Response to Record Wildfires: Shift to 100% Clean Energy
We start with news that politicians in California are responding to their huge climate problems by embracing science and speeding up its transition to 100% renewable energy.
The last five years contain the five hottest on record for California, and their wildfire season is devastating the state every year and becoming longer and intensifying in size and scale. The result has been politicians taking action:
Last week, California state lawmakers passed State Senator (and candidate for US Senate) Kevin de León’s SB 100, which amps up the target to 50% renewables by 2026, 60% by 2030, and 100% from “renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources” by 2045.
California faces some huge challenges when it comes to climate but at least its politicians are facing up to them. It might not be a reason to be cheerful, exactly, since 2045 is still a long way away, but it’s a step in the right direction. Hope springs eternal!
Read more at the Guardian
2. Sony to Source All Its Energy From Renewables by 2040
We have cities like Vancouver and states like California committing to 100% renewable energy. We also have Scandinavian countries like Iceland and Denmark leading the way in green energy production. Island nations like Samoa have also promised a move to 100% renewables. Now we have corporations taking a stand when it comes to energy production and usage.
Sony currently only sources 7% of its energy usage from renewables. This is no longer good enough. Due to pressure from stakeholders and investors corporations are going green.
Sony has gone 100% green in Europe but 80% of its energy usage is in Japan due to its semiconductor production. This will also now be greenified with Sony taking a lead in solar energy.
Globally, more companies are pledging to use only renewable energy and are joining the RE100 initiative, which includes big names like Apple, Fujitsu, Ricoh and Aeon. The push for renewables is now spreading to large manufacturers like Sony that use massive amounts of power.
Read more at Asia Nikkei
3. Beijing Sees Renewable Energy Growth
Although this doesn’t sound like much, Beijing just increased its renewable energy output to 7.6% of consumption (up from 3.3% in 2010). This is slow especially from a city and a country where change can happen at a much quicker rate. See last year’s decision to cancel 103 coal plants due to risks of smog, pollution, and wasted capacity.
Where this news is hopeful is in its results when it comes to pollution in the city:
Beijing has been cutting coal consumption and promoting the use of gas and renewable energy for better air quality in recent years. Remarkable results have been achieved.The average density of PM2.5, a key indicator of air pollution, was 58 micrograms per cubic meter in Beijing last year, meeting the target set by the State Council, and 20.5 percent less than in 2016.
The Chinese government is more worried about the effects of pollution and what this means to stable government than potentially any other issue. The general public will protest on mass for clean air and water but will generally tolerate a restriction on individual freedoms and privacy providing the country and economy are strong. This is perhaps the biggest reason to be hopeful on renewables. China is financially capable of and has the political motivation to completely change the map when it comes to renewable energy growth. We may all have a huge stake in China’s success and prosperity.
Read more at Xinhua Net
4. Changing the Type of Silicon Etching Drops Solar Power Costs by more than 10 Percent
Now we get a bit geeky about solar tech.
It’s worth noting that solar and renewables, in general, are constantly getting better and more efficient. This is good news in that it makes energy production cheaper in comparison to fossil fuels. It does bring challenges in terms of retrofitting existing equipment or making it redundant.
Solar has made great progress. This latest research shows that using dry etched black silicon for passive emitter rear cell (PERC) solar cells reduces the cost per unit power by 10.8 per cent over those for industrial Czochralski silicon. This is in spite of increasing the costs of production of each unit by around 15-25%.
“For the people that think coal technology is going to be able to compete with solar, they should know solar costs are still coming down. Most coal companies are already, or near, bankrupt now. There’s no way coal’s going to be able to compete with solar in the future.” – Joshua Pearce, Professor of Material Sciences and Electrical Engineering at Michigan Tech
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Nikolas is a world-leading Futurist Speaker that drives leaders to take action in creating a better world for humanity. He promotes exponential thinking along with a critical, honest, and optimistic view that empowers you with knowledge to plan for today, tomorrow, and for the future.