Independent think tank RethinkX, which “analyzes and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption,” has released a report that says that most of the world is technologically capable of achieving 100% wind, solar, and storage electricity grids in 10 years.
Green energy disruption
RethinkX is led by Stanford University futurist Tony Seba, who, for example, declared at the Swedbank Nordic Energy Summit in Oslo in 2016 that fossil fuels and nuclear would be obsolete by 2030, and that solar will dominate. Check that video out here:
RethinkX’s newest Energy report declares in its executive summary:
We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most profound disruption of the energy sector in over a century. Like most disruptions, this one is being driven by the convergence of several key technologies whose costs and capabilities have been improving on consistent and predictable trajectories — namely, solar photovoltaic power, wind power, and lithium-ion battery energy storage. Our analysis shows that 100% clean electricity from the combination of solar, wind, and batteries (SWB) is both physically possible and economically affordable across the entire continental United States as well as the overwhelming majority of other populated regions of the world by 2030.
Adoption of SWB is growing exponentially worldwide and disruption is now inevitable because by 2030 they will offer the cheapest electricity option for most regions. Coal, gas, and nuclear power assets will become stranded during the 2020s, and no new investment in these technologies is rational from this point forward.
RethinkX also states that we need to make the right choices and that there must be policy support for technological innovation:
We as individuals, communities, industries, regions, and entire nations need to make the right choices today. That process must begin with an understanding of what is possible.
Excess energy = opportunity
Further, the report says that green energy will produce a larger amount of energy overall, which will in turn lower cost and create opportunities for innovation and entrepreneurship. It compares the green energy revolution to the rise of the internet: “What happened in the world of bits is now poised to happen in the world of electrons.”
Australia’s Renew Economy points out that Seba was “one of the few analysts to correctly forecast the plunging cost of solar over the last decade.” Dr. Adam Dorr, a report co-author, says [via Renew Economy]:
There is a misconception that too much solar and wind energy is a problem.
That is looking at the equation through the old fossil fuel system lens, and doesn’t recognize the fundamentals of disruption. Sunlight and wind are free, and it is irrational to curtail the nearly costless clean energy we produce with them. As with other technology disruptions, it is a mistake to ask how the existing system will accommodate SWB.
The grid as we know it will rapidly evolve into a larger, more flexible, diverse, and capable system, just like the landline telephone network evolved into the Internet. Instead we must ask, ‘How can a new energy system based on SWB minimize costs and maximize benefits at every level of society and the economy’?
This disruption approach is pretty exciting stuff.
The internet/landline telephone network comparison is an effective way to convey RethinkX’s message. Who would have thought we’d no longer need landlines or cable television? Or could make international phone calls — by video, no less, Jetsons-style — for free through the internet? AT&T Et al. probably aren’t happy about that, but there’s nothing they can do but adapt — and they have — because most of the world has Wi-Fi now, along with apps that allow us to make those calls and watch those shows. And technology continues to evolve quickly.
So if we apply this thinking to green energy and energy sources, what’s holding us back from rapid evolution? We need to shift our thinking, break up monopolies, change our policies, and embrace change. It’s time for utilities and fossil-fuel giants to adapt — just as BP declared that it’s time to adopt renewables in September — and innovators, keep on innovating. You’re doing great things.
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