Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Renewable energy is not as costly as some think

The other day Marshall and Sol took on Bjorn Lomborg for ignoring the benefits of curbing greenhouse gas emissions.  Indeed.  But Bjorn, among others, is also notorious for exaggerating costs.  That fact is that most serious estimates of reducing emissions are fairly low, and there is good reason to believe cost estimates are too high for the simple fact that analysts cannot measure or imagine all ways we might curb emissions.  Anything analysts cannot model translates into cost exaggeration.

Hawai`i is a good case in point.  Since moving to Hawai`i I've started digging into energy, in large part because the situation in Hawai`i is so interesting.  Here we make electricity mainly from oil, which is super expensive.  We are also rich in sun and wind.  Add these facts to Federal and state subsidies and it spells a remarkable energy revolution.  Actually, renewables are now cost effective even without subsidies.

In the video below Matthias Fripp, who I'm lucky to be working with now, explains how we can achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 using current technology at a cost that is roughly comparable to our conventional coal and oil system. In all likelihood, with solar and battery costs continuing to fall, this goal could be achieved for a cost that's far less.  And all of this assumes zero subsidies.

One key ingredient:  We need to shift electric loads toward the supply of renewables, and we could probably do this with a combination of smart variable pricing and smart machines that could help us shift loads.  More electric cars could help, too.  I'm sure some could argue with some of the assumptions, but it's hard to see how this could be wildly unreasonable.

1 comment:

  1. "Add these facts to Federal and state subsidies"

    Ah yes, subsidies, the magical free money that makes things that would normally be unaffordable, affordable!