Despite what some politicians are trying to make you think, wind and solar are still growing exponentially and are now unstoppable juggernauts. (Whether you envision the Marvel character or the Sanskrit etymology, I leave up to your appreciation.). I previously noted that renewables are to become first global electricity source by 2025.
PV Magazine published at the beginning of the year an article stating that fossil fuels already had peaked. Both the article and the Rocky Mountain Institute study it is based on are worth your time. Renewables are indeed on an exponential, as “By 2024, renewable energy capacity is expected to be twice that of the total cumulative installed capacity in 2019.”
A recent study by Ember Climate shows that King Coal is already on its way out as it is being replaced by solar and wind. Between 2015 and 2022, among the G20 (the 20 largest economies, accounting for ” 80% of gross world product (GWP), 75% of international trade, two-thirds of the global population, and 60% of the world’s land area.” according to Wikipedia), the share of coal in the total electricity mix decreased by 3.7 percentage point while wind and solar’s share increased 8.2 percentage point.
Of course, the situation varies from country to country. Indonesia and Turkiye are still using more and more coal. In the other hand, the UK, Australia and Germany saw massive drops of coal in the local electricity mixes. I googled “peak coal” and the Wikipedia page informed me that global consumption for that black dirty and nasty stuff peaked in 2013. Yup, ten years ago. And the increase in consumption in India, China or other nations have been compensated by the fall of consumption in the US and other wealthy nations. To be fair and honest, other sources are still debating whether it will happen soon or has already happened.
But let’s get to renewables : wind and solar may be intermittent but this doesn’t prevent them from becoming the main energy sources our world may be running on in three decades from now. Indeed, intermittency may be a real problem, and it comes with many real solutions.
First and foremost energy sufficiency / sobriety and efficiency are making our global energy transition easier and faster. According to the International Energy Agency, “natural” gas demand dropped 13% last year in the European Union, and this despite a drop of production of both hydropower and nuclear. We have seen it previously, how we quickly slash energy consumption is a trillion-dollar question.
Additionally, energy storage now comes in many forms as battery technologies are each year more numerous, cheaper and better. Lithium ion technology is just one among many others. From redox flow batteries to solid state models or flywheels, it’s impressive how many companies are competing to store the excess electricity production of both solar photoltaic and wind power. The Youtube channel Just Have a Think is great to keep up with all these exciting new developments and more.
To conclude I am convinced that with all this – energy management with sufficiency / conservation / efficiency as well as improved energy storage – solar photovoltaic and wind power will swiftly displace fossil gas and coal. How fast is just up to us.
Image credits : Karsten Würth on Unsplash.