Excerpt from: The Conversation
Don’t. It’s a blip. While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to a temporary resurgence of fossil fuels, it has also accelerated Europe’s renewable ambitions. And the United States and Australia eventually passed climate bills. This week, Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen announcement “Australia is back” on climate action.
There is also better news. In March of this year, the the world has reached a terawatt (TW) of installed solar. By 2025, global polysilicon plants are expected to rebound supply shortages and produce enough high-purity silicon for nearly a terawatt of solar panels every year.
Coupled with strong growth in wind, hydro, energy storage, grid batteries and electric vehicles, the solar boom puts zero global emissions at your fingertips before 2050.
Better yet, Australia could show the world how to add solar power to its grid. You may not suspect it, but we are the world leaders to find simple solutions to the variability of solar and wind energy. We show that removing carbon emissions from power generation is easier than many predicted.
Fast, deep and cheap emissions reductions
This ramp-up of the renewable energy supply chain is enabling sustained exponential growth that is already disrupting fossil fuel markets in some countries, including Australia.
This year, global fossil fuel prices have skyrockets following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In turn, this has sparked strong interest in solar and wind energy to enhance national energy security, especially in Europe, which needs to wean Russian gas.
To reduce our dependence on Russian fossil fuels, we need renewable energies.
We need clean, cheap and locally produced electricity. This is why we propose to further increase our 2030 target for renewable energy to 45%.
– President @vonderleyen at the Baltic Sea Energy Security Summit #REPowerEU pic.twitter.com/fFJASmC0mm
— European Commission ?? (@EU_Commission) August 30, 2022
While fossil fuels are concentrated in countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia, solar and wind resources are widely distributed. Most countries can generate all their own energy from Sun and wind.
Europe could easily become energy independent, exploiting its enormous offshore wind resources in the North Sea and its solar power in the south. Even densely populated countries like Japan and Indonesia have far more solar and wind resources than they need.
Solar and wind now provide the cheapest new electricity production in most markets. As a bonus, the widespread adoption of solar and wind energy will eliminate many of our the worst air pollutants and improve our health.
Why are solar and wind winning?
In a word, the cost. Solar and wind have won the race for the energy of the future because they are cheap. Once built, fuel is free and does not need to be imported or dug up.
Wind and solar power are being built three times faster than everything else combined. It follows that they will dominate future energy markets as existing fossil fuel generators retire and electricity consumption increases rapidly.
nuclear generation did not grow in the last decade. Coal and gas-fired power plants capable of capturing and storing carbon are not successful in the energy market. Hydroelectricity cannot develop much more. However, there will be a huge market for the storage of hydroelectric energy pumped out of the river.
There are no serious technical, environmental or material constraints to solar energy on any scale. However, solar has been hit by supply chain issues in recent months, with sharp price spikes in polysilicon. These are common to any rapidly growing industry and should resolve as more vendors see the opportunity and enter the market.
There is enough land
Most of the world’s population lives in moderate latitudes with good sunlight most days. Here, solar is effectively unlimited. Those further north have abundant wind power (especially offshore wind) to compensate for lower sunlight in winter.
Skeptics point out that it takes more land or sea to produce the same amount of electricity as fossil fuel power plants. Although true, solar farms can coexist happily with livestock and cultivation to create a double income for farmers. The solar electricity needed to power the world and eliminate all fossil fuels can be generated from about 1% of the earth’s surface devoted to agriculture.
Once we have clean, cheap electricity, we can use it to completely eliminate the use of fossil fuels by electrifying almost everything: transport, heating, industry and chemical production. This could reduce emissions by three quarters.
World electricity production will have to be multiplied by seven to approximately 200,000 TWh one year to give everyone the necessary energy to reach the standard of living of developed countries. But it is not so difficult in the next 30 years. And the alternative – continuing to pump pollutants that warm the atmosphere – will make our children’s lives increasingly difficult.
Together, solar and wind have passed 2 TW installed capacity. This means that we are about 2% of the way to reach the nearly 100 TW solar and wind needed to decarbonize the world, while raising living standards.
Annual solar deployment must double every four years to get the job done by 2050-2060 – similar to the global growth rate achieved over the past decade.
Australia can lead the way
You might not think so, given the decade of political climate wars, but Australia leads the world in terms of solar electricity generated per person.
In Australia, solar and wind are booming while coal fast fall. We are already on track to reach 80-90% renewable energy by 2030. Remarkably, our solar production per capita is twice that of second-tier countries (Germany, Japan and the Netherlands) and far ahead of China and the United States.
Australia is quietly showing how to accommodate huge new flows of cheap, clean electricity. The world will soon follow.
Author: Professor of Engineering, Australian National University
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of photo magazine.
This content is copyrighted and may not be reused. If you wish to cooperate with us and wish to reuse some of our content, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.