The world’s energy supply today is neither safe nor sustainable. What can we do to change this and make progress against this twin-problem of the status quo?
To see the way forward we have to understand the present. Today fossil fuels – coal, oil, and gas – account for 79% of the world’s energy production and as the chart below shows they have very large negative side effects. The bars to the left show the number of deaths and the bars on the right compare the greenhouse gas emissions.
This makes two things very clear. As the burning of fossil fuels accounts for 87% of the world’s CO2 emissions, a world run on fossil fuels is not sustainable, they endanger the lives and livelihoods of future generations and the biosphere around us.
And the very same energy sources lead to the deaths of many people right now – the air pollution from burning fossil fuels kills 3.6 million people in countries around the world every year; this is 6-times the annual death toll of all murders, war deaths, and terrorist attacks combined.
The days of natural gas and coal-fired power plants may already be numbered
Go solar power!
That is what the International Renewable Energy Agency predicted according to a report, saying that the amount of electricity generated using solar panels is set to expand as much as six fold by 2030 being a cheaper energy option.
By 2030, renewable energy solar power plants which use photovoltaic technology may compose 8 to 13 percent of global electricity, as compared to the 1.2 percent at the end of last year. Such electricity’s average cost may go up to as much as 59 percent by 2025, which will be the cheapest form or power generation then.
In a separate report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), renewables are seen to replace nuclear energy and curbing electricity production from gas and coal in developed areas such as Europe and the U.S.
BNEF also sees a growth in solar photovoltaics. The organization predicts that it will reach 15 percent of total electricity output by 2040. Countries that will be most attracted to solar panels up to 2020 are Brazil, Chile, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Arguments about fossil fuels versus renewables often come down to price: supporters of coal say it’s the cheapest form of electricity. Year after year, the authoritative International Energy Agency (IEA) has confirmed this view.
That’s now changed.
Each year, the agency publishes an energy outlook that’s used by governments around the world to set policy. This year, the agency has announced for the first time that, in most nations, electricity produced by solar photovoltaics (i.e. solar panels) is cheaper than the kind from plants fired by coal or natural gas.
That’s good news for renewable energy, and bad for the future of coal.
Solar currently offers some of the cheapest power “ever seen”, the report said.