The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

On the Road Toward Energy Independence

With all the bad press about the renewable energy industry, it's easy to miss the fact that we are moving steadily down the road towards energy independence. It's a trip that we need to make, but it hasn't been easy and there's no way we can afford to coast now.

First, we need to be proud of the progress we’ve made so far. Costs for rooftop solar equipment have plummeted. Germany is miles ahead of the U.S. in this regard; in Germany a rooftop system costs about $2.50/watt – about half the price of a comparable system in the U.S. At one peak time in May, solar provided an astounding 30 percent of Germany’s national energy demand. Fully installed rooftop solar can be cheap.

Speaking of cheap, natural gas is providing our economy with a short-term bridge towards a renewable future. Until we have cost-effective, high-capacity energy storage and a hundred times more renewable energy than we have now, we will need the peaking and base load capacity that natural gas provides. Cheap natural gas is a good thing, and we need to encourage the development of clean and cost effective domestic fuel sources.

Ticking off a few more mile markers: electric vehicles are a commercial reality; utilities are major consumers of solar panels and generators of clean electricity; and new financing techniques are making renewable energy projects more affordable than ever.

We need to buckle up for the tantrums from the children in the back seat. The growing crescendo of political yelling and screaming can be quite distracting. Every four years we are subject to the same arguments: “the other guy’s energy policies are bad, and mine are good.”  Wahhh, wahhh, wahhh.

There are plenty of dead ends along the way, and there will be more.  A recent MIT study found that the $6.9 billion invested in carbon capture and storage is unlikely to ever make coal clean. The billions invested around the world for construction of the hydrogen highway is turning out to be a washout (remember that President Bush made the first big push for hydrogen-powered cars to wean us off foreign oil).  And the promise of thin film solar turned out to be an elusive mirage when we got closer to the reality of really cheap crystalline silicon.  Mistakes like these are inevitable; just back up and get back on the road.

Unfortunately, this is a hazardous road. Some companies gradually coast to the side of the road as they run out of gas. Other companies crash spectacularly, burning their fellows in the resulting accusatory flames. So there will be more casualties along the way; it’s part of the journey.

Finally, there are laws that must be obeyed. In addition to our ethics, there are two other Rules of the Road. The Laws of Thermodynamics won’t bend or break — trespassers will be violated. The Laws of Economics mean that new energy technologies will only succeed if they are economically superior to the technologies they replace.

So when you’re reflecting on this year’s Independence Day, keep in mind how much progress we’ve made. Don’t be demoralized by the bumps, distractions and dead ends.  Have a hot dog and a cold beer and enjoy the ride.

Lead image: Car Mirror via Shutterstock.

RELATED ARTICLES

Green microphone podcast

Listen Up: Does Solar Increase the Value of my House?

The Energy Show on Renewable Energy World I bet you don’t know that there is a home improvement investment that you can make that will increase the value of your house more than the investment cost. It’s not remodeling your bathroom (2 percent return). It’s not lan...
money pile

Deeper Capital Markets for Renewable Energy

Tomas Gardfors and Ann Vesely, Norton Rose Fulbright Following the global financial crisis, a more diversified funding market is developing in Europe. Institutional investors are helping to fill the funding gap left by the contraction in bank lending in the wake of the crisis...
Clean planet

Renewable Energy Responsible for First Ever Carbon Emissions Stabilization

Vince Font, Contributing Editor Carbon emissions in 2014 remained at the previous year’s levels of 32.3 billion metric tons — a milestone that points to the impact worldwide renewable energy investment is having in the face of a 1.5 percent annual increas...
IRENA Global Atlas Pocket

Finding Renewable Energy Opportunities: There's an App for That

Vince Font, Contributing Editor The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) just released a new smartphone app called the Global Atlas Pocket that can turn your smartphone or tablet into your very own personal renewable energy prospector —...
Barry Cinnamon is a long-time advocate of renewable energy and is a widely recognized solar power expert. He is the host of the weekly Energy Show on KLIV radio and Renewable Energy World. Based on decades of hands-on installation experience, M...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

SAP for Utilities

The SAP for Utilities conference is the most comprehensive SAP for Utili...

Training: Preparing for Rule 21 - SPI 2015

What: Rule 21 Training When: September 16th @ 4:30-5:30pm Wher...

Training: NEC 2014, AFDI, & Rapid Shutdown - SPI 2015

What: NEC 2014, AFDI, & Rapid Shutdown When: September 15t...

COMPANY BLOGS

8 Bad Habits Of Communication

Effective communication is essential in building rapport and closing sal...

Powerpoint Or Stream Of Consciousness

Before you create a presentation, you have to ask yourself, “What ...

The Almost There Markets: Just Give ‘Em Some Time

Earlier this year, we reported on recent legalization of third party fin...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS