It’s official: the rate of adoption of renewable energy—solar- and wind-power—is accelerating so rapidly that the market capitalization of the old grid—read: natural gas-, coal- and nuclear-power—is shrinking. In Germany, home to the green revolution for the past two decades, where German taxpayers subsidized what’s now the world’s most advanced energy market—one of the biggest energy concerns split off its shrinking ‘fossil fuel’ entity, an act almost unheard of in German corporate life.
Something’s up. In China, the numbers are staggering: China has one-third of the world’s solar capacity and the biggest electric car market on the planet. What’s more, projects that depend on petroleum somehow for future profitability are being shelved or abandoned at record rates…everywhere, pipelines most of all and that implosion of investor interest and thus political clout) could well bust Canada’s tar sands projects.)
For decades, two limiting factors prevented the renewables boom; both factors now have cracks all over them. The first was oil and coal prices and vast subsidies and preferential tax treatment of fossil fuels. The second is battery cost: renewables depend on naturally fluctuating energy flows from sun and wind.
Political and ethical pressures have begun—there’s a long way to go—to drive renewable energy efficiency straight at the heart of the petroleum industry. Right now, today, solar is nearly on par with the cheapest fossil fuel/nuclear energy generation. And the juggernaut of global adoption is just getting started.
Batteries? A single headline suffices: the massive Tesla/Panasonic “gigafactory” in Nevada will produce more lithium-ion batteries on its site annually than all of global production in 2013—and just last week Mercedes-Benz announced its own gigafactory south of Berlin. Electric cars are expected to be cheaper than orthodox cars by 2026.
The sheer speed of this massive adoption of renewables globally will drive down battery costs and thus accelerate even more the rate of adoption of renewables.
We’re going to see lifestyle changes on par with those wrought by internet and smartphone.