Humanity has been in a search for the New, New, Thing pretty much since time started ticking. In short, we are always on the hunt for that tricky pathway to a better future. And this is the case now: we need to find that elusive route to sustainable energy.
The Age of Discovery, the search for the Northwest Passage, the journey to the moon — were they not all expressions of a collective hope for a better future? Human existence has always been a messy, bloody affair but the world’s explorers, inventors and entrepreneurs were keen to find new lands, trade routes and products.
We are a few years into a new millennium and there is an overarching concern about how we power our future. The smart people know our current path is not sustainable. We need new ways to heat our homes, power our cars and fuel our factories. If not, we risk heating our planet to the point of making it unlivable.
But when we talk about a new path people ask, legitimately, ‘how will we drive our cars? Do we have to live like the Amish?’ No offence to the good Amish folks, but what we are advocating is exactly the opposite.
We can’t stop driving cars or running our factories or we will have global collapse. Conservation is vital but we need renewable energy so we can continue driving, producing and travelling.
But how the vested oil interests teach their followers to cling to the status quo! Putting aside pollution and global warming, the buying and selling of oil is a compromised and rigged system. Right now the world is awash in oil and economies are slowing, yet crude remains above $100 a barrel. There has got to be a better way.
And there is. Just this week we’ve been inundated with reports of the stunning growth in solar and wind power. Electric-powered car sales are soaring. (You can see some of those stories here and here.
The cost of solar power has dropped 80 percent in the past five years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. A watt of solar power now costs less than a buck, down from about $75 a watt in the late 1970s when the panels started to hit the market.
The U.S., once a laggard, is leading the world in new wind energy installations. “Wind energy is now the fastest growing source of power in the United States – representing 43 percent of all new U.S. electric generation capacity in 2012 and $25 billion in new investment,” U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said this week.
Wall Street is realizing renewable energy is where it’s at. Consider this analysis from the Financial Times on how solar power could become competitive with conventional electricity:
However, as solar panels become more efficient and vastly cheaper, and household power bills keep rising, analysts at some of the world’s largest financial institutions say such a prospect is indeed possible – and likely to cause profound disruption in the energy industry.
“We’re at a point now where demand starts to be driven by cold, hard economics rather than by subsidies and that is a game changer,” says Jason Channell of Citigroup.
Let’s believe we are now in the new Age of Discovery for Energy. Yes there will be Franklin Expedition style ship wrecks but there will also be Apollo style triumphs, if we keep on keeping on.