Wind and Solar are winning by 2 to 1 over gas and coal

Guess what’s really inevitable, pipeline companies? Solar and wind power.

Utility scare tactics that no coal means pipelines are so much hot air. Scare tactics that no pipelines would mean LNG trains are burnt up by solar power. Stop pipelnes or fracking and stop the other and LNG export along with it. And we’re winning!

Tom Randall, Bloomberg, 6 April 2016, Wind and Solar Are Crushing Fossil Fuels: Record clean energy investment outpaces gas and coal 2 to 1.

Wind and solar have grown seemingly unstoppable.

While two years of crashing prices for oil, natural gas, and coal triggered dramatic downsizing in those industries, renewables have been thriving. Clean energy investment broke new records in 2015 and is now seeing twice as much global funding as fossil fuels.

One reason is that renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce. Recent solar and wind auctions in Mexico and Morocco ended with winning bids from companies that promised to produce electricity at the cheapest rate, from any source, anywhere in the world, said Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board for Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

“We’re in a low-cost-of-oil environment for the foreseeable future,” Liebreich said during his keynote address at the BNEF Summit in New York on Tuesday. “Did that stop renewable energy investment? Not at all.”

A major traditional media outfit finally gets it about the exponential growth of solar and wind power.

An industry that keeps doubling in size

Just since 2000, the amount of global electricity produced by solar power has doubled seven times over. Even wind power, which was already established, doubled four times over the same period. For the first time, the two forms of renewable energy are beginning to compete head-to-head on price and annual investment.

The Bloomberg article goes on about rich countries phasing out coal first. Scotland, whose James Watt two centuries ago invented the type of steam engine that made the coal boom possible, that Scotland just turned off its last coal-fired power plant. In the U.S., the most notorious worker-exploiting coal baron, Donald Blankenship, was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine. Belgium also just shut down its last coal-fired plant, and Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania already did that, while Portugal, Austria, Finland, and the rest of the U.K. plan to do the same by 2025. Even China is shifting from coal to sun and wind, while our own state of Georgia is the fastest-growing U.S. solar market.

Then the Bloomberg article goes into “U.S. oil patch heads to the insolvency zone”:

Oil and gas woes are driven less by renewables than by a mismatch of too much supply and too little demand. But with renewable energy expanding at record rates and with more efficient cars—including all-electric vehicles—siphoning off oil profits at the margins, the fossil-fuel insolvency zone is only going to get more crowded, according to BNEF. Natural gas will still be needed for when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, but even that will change as utility-scale batteries grow cheaper.

No natural gas won’t be needed. Stanford Prof. Mark Z. Jacobson already spelled out how to get from here to first the electric grid and then everything else (heating, cooling, and transportation) converted entirely to sun, wind, and water power and nothing else. Jacobson’s early stage projections are exactly what Bloomberg attests is already happening in sun and wind power: doubling every two years in the case of solar power.

And an independent study shows that adding high voltage DC power lines between regions can balance sun and wind power with no need for backups.

The best minds in energy keep underestimating what solar and wind can do. Since 2000, the International Energy Agency has raised its long-term solar forecast 14 times and its wind forecast five times. Every time global wind power doubles, there’s a 19 percent drop in cost, according to BNEF, and every time solar power doubles, costs fall 24 percent.

And you’re still underestimating what’s happening, Bloomberg. As I predicted back in 2013, and then discovered then-FERC-Chair Jon Wellinghoff had predicted the same thing, within ten years from then most U.S. electric grid power will come from solar power. That’s by 2023, now only 7 years away.

That prediction was based on solar power doubling every two years, and as FERC’s own figures and those from the U.S. Energy Information Agency attest, and as also graphed in this Bloomberg article, that doubling has continued to happen. That’s far faster than the rosiest projections for fracked methane.

Try to catch up, Bloomberg! Goldman Sachs caught on last November:

New wind turbines and solar panels worldwide will provide more energy over the next five years than U.S. shale-oil production has over the past five, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

That was after in September Citi GPS agreeed fixing climate change is profitable, because of sun, wind, and electric vehicle opportunities, plus saving tens of trillions of dollars.

What the Bloomberg writer didn’t do was project ahead the effect of solar doubling faster than wind. As you can see in my projection the gold solar line passes the red wind line around 2022, before solar passes everything by 2023.

Bloomberg writer also didn’t look at what happens if solar grows even faster. Answer: solar wins over everything else even faster; see for example the 100% doubling-annually grey solar line.

And another thing the Bloomberg writer didn’t do was factor in what happens when first coal, and then oil and gas crater, like his graphs do show coal already doing, followed soon by oil and gas. To be fair, I didn’t project that out, either, but Jacobson did.

600x339 End-Use U.S. Power Change over Time, in 100% clean and renewable wind, water, and sunlight (WWS) all-sector energy roadmaps for the 50 United States, by Mark Z. Jacobson et al., 27 May 2015

The result of the collapse of fossil fuels underneath the growth of solar and wind power is fast conversion of everything to clean solar, wind, and water power: 25% by 2025, 80% by 2030, and 90% by 2035.

Plus less overall energy usage because generating electricity from sun and wind is much more efficient than burning things to boil water. Which with the continuing drop in solar prices means lower electric bills and more money in everyone’s pockets. And better health through less pollution, which also means lower medical bills.

Oh, and if we get on with it and quit wasting money on $3 billion boondoggles liike Sabal Trail and all its ugly stepsister pipelines LNG export operations and stepchild power plants, we can greatly slow climate change, keeping the planet habitable, and maybe even keeping Miami from being underwater.

The Bloomberg ends with a video featuring none other than Tom Fanning, CEO of Southern Company, the famous recent convert to solar power as of May 2015, causing Georgia Power to sell solar power as of July 2015. In the video Fanning touts SO’s all of the above policy, but he doesn’t mention that until last year he always listed solar dead last, saying “maybe by the end of the decade”. If Tom Fanning can see the sunlight, anybody can!

Solar power will win like the Internet did: so fast your jaw will drop, and afterwards it will all seem normal.

Our task is to stop stupid 20th century fossil fuel plays before they destroy any more of our private property, countryside, and rivers. You can ask your federal representative to ask GAO to investigate FERC and rubberstamps like Sabal Trail. Don’t forget to ask your county commission and city government to call in the U.S. Army Corps Engineers to investigate what Sabal didn’t tell FERC, like Hamilton and Suwannee Counties, Florida just did.

And thank those of your state legislators who just voted 34 aye to 128 nay in a historic refusal of river-drilling easements for Sabal Trail. Plus they also voted in an 18-month moratorium against petroleum products pipelines, which caused Kinder Morgan to suspend its Palmetto pipeline.

One down, one to go! The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Let the sun rise!


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