He suggested halving the US military budget, sending other countries PV panels instead of bombs and putting all efforts into producing the best renewable energy technology and getting it out as far and wide - and as quickly as possible. This means effective policy.
The conference was in fact dominated by interest in policy mechanisms, and one in particular: feed-in tariffs. CEOs, facilities managers, manufacturers, suppliers, entrepreneurs and policy analysts all called for their introduction in America. As this policy provides long-term, guaranteed, differentiated tariffs for different technologies, it is ideal for solar power.
Solar, as a more expensive technology, needs a mechanism that makes it cost-effective over the long-term, and feed-in tariffs, it would be generally true to say, assure buyers that they can pay off the technology within the first ten years, and then receive a premium income over the next ten years or more of the life of the system – or free electricity, depending on how you look at it.
The wider context for this policy guarantee is often lost. Solar PV provides the best technology for distributed generation of electricity. It decreases pressure – especially in peak periods – on the grid. Hot countries can use it to power air conditioning, instead of having to draw energy from conventional coal-fired power stations. The replacement of the fossil fuel energy system with a renewable energy system is vital in the global strategy to mitigate climate change, and this should be the bottom line. Sadly though, it isn’t.
The objections to feed-in tariffs – generally taking the form of a relentless attack from the conventional energy industry - are essentially meaningless, and bordering on the unethical, in the face of a proven, terminal threat to life on earth. Failure to address this critical point betrays pathologically misplaced priorities on behalf of the objectors, and legislators who allowed themselves to be dictated to by vested interests.
Once the facts are agreed, debate is of little benefit here. A system which guarantees fast renewables deployment across all technologies and scales, thus making the most of all natural resources in any jurisdiction, and does so at comparatively low cost, should not be in question. With the right policy design, it also pressures manufacturers to improve energy conversion efficiencies and drive down costs.
When the stakes are so high, the fact that we have a great policy in existence, proven to also create many thousands of different jobs in any one country, should mean that policymakers take a mature, responsible view of the problems and solutions, and quickly move to design a great policy for national or regional application.
While the big utility companies will fight any change to the energy system that is not on their terms, it must be recognised that the system is in desperate need of reform – even revolutionary change. Their profits will have to be found in a way that does not interfere with the massive expansion of renewables capacity. As their product – fossil fuels - is currently the greatest threat to life on earth, and certainly human civilisation as we know it, this should not even be a question. That things are still stuck in a business as usual mindset is testament to the fact that the political system and other power structures remain equally unreformed. Priorities continue to be distorted by entrenched conjunctions of interests, while national governments, overseeing the largest economies in the world, merely tell us to change our lightbulbs.
While making energy efficiency a science is central to our survival – indeed nature itself operates on the basis of the conservation of energy – the laws of sustainability dictate that we must also localise production and consumption. No policy instrument has had an impact like feed-in tariffs where the localisation of energy production is concerned. Distributed generation of renewables-derived electricity is just one of the changes that this century demands if we are to continue to live as we currently do. Developing countries can leap frog ahead to this model, and save the mega-projects of electrifying rural areas via costly grid extensions. Thin-film solar will slash the costs of electricity production, and it is likely that even better, cheaper technologies will come to market within a generation – allowing many economies and societies to harvest power at the point of use.
And that is just one part of the outlook for solar. Utility-scale projects using concentrating solar power (CSP) - or solar thermal – offer sun-drenched regions high levels of carbon-free power production to feed into the grid. Although these can and should also be supported by policy mechanisms, their long-term costs are already comparable with those of a coal-fired plant with carbon-capture and storage. The solar map of America shows huge areas which can be exploited to produce vast amounts of energy. Energy independence – at least from coal - is there for the taking.
Ted Turner said that the industry is not only the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century, but the greatest commercial opportunity in human history. Until the vested interests that oppose renewables are somehow brought into the fold, we will continue to undermine our chances of moving away from an antiquated, outmoded and dangerous energy production system. If the utilities are doing this in the name of profits, it may be time to work together on a new way forward, where everybody wins. The stakes are simply too high to let the current impasse continue.London, UK.
Dan Harding | alfa
Failures in power grids: Dynamically induced cascades
25.05.2018 | Technische Universität Dresden
Beyond the limits of conventional electronics: stable organic molecular nanowires
24.05.2018 | Tokyo Institute of Technology
The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.
Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...
A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.
The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...
At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.
At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...
There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?
At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...
So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics
Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...
25.05.2018 | Event News
02.05.2018 | Event News
13.04.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Event News
25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering
25.05.2018 | Life Sciences