Green energy technologies remain too expensive for large-scale adaptation, so what can we do to move towards a more affordable green energy future? Here are a few ideas…
Making green energy affordable and scalable is going to be one of the most important topics of this century. It’s not a question of whether fossil fuels will run out – it’s only a question of when – and we need to be prepared for that eventuality when it happens.
But how do we make green energy more affordable, so that our society can adopt widespread sustainable changes? Let’s take a look at the primary challenges, possible solutions and what you personally can do to help.
The Primary Challenges
The primary challenge of green energy is its cost. At the moment, energy invested into green sources yields a return that’s anywhere between three to ten times more expensive than fossil fuels.
That’s why there’s so much more money to be made initially in fossil fuels than green energy. The return on invested capital is much higher. We expect that to change as technologies evolve, and the demand for green energy grows, but for now, it remains costly.
The intermittent nature of green energy is also a big challenge. For example, wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine, making wind and solar power difficult to handle consistently.
In order for wind and solar power to be competitive, there need to be significant breakthroughs in battery technology, both in price and in storage capabilities.
Working Towards a Solution
So how does one overcome these challenges?
Green energy venture capitalist Vinod Khosla has looked at the issue as a matter of experimentation.
In order to make green energy scalable, a new technology that’s as profitable (or close to as profitable) as fossil fuels and coal needs to be discovered.
As long as green energy is only profitable when subsidized by governments, it won’t take off to the scale that fossil fuels have. The reason fossil fuels are such a huge industry is that so much money can be poured into them for a profitable return. In order for green energy to get the same amount of investment dollars, it needs to offer the same level of profitability.
Khosla views getting green energy to that level as a matter of stepping up to the plate and doing as many ambitious experiments as possible.
The assumption is that nine out of ten experiments will fail and only one will succeed. But the one that succeeds can have a huge and lasting impact on the planet.
What Can You Do Personally?
Chances are, you’re not a banker or scientist who’s actively working in the green energy industry. How can you personally help us progress towards a clean energy future?
There are a couple of things you can do.
The first is to get involved in local politics to support more green energy subsidies. Yes, it’s true that energy subsidies are not a scalable way to grow green energy in the long-term. However, the more money green energy brings in as a whole, the more money there will be to invest in technological developments in this arena. Subsidies might not be scalable, but they’ll help companies get themselves to scalability.
Another thing you can do is to vote with your wallet. Buy energy-saving light bulbs, invest in home solar panels and buy a hybrid car rather than a gas guzzler. By supporting green energy companies, you are growing the demand for green energy, as well as providing more money to these companies for research and development.
Getting our planet to a green and sustainable future won’t happen overnight. It will take a major investment of time, money, and technological breakthroughs, and that means a collective effort needs to be made by all of us. After all, we are all citizens of this planet, and it’s up to us to keep it healthy!