Is the Energy Transition Taking Off—or Hitting a Wall?

Yves here. We’ve written regularly about some of the constraints on the famed shift to green energy, including limited amounts of key commodities, plus high environmental costs in mining and refining some of them. And this piece is one of the few to mention energy costs.

Unintentionally, this article underscores a point we often make: the only way to avoid worst outcomes is radical conservation. Europe is about to have it forced on them at extremely high cost. It won’t be pretty.

By Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow at the Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival. Produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) constitutes the boldest climate action so far by the American federal government. It offers tax rebates to buyers of electric cars, solar panels, heat pumps, and other renewable-energy and energy-efficiency equipment. It encourages the development of carbon-capture technology and promotes environmental justice by cleaning up pollution and providing renewable energy in disadvantaged communities. Does this political achievement mean that the energy transition, in the U.S. if not the world as a whole, is finally on track to achieving the goal of net zero emissions by 2050?

If only it were so.

Emissions modelers have estimated that the IRA will reduce U.S. emissions by 40 percent by 2030. But, as Benjamin Storrow at Scientific American has pointed out, the modelers fail to take real-world constraints into account. For one thing, building out massive new renewable energy infrastructure will require new long-distance transmission lines, and entirely foreseeable problems with permitting, materials, and local politics cast doubt on whether those lines can be built.

But perhaps the most frustrating barriers to grid modernization are the political ones. While Texas produces a significant amount of wind and solar electricity, it is unable to share that bounty with neighboring states because it has a stand-alone grid. And that’s unlikely to change because Texas politicians fear that connecting their grid with a larger region would open the state’s electricity system to federal regulation. Similar state-based regulatory heel-dragging is pervasive elsewhere. In a report posted in July, the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center noted that, so far this year, Texas regulators have approved only $478.7 million out of the $12.86 billion (3.7 percent) in grid modernization investment under consideration, due to fears of raising utility bills for local residents.

But grid modernization is only one area in which the energy transition is confronting roadblocks in the U.S.

Certainly, as a result of the IRA, more electric vehicles (EVs) will be purchased. California’s recent ruling to phase out new gas-powered cars by 2035 will buttress that trend. Currently, just under 5 percent of cars sold in the U.S. are EVs. By 2030, some projections suggest the proportion will be half, and by 2050 the great majority of light-duty vehicles on the road should be electric. However, those estimates assume that enough vehicles can be manufactured: Supply-chain issues for electronics and for battery materials have slowed deliveries of EVs in recent months, and those issues could worsen. Further, the IRA electric-vehicle tax credits will go only to buyers of cars whose materials are sourced in the U.S. That’s probably good in the long run, as it will reduce reliance on long supply chains for materials. But it raises questions about localized environmental and human impacts of increased mining.

Many environmentalists are thrilled with the IRA; others less so. Those in the more critical camp have pointed disapprovingly to the bill’s promotion of nuclear, and note that, in order to gain Senator Joe Manchin’s vote, Democrats agreed to streamline oil and gas pipeline approvals in a separate bill. In effect, the government will be encouraging the increasing use of fossil fuels… in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Despite the flaws of the Inflation Reduction Act, it is likely the best that the federal government can accomplish in terms of climate progress for the foreseeable future. The U.S. is a country mired in institutional gridlock, its politics trapped in endless culture wars, with a durable Supreme Court majority intent on hampering the government’s ability to regulate carbon emissions.

Climate leadership is needed in the U.S., the country responsible for the largest share of historic emissions and is the second-biggest emitter (on a per-capita basis, the U.S. ranks far ahead of China, the top emitter). Without the U.S., global progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions will be difficult. But the American political system, pivotal as it is in the project, is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of problems with the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. The barriers to meeting climate goals are global and pervasive.

Global Inertia and Roadblocks

Consider Germany, which has been working on energy transition longer and harder than any other large industrial nation. Now, as Russia is withholding natural gas supplies following its invasion of Ukraine and NATO’s hostile reaction, German electricity supplies are tight and about to get tighter. In response, Germany’s Green Party is leading the push to restart coal power plants rather than halting the planned shuttering of nuclear power plants. And it’s splitting environmentalists. Further, the country’s electricity problems have been exacerbated by a lack of, well, wind.

Unless Russia increases natural gas supplies headed west, European manufacturing could largely shut down this winter—including the manufacturing of renewable energy and related technologies. UK day-ahead wholesale electricity prices have hit 10 times the last decade’s average price, and Europe faces energy scarcity this winter. French President Emmanuel Macron recently warned that his people face the “end of abundance.”

Inadequate spending is also inhibiting a renewables takeoff. Last year, EU member states spent over $150 billion on the energy transition, compared to about $120 billion by the U.S. Meanwhile, China spent nearly $300 billion on renewable energy and related technologies. According to the China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute, the country will install 156 gigawatts of wind turbines and solar panels this year. In comparison, the U.S., under the Inflation Reduction Act, would grow renewable energy annual additions from the current rate of about 25 GW per year to roughly 90 GW per year by 2025, with growth rates increasing thereafter, according to an analysis by researchers at Princeton University.

The recent remarkable increase in spending is far from sufficient. Last year, the world spent a total of about $530 billion on the energy transition (for comparison’s sake, the world spent $700 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2021). However, to bring worldwide energy-related carbon dioxide emissions to be net zero by 2050, annual capital investment in the transition would need to grow by over 900 percent, reaching nearly $5 trillion by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency. Bloomberg writer Aaron Clark notes, “The one thing public climate spending plans in the U.S., China, and the EU all have in common is that the investments aren’t enough.”

There’s one other hurdle to addressing climate change that goes almost entirely unnoticed. Most cost estimates for the transition are in terms of money. What about the energy costs? It will take a tremendous amount of energy to mine materials; transport and transform them through industrial processes like smelting; turn them into solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, vehicles, infrastructure, and industrial machinery; install all of the above; and do this at a sufficient scale to replace our current fossil-fuel-based industrial system. In the early stages of the process, this energy will have to come mostly from fossil fuels, since they supply about 83 percent of current global energy. The result will surely be a pulse of emissions; however, as far as I know, nobody has tried to calculate its magnitude.

The requirement to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels represents the biggest technical challenge humanity has ever faced. To avoid the emissions pulse just mentioned, we must reduce energy usage in non-essential applications (such as for tourism or the manufacture of optional consumer goods). But such reductions will provoke social and political pushback, given that economies are structured to require continual growth, and citizens are conditioned to expect ever-higher levels of consumption. If the energy transition is the biggest technical challenge ever, it is also the biggest social, economic, and political challenge in human history. It may also turn out to be an enormous geopolitical challenge, if nations end up fighting over access to the minerals and metals that will be the enablers of the energy transition.

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  1. PlutoniumKun

    An important point that needs to be emphasized is that radical energy conservation and expanding renewable energy are not mutually exclusive – in fact, radical conservation cannot occur without the latter. To radically reduce energy use we must electrify transport, domestic heating and industrial processes. This means expanding non-fossil fuel production. There is literally no other viable option.

    The good news is that there are very significant reductions in cost in a range of technologies. I hate to quote Noah Smith, but this is one topic that he does know quite a lot about – the cost of wind, solar and in particular, hydrogen generation is consistently dropping rapidly as Moores Law sets in on a variety of practical applications. All over the world solar and wind are proving far cheaper than anticipated. We should be treating this as good news and not carping on non-issues like much energy the construction of all the turbines and solar panels will produce (hint: we’ve been studying this for years – the answer – not very much and its dropping all the time). China, in its five year plan (and longer plan to 2030) has announced some staggeringly ambitious targets, and it has a habit of over achieving – especially with off-shore wind. The effect of this on the market for copper and other vital materials? Very little. Markets either don’t think the Chinese will do it, or don’t think its a big deal for copper at least.

    1. Ignacio

      One of the reasons I think that at some time NATO will declare war with Russia is that in war time it is easier to take rationing measures and it seems these will be needed.

      A wee problem with the sanctions regime, apart from energy scarcity will be that components necessary for energy saving and renewables will be more expensive, and even scarce with high potential to limit investments in physical terms. Think for instance steel, aluminium, copper…

    2. Tom Pfotzer

      radical conservation cannot occur without … expanding renewable energy


      I think we’re well on the way to solving the “where’s the electricity come from” part of the problem.

      Now we need to focus on real-time supply-demand matching, and mobile power-packs (batteries, or fuels), and, as PK points out above, the transition from fossil-fuel powered transport, industrial and HVAC systems to electrically-powered systems.

      And since we’re going to have to fund a major rebuild, maybe we should try to make those industrial systems much more efficient (not just powered differently, but more energy efficient). Not just energy efficient, but materials efficient as well.

      If the U.S. is ever going to re-acquire global production leadership in anything, we’re going to have to do something other nations aren’t or won’t. And you can’t be a technical follower/laggard in this global environment if you want any market share.

      It’s almost pointless to say this in the current U.S. political / econ policy climate, because there’s nobody competent that’s interested & listening & has influence. It’s mostly empty chairs.

      Yet another reason that I advocate for local econ devel. At the local level people have all three key elements: competency, motivation, and control.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        America is big enough and has a big enough “domestic market” that if we re-protectionized our own domestic market in favor of our own domestic producers, we could produce efficient things efficiently by ourselves for ourselves.

        If we made mostly everything we used and used mostly everything we made, we would keep eachother employed making, selling, buying and using without having to pursue any market share overseas.

        As Charles Walters once wrote in Acres USA, if we did not buy anything from the foreigner, we would not need to sell anything to the foreigner because we would not need to raise any money selling anything to the foreigner in order to buy anything from the foreigner.

        Zero trade between America and the foreigner would be the ideal to strive for. Realistically, it would be the ever-receding horizon. But we could get most of the way there if we first abrogated all the Free Trade Agreements and Organization Memberships which make it legally forbidden. If we made once again in America all the “middle income” type things which currently China makes on our “behalf”, we could deeply cut the per-capita carbon skyflooding Americans are “responsible” for right there.

    3. Anthony G Stegman

      Your comment doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As the author has pointed out expanding renewable energy to the scale needed will require significant additional fossil fuel. In order to offset this additional fossil fuel demand the author points out that non-essential energy consumption must be reduced. It is not possible to expand solar and wind energy without expending significant amounts of fossil fuel in the process. It is fantasy to think there will be some miracle technological breakthroughs that will allow for the expansion of renewable energy without a massive increase in fossil fuel use during the transition.

      1. Tom Pfotzer


        How massive an increase in fossil fuel consumption are you calculating, and what alternative do you offer to justify your objection?

        Please provide some numbers / scale to support your objection.

    4. Altandmain

      It’s not realistic to assume that renewable energy is going to drop forever.

      Prices rose in 2021 for solar.

      Keep in mind that a substantial amount of the cost reduction was due to the enormous amount of subsidies and expansion from China. That may be nearing rock bottom now as they hit materials costs.

      Some of the shortages are due to Covid-19 and the disruption of the world’s supply chain, but others are permanent.

  2. Dennis De Jarnette

    Great post. I do not understand why we don’t have a carbon tax that is phased in over 20 or 30 years. Reduce taxes by the same amount. Let the market do its job.

    1. LY

      Carbon tax is regressive, and by itself, is not enough to overcome systematic issues. It doesn’t prioritize, so energy that goes into essentials like heat and food production is treated the same as for private jets and cruise ships.

      The “market” also can’t change land use policy to undo decades of policies and mindsets that drive urban sprawl. It also won’t provide viable mass transit combined with walkable neighborhoods and proper bicycle infrastructure.

      1. JE

        I’m not sure how regressive a carbon tax would really be. When I talk energy with my well-heeled and over-housed acquaintances I’m always shocked at the amount of energy their McMansions use. Have a sliding scale, where the carbon taxes don’t kick in until you exceed the regional median energy use and we might move the needle on the housing mix. Disincentivize the giant houses as well as the crumbling turn of the century stock. Making older, less efficient houses (read: cheaper) untenable would be regressive but we have to start triaging which are worth rehabbing at some point. Thoughts?

        1. Jams O'Donnell

          We also have to transition from the energy intensive production of brick, steel and concrete for housing and office buildings, to engineered timber which can be used for high-rise buildings up to (I think) twelve stories or so. I imagine that the US has a substantial amount of timber housing, but this is generally one or two storey and inclined to ‘sprawl’. Foliage planting on buildings is another low-fi technology which is overdue for utilisation.

        2. Altandmain

          Studies show that the carbon tax is regressive. You need revenue recycling otherwise. With revenue recycling, such a tax becomes revenue negative like in Canada.

          Also, the worse the inequality, the more regressive the tax becomes. That’s bad news for the US.

          EVs and the newest, most energy efficient appliances are not affordable for the middle class. Only the upper middle class.

          Rich people tend to spend a smaller percentage of their income on essentials and things that consume energy. A mansion may seem like it consumes a lot of money, but as a percentage of the income, housing is a much smaller for rich people.

          That’s why they have so much money left for things like financial speculation in stocks and the like. Unfortunately it is also why issues like homelessness exist – housing is too high a percentage of income for the poor for them to even rent in many cases.

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            ” Revenue- recycling” . . . hmmm . . .

            That is exactly what the “dividend” part of the Hansen FeeTax- Dividend plan against fossil carbon charged against it at its every very first point of entry into the economy is designed to achieve.

            If we instituted the Full Metal Hansen FeeTax-Dividend plan against domestic fossil carbon at its every first point of entry into the market, it would be destroyed by a flood of carbon-skyflooding carbon-dumping exports sent against us by our trading enemies.

            But if we defected from the International Free Trade System , then we could protectionize ourselves against carbon-dumping production by our trading enemies.
            Under the Hansen Plan behind a Big Beautiful Wall of Carbon Protection, we could forbid imports from any country which did not adopt the very same exact Hansen Plan system.

        3. Harry

          Im in two minds. On the one hand, 5k sq ft (typical McMansion size round here) seems must cost a fair whack to heat or cool. On the other hand, modern houses are built to better energy efficiency standards, and its pretty hard to wrong more than a certain amount of efficiency from a 1950s ranch. Im not sure where the sweet spot is. I suspect its in adding zones, and not using parts of your McMansion in the summer or winter.

    2. bsun

      How would the market deal with the issue of the “emissions pulse” discussed in the last part of the article?

    3. Cristobal

      Almost. Why does Mr. Heinberg insist on saying that Russia is witholding natural gas supplies? That little lie is working it’s way into general belief. He needs to be called out!

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        He may just be a general believer. If so, he just needs correcting, not calling out.

  3. Lexx

    ‘It may also turn out to be an enormous geopolitical challenge, if nations end up fighting over access to the minerals and metals that will be the enablers of the energy transition.’

    If? Pretty confident that the fight over natural resources is what’s at the heart of war now, with the additional desperate note of survival on a global scale… perhaps the true nature of every war ever, coveting what the neighbor has and using violence to take over control and ownership. Ideology is just the beard for greed.

    The city asked all us home owners to turn off our sprinkler systems on October 1st to save million of gallons in water. Most complied, but not the city itself, the golf courses (including the one owned by the city), or the local churches. Radical conservation may be our only hope but it will have to be accompanied by radical forced compliance.

    Personally, I like to imagine Joe Manchin dead in an open casket propped up against the wall outside the doors of the saloon, maybe pennies over his eyes. It makes me smile.

  4. Grumpy Engineer

    “Currently, just under 5 percent of cars sold in the U.S. are EVs. By 2030, some projections suggest the proportion will be half, and by 2050 the great majority of light-duty vehicles on the road should be electric. However, those estimates assume that enough vehicles can be manufactured: Supply-chain issues for electronics and for battery materials have slowed deliveries of EVs in recent months, and those issues could worsen.”

    Yep. US new cars sales currently run about 16 million per year. If 8 million of these are EVs, each requiring a 70 kWh battery, it adds up to 560 GWh of battery per year. This is basically ALL of current worldwide production. That would leave nothing for grid applications, portable electronics, or EVs in other countries. So unless lithium mining/refining is ramped up radically, it won’t happen.

    It’s also worth noting that lithium prices have risen sharply in the past couple of years. Over 10-fold since the lows seen in mid-2020. I’ve read several papers that presumed battery prices would follow an exponential decay curve until the end of time, but that obviously didn’t happen. Moore’s law is dead for lithium ion batteries.

    1. John Wright

      Moore’s law (AKA “the learning curve of the semiconductor industry”) depends on continually shrinking semiconductor geometries. In other words, packing more transistors and functionality onto a semiconductor wafer resulting in a lower use of material per transistor..

      The rotating disk drive manufacturers followed a similar path as they squeezed more bytes onto the hard drive magnetic platters and shrunk the size (and weight) of a hard drive.

      Prices for semiconductors and hard drives could drop in the past because less material was required as the industry learned new techniques and improved its tools and design practices..

      But for energy storage and capture, shrinking sizes doesn’t work to the same extent, as making smaller windmills won’t capture more energy unless they replace poorly designed large windmills.

      Solar radiation is about 1.3kW per square meter (about a 27sq foot size), and having smaller solar panels that produce the same power, would need to increase efficiency.

      See a discussion of possible efficiency improvements of PV cells from 30% to 86%( with concentrated sunlight) at, which tends to put a limit on a long term Moore’s law for PV cells unless manufacturers can find a way to use much less material in their construction.

      The Noah Smith article linked to by Plutoniumkun above closes with “Once again, human ingenuity is winning the day. That’s good news for all of us.”

      However, perhaps human ingenuity has put us in the position we are today?

      Expecting human ingenuity to post enough future “winning days” to ameliorate climate change and resource shortages may be extremely optimistic (the economist’s “assume a can opener”).

      I believe radical conservation will be forced on humanity leading to much discontent.

      1. Irrational

        Fully agree with the general points you make, slightly puzzled about your 1:27 ratio. My rule of thumb for square meter to square foot is usually 1:10, though Google tells me it is closer to 1:11.

        1. John Wright

          Sorry for the error.

          I gave my rule of thumb for conversion of cubic meter to cubic feet ( 3 x 3 x 3) = 27

          As I remember the tale, the killing of Alexander Hamilton by Aaron Burr in a duel may have kept the USA from adopting the metric system.

          But I can’t blame Aaron Burr for my mistake,.

      2. Anthony G Stegman

        Engineers and scientists are never going to save the day. For every problem an engineer or scientist solves they create a new problem. This has always been so, going far back in time. Imagine what the world would like if there was unlimited and cheap energy. Presently mankind uses vast amounts of fossil fuel to transform the planet. As great (and terrible) the transformation has been it has been limited due to energy constraints. Taking away those constraints will result in the planet being consumed at an even faster pace. The entire planet will be turned into a Google Village of sorts. The ultimate nightmare scenario. The world needs far fewer STEM graduates, not more of them.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Oh, for pete’s sake, please stop with the witch-craft intonations.

          All you’re doing is blowing fear-smoke, and you’re not providing specific actions as alternatives.

          Engineers solve problems. Simple as that. They understand the physics / mechanics of how the world actually works. Engineers create new tools to solve problems with. Engineers understand the environment, biological systems, social systems, and even a bit about human minds / motivation.

          Fear-mongers – like you – do nothing but paralyze with smoke clouds, and prevent forward motion.

          State your specific objections, or step aside, and let people with the competencies and hope necessary to move us forward do our work.

      3. Harry

        I will bet that human ingenuity can reduce the population enough to help “solve” this crisis.

  5. orlbucfan

    I’m a Yank who has been a conservationist my whole life. Even now, I live in a small (by USA standards) home which is totally renovated and energy efficient. My vehicles get high mpg when I drive which isn’t often. I love to walk and do it daily. Living in an urban area, I also use leg energy to run errands. Composting and recycling are second nature. Why do I do all this? Because it follows basic common sense. Needless to say, I have always loved nature and all critters, land and sea based. If I can do it, anyone can. It’s not rocket science!

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      If I can do it, anyone can.

      Unfortunately, this isn’t true. You have a three key things going for you: You live in a urban area where you can walk to places you need to go, you’re healthy enough to make those walks, and you were wealthy enough to totally renovate your home for energy efficiency (or to purchase it pre-renovated).

      There are over 150 million people living in suburban and rural communities that aren’t walkable. They can’t all move to the city, as there isn’t enough housing available for them. [And who would buy their homes, if we’re supposed to be abandoning suburban and rural lifestyles?] Millions of seniors are impaired by arthritis and can’t do long walks. Especially in extremely hot or cold weather, where walking can be flat-out dangerous. And renovations? Recent surveys show that 45% of the US is living paycheck-to-paycheck, which means they can’t afford renovations on their homes.

      Switching to a low-energy lifestyle is more difficult than is generally recognized. Especially if you want to do so quickly.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        “Especially if you want to do so quickly” under a capitalist system, where ‘the market’ is not set up to care about sustainability (assuming it can be).

    2. Thistlebreath

      Same here. While we’re surrounded by tract mansions that cost a fortune to operate, we kept our dwelling small, grow a lot of our own food, heated with wood until our move to solar/wind, etc. etc. Just the way we’ve lived for half a century. So far, so good.

      Tony Seba’s logic is hard to refute. He’s been accurate so far in his forecasts. Change is happening faster than expected.

      We leased a Bolt for a few years but it was not a good product. At least it didn’t burn down our garage or brick in the fast lane (both afflicted some users). Not many good electric auto choices out there right now.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        One thing I’ve learned over the past 70 years – always buy a Japanese car.

        (In the future – maybe a Chinese one).

        This goes for cameras too.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Luckily, we can buy some of our Japanese cars from America. Honda makes Hondas at a plant in Marysville, Ohio, and maybe elsewhere in America too. Some of the parts are from overseas but some are made in America I believe.

          I suspect an Ohio Honda is more American than a Mexico Ford.

  6. steven

    Heinberg’s book is a great read for a more seminal insight into the threat to human survival – the quest for power. From a purely physical standpoint, energy is important. But its underlying utility stems from the ability of the possessor to reshape the physical world, an ability financiers, the wealthy, and their wholly owned political class can acquire in spades through their control of money and the power to create it.

    With its decision to switch from wealth creation to debt creation, i.e. industrial to financial capitalism, like Britain before it, the effort to retain a ‘unipolar world’ has become an existential issue for the West’s financial and political elites. Minsky’s observation that ‘anyone can create money. The trick is to get it accepted.’ is key here. The way you get your money accepted on a global scale is by acquiring and defending a ‘unipolar world’, a world in which you have the power to create money as debt and get it ‘accepted’ as ‘legal tender’ in exchange for real wealth, by force if necessary.

    ‘Super Imperialism’ anyone?

    1. Steve H.

      Haven’t read the book yet, but noticed this in a review:

      > We must, he says, finally reject vertical social power (“the ability to get others to do something”) and embrace our collective horizontal power (“the ability of a group to self-organize to accomplish something”).

      This interview mentions Odum, and while the Prosperous Way Down website is extinct (with fossils on Wayback), I encourage all to follow tinyenergies.

    2. Jams O'Donnell

      Yeah, well, the ‘unipolar world’ is gone now. The world is ‘de-dollarising’ – slowly at first, then faster.

  7. Ignacio

    There is another great constraint to energy transition which is not addressed in the article. Call it markets. For instance electricity markets and the connexion between wholesale and retail markets. There, large utility suppliers lobby to keep or even increase their privileges. I don’t know in other countries but in Spain this is stunning. For instance, they invent things like “retail tariff deficits” when they want to increase their already enormous benefits.

    These companies, even if they invest in renewable energy, constrain the transition in various ways. Trying to prevent entrance of more competitive and energy.savvy players, trying to introduce barriers to the adoption or renewables by households and companies. Their lobbies are powerful and excessively interconnected with the administration by years and years of revolving doors.

    I disagree with the phrase that says that Germany is the hardest investor in renewables. China is harder on that. Much more. In relation with GDP and total consumption other countries surpass Germany IMO.

    1. juno mas

      Yes, in California electric utilities want massive solar(PV) farms (that they control) instead of rooftop solar that the homeowner controls.

      Griffith may be an optimistic engineer, but my experience is that individual profit (markets) always interfere with the numbers.

      1. Jams O'Donnell

        The solution then is to get rid of “profit (markets) ” and promote “solar that the homeowner controls”. Of course, this is a form of anarchism, but possibly anarchism (in the strict definition of the term – not the loose derogatory version) is becoming the answer to a lot of questions. The only problem with anarchism in this context is that the US interpretation of anarchism may be fatally skewed from a socialist index by some sort of Ayn Rand type rampant individualism.

    2. LY

      Hawaii is also near the forefront, since they have import everything. They just recently closed their last coal plant, and will close oil plants as more of their projects come online.

      Hawaii already has dynamic time of day pricing, with highest prices in the afternoon. Most houses have electric stoves, electric dryers, etc.

      1. Ignacio

        IMO, Islands and archipelagoes are places where people in general are more aware of their limitations and dependencies for the reasons you mention plus the isolation.

  8. converger

    “ There’s one other hurdle to addressing climate change that goes almost entirely unnoticed. Most cost estimates for the transition are in terms of money. What about the energy costs?…

    …The result will surely be a pulse of emissions; however, as far as I know, nobody has tried to calculate its magnitude.”

    Actually, we have pretty decent estimates of the lifecycle energy in/energy out and net carbon emissions balance of solar and wind. For energy, wind is ~18:1, solar is maybe 10:1. Both increase as they get more efficient and we get better with materials. For comparison, average global oil and natural gas is within that same range (and steadily dropping as the easy oil and gas goes away), fracked gas and tar sands are maybe half of that (with huge incremental carbon relative to conventional oil and gas) and approach 1:1 at the production tail, corn alcohol and dedicated crop biodiesel and biogas that’s not derived from waste sources barely break even, nukes are somewhere around oil plus dealing with radioactive goo forever.

    It’s a messy calculation, and people routinely torture the assumptions and numbers to push them towards the end of the spectrum that the researcher/client desires. Always check the scope and methodology. But in relative terms, solar and wind do just fine, thank you very much. As we shift to renewable sources of energy to source materials and manufacture renewable technology, net carbon load drops off fast. Fossil fuel energy does not, and its energy in/energy out ratio is dropping fast.

    Materials are a different issue. The irony is that we
    know how to manufacture things like reliable, cost-competitive batteries that do not use rare earths or highly toxic ingredients. What we do not have is a government or financial sector that’s willing to ramp up in the basis of sustainability, instead of the shiny object de jour like the rush to lithium batteries (hint: if the battery doesn’t need to be on wheels or in your pocket, you don’t care if it’s lithium).

    And, the fixation on proprietary EV and charging infrastructure means that we will waste an enormous amount of time and energy and money and materials on iterations 1.0 and 2.0 before we landfill them early and get it right. But that’s not a problem with the technology. It’s a problem with business as usual.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      Anthony Stegman: Please compare your fear-clouds with what Converger just put on the table. He dispels fear, he provides numbers, he sets out specific paths (actions) for forward progress.

      Please take note.

  9. Cristobal

    Has anybody ever estimate the debut that our eléctricas grid, pipelines, electrical generación, gas and petroliun stirage, refinerías, etc. are carrying. The incone streams. It is all too Big to fail.

    1. Ignacio

      Drinking too much kool-aid Cristobal?–(sorry about that bad joke I cannot resist). Those guys (except refineries that operate on thin margins or the small commercial outlets that operate in retail electricity) must be swimming in liquidity pools.

  10. Valerie from Australia

    Hi, Yves,
    This is a total non sequitur but I don’t know where else to ask. I can’t tell you how much I have enjoyed and learned from your discussions with Gonzalo Lira. I have listened to them over and over again. Yet, when I go on YouTube or Google them, I can only find really old interviews with you. Would you consider having a button called videos or interviews? I am afraid I might be missing some interviews with you – videos and podcasts – even older ones. No need to respond to this, it is just an idea. I have a feeling many of the NC readership would also be interested.

  11. Valerie from Australia

    I’m so glad you brought up the issue of just consuming and using less. Whenever I read or hear discussions about Green Energy there seems to always be an underlying principle that people want to keep consuming the same amount and that they want technologies that will allow this.

  12. John Doe

    In the USA all the electric capacity is wasted in crypto currency mining, becoming the biggest customers in the smaller electric coops and its raising the electric rates 20% as we destabilize the economy with shadow crypto scams.

    So what electricity capacity is left to charge the soon to be lithium batteries for EV 50% of all cars: none.

  13. AHB

    I always scan comments on articles referencing “green energy” for the most obvious of all solutions and never find it. Planned obsolescence of literally every product that we use and buy, including electric cars that are so virtuous and yet so ridiculously over-spec’d that they can accelerate faster than the fastest gas cars ever created, is the Achilles heel of all conservation efforts. In addition, using all the lithium for cars is beyond stupid. California, in typical fashion, will ruin green transition plans on its own by sucking all available lithium into autos instead of storage which is the biggest issue facing renewable viability at societal scale. It’s staggering the stupidity of these schemes.

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