Numbers are numbing and hard to put in context. This graph shows two big things. Firstly clean energy investment has been relatively flat for five years since 2011. There are no indications that it will rise from this level. To put things in perspective, $250B/y to $300B/y is a lot of money and exceeds all other investment in electricity generation. That includes investment in coal, gas and nuclear power plants. It should also be remembered that about half of this investment is various government subsidies
Secondly, when we look at the generating nameplate capacity this $250B buys, it is about 100GW of wind and solar, with an average generation of about 20GW/y. To reduce CO2 emissions in a timely manner we need to add at least 500GW of clean new average generation capacity every year. 20GW is a factor of 25 too small.
The rapid drop in solar costs since 2011 have created an illusion that solar costs will continue to fall at rapid rates and enable exponential growth. The reality is that PV panel prices stabilized years ago. Other system costs have reduced rapidly, but the bulk of the rapid cost reductions are over. There is no way that current wind and solar will ever provide sufficient capacity within the current budget based on their projected costs. A change in strategy is needed.
StratoSolar at current costs would provide over 100GW/y of average generation for $250B and as a complete lowest cost solution could competitively replace other new generation to provide over 200GW within the current world spending on generation. Eventually, at less than the current investment level in energy of $1.5T/y, StratoSolar could provide all energy without the world spending any more on energy than it currently does. This is a strategy that could succeed.
By Edmund Kelly