CO2 emissions grew in 2017 after several years of steadying out mostly due to burning less coal and more natural gas. So, EIA and IEA projections are for CO2 emissions to reduce, but not to a level that keeps CO2 below 450 ppm by 2050 unless there is drastic change from current trends. Meanwhile yearly CO2 emissions continue to rise, not fall.
In 2017 solar PV is set to exceed 100 GW of new installs and wind about 60GW. This represents major growth in the last few years and sounds like a lot but unfortunately is a tiny fraction of what is needed. Getting a sense of the scale of what is needed to be relevant to CO2 reduction is daunting and demoralizing for advocates of current wind and solar.
In 2012 I made a video for solve for x that showed the scale of the necessary solution. Things have not changed much except that there are five fewer years to 2050. It will take about 0.8TW to 1TW of average new clean energy electricity generation every year for thirty years. This average generation translates into 4TW to 5TW of current new wind and solar nameplate capacity. Today's 100 GW PV manufacturing capacity would need to scale by 40X to 50X. Current utility scale solar is around $1/W, rooftop is over $2/W. If utility cost halves to $0.50/W that is $2T/y to $2.5T/y. This is about 10X current clean energy yearly investment. This is also not counting storage, backup or transmission costs. Allowing for more cost reduction brings cost into the $1.5T/y current total spent on energy.
As my last blog post discusses, clean energy investment has been stalled at about $250B for the last seven years. About half of this is government subsidies. Government policies are determining the current investment level. To get to sustainable clean energy growth it must become market driven growth. Energy is a commodity. Price determines demand. Instead of 4TW to 5TW Stratosolar only needs 1.2TW to 1.5TW each year, or $0.6T to $0.8T each year. The key point is that this is at a fraction of the cost of electricity from fossil fuels without needing any government subsidy. Electricity at $0.01/kWh to $0.02/kWh without any strings or hidden costs will simply replace fossil fuels at a rapid pace driven by market forces and high profits driving investment.
As is common with energy discussions, it is easy to get lost in the weeds. The only reason for clean energy is to reduce CO2 emissions. Wind and solar are not an end in themselves. They are a means to the end of reducing CO2 emissions. If they are not on a path to reducing CO2 they are failing their purpose, no matter how successful they are as businesses. Stratosolar is a logical progression that takes today's solar PV from failing to reduce global CO2 to succeeding in reducing global CO2. That is a big deal and worthy of some attention.
By Edmund Kelly