Climate change, agreed by the consensus of the scientific community as the byproduct of human activity, is a global blight. Global warming due to increased carbon dioxide levels in the sky leads to a slew of ill effects. These effects include rising sea levels and the extinction of flora and fauna. The biggest culprit behind carbon dioxide excess comes from unsustainable power sources, of which fossil fuels play the biggest role.
In recent years, with the discovery and proof of global warming coming forward, scientists tried to think of alternate fuels. These fuels would need an easy means of production, energy efficiency and safe byproducts. Such fuels, termed as sustainable, would also gain the title of ‘clean energy’ sources. However, due to several limitations, political agendas and lack of awareness, humanity still hasn’t reached that goal.
Clean energy sources include solar, wind, nuclear (yes, the byproducts need to be carefully controlled), water and hydrogen power. The latter, though used experimentally, holds great promise because the burned hydrogen simply produces water. It burns with great energy release, but unfortunately becomes prone to explosions. For other reasons, the remaining sources have not yet come into vogue. Meanwhile, environmentalists indicate that the Earth has only a few short years before irreparable harm.
For the first time in years, estimates claim that wind and solar power may prove cheaper than petrol power
However, things may finally take a turn for the better. A recent study by Lazard (click here for the full report) predicts that the costs of renewable energy may decrease. It also states that, according to analysts, the reduced costs would make non-renewable energy from fossil fuels less common.
In the United States, energy sectors often receive government subsidies to run smoothly. Thus, not surprisingly, politicians with vested interests in the fossil fuel industries often back subsidizing them. As the nation is one of the largest oil consumers and importers, many believe clean energy is deliberately hindered.
Conspiracy theory aside, cold hard mathematics indicate good tidings. The cost of domestic level solar and wind is low, at only $31 and $26 per megawatt-hour (MWh) respectively. On the other side, coal, which is still widely used, averages at $41 per MWh. All costs come inclusive of the said subsidies.
The implications of this report lead to speculations of a greener future
Industries, with supply and demand, simply put, will never cease. As humanity grows, so do our needs and consumptions of energy. The most cost-effective and convenient sources get picked. This mentality is precisely why fossil fuels dominate our usage for over a century. As several nations, like France, do, nuclear energy becomes common due to the reduction of costs.
Other valid speculations come from the scientific community. Some argue that at present, a major bottleneck comes from the storage cell. While it can certainly hold enough charge, the wiring grids may not have enough bandwidth. So, some predict an inevitable overhaul of the traditional Lithium-ion cell, possibly replaced by Sodium-water or Hydrogen cell.
However, the report attracted some criticism from skeptics
Several drawbacks to renewable power sources as we know them exist. In the case of wind power, it is that wind may fluctuate in intensity, and the turbines take up vast land areas. Solar power may prove expensive to manufacture panels, and less efficient for cells. Both wind turbines and solar panels constitute of products that do not come from clean sources.
In the case of nuclear and hydrogen power, safety and costs seem risky. Hydrogen powered cells certainly cannot beat propane cylinders for transport, as they require high pressure and low temperatures to stay liquid. Furthermore, not every economy will have the ability to afford these new alternate sources. Lastly, without government subsidies the cost-comparison becomes less valid.