So, renewables.

My uncle’s friend’s sister’s boyfriend told me oil is renewable too.

Errr…

Because the old trees fall over and drown in swamps and then… something something… oil.

But that takes millions of years; calling fossil fuels renewable is like calling Nutella a healthy addition to your breakfast. Sure, it contains like half a hazelnut, but-

Alright, you made your point. What about renewables?

They’re going to make fossil executives very unhappy. Low-carbon energy today only makes up about 25% of world electricity generation, but it’s growing – 62% of new energy installed in 2016 was renewable, and it’s getting more difficult to get fossil power stations financed.

So fossil fuels and renewables are locked in a deadly spiral of hatred, occasionally meeting to duel with lightsabers?

Sort of; but there have been some high-profile defectors from the dark side recently.

Tell me more.

There are old coal power plants that have been covered with solar panels; rather beautifully, the Kentucky coal museum also converted to solar power last year.

Woah.

Woah indeed. Energy companies are starting to publicly accept climate is a Thing We Need To Deal With, like Shell producing their Sky projection that predicts the death of fossil fuels. Well, sort of.

Does this mean the world will be solar powered soon?

That might be a bit optimistic. There are still huge hurdles between us and a low carbon world, like rewiring our grid to shuffle energy around, but the economics is-

Yawn.

Come on, I can’t use the word ‘economics’? Alright, how’s this: Europe’s fourth biggest polluter, the massive energy company PGE SA, wants to invest in wind in a big way; the cost of installing new solar has dropped by 20% in the last year alone, and Texas – George Bush country – has so much wind and sun that fossil power can’t compete.

That’s mildly interesting.

And Saudi Arabia has just announced they’re building the world’s biggest solar farm – it’ll be 100 times bigger than the next biggest, enough to power 150 million homes.

So… large?

Five thousand square kilometres kind of large.

Sounds like the Jedi are winning. Is this green power cheap yet?

Yes and no. It’s been subsidised so far-

Woah! So my hard-earned money is going to fund these hippies?

First, you’re a figment of my imagination; you don’t pay taxes. Second, fossil fuels are subsidised to the tune of at least 310 billion a year.

Wait, seriously?

Actually, that’s a lowball estimate; include the external stuff like the health costs and climate change damages, and the IMF reckons it could be north of $5 trillion.

Hmmm.

Even so, wind and solar – without subsidies – are getting pretty close to competing with fossil power. Consistently falling prices mean they’ll soon be cheaper than coal and gas, everywhere.

Curious. If only there were a way for me to find out this sort of information each week, say, a newsletter or something.

That’ll do, figment; that’ll do.

 

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