There’s a wonderful fairytale, often told by a group we’ll call the Techno-Optimists, that any day now scientists will swoop in on a magically-powered horse to save the day and defeat the filthy fossil dragon. Sometimes the horse is powered by fusing atoms together – the process that powers the sun – and sometimes by next-generation nuclear technology fuelled with today’s radioactive waste.
These are both potentially wondrous technologies. They exist today, in some form or another, and with more research could be the answer to all our power issues. The problem is they’ve never been made to work at scale; the other problem is they tend to be black holes for research money. The standard joke is that fusion is always 30 years from now, and the brutish reality we must face is that we can’t wait that long for a miracle technology.
What we do have now is renewable power, in many forms and at every scale, often cheaper than any other source. We should probably make a plan with these, in case the horse is late.
Can we get to 100% renewable power?
That’s a really good question, but I have a better one:
How can we get close to 100% renewable as soon as possible?
That’s not an easy question to answer. It involves people from lots of different fields – scientists, energy experts, perhaps even a few politicians – coming together to make A Plan. It will not be The Plan, because every city and nation and region is different. It’ll have to be comprehensive enough to account for replacing and upgrading our fading energy infrastructure, but flexible enough to change as circumstances shift over time. It will definitely involve sharing ideas and technology between countries, and transferring this technology to those in the developing world who are often on the front lines of climate effects.
The good news is that organisations and governments are already doing this, and there are countries who’ve powered themselves for decent periods of time without so much as a sniff of fossil juice.
The other good news is we’re getting close to a time when renewables will be the cheapest option for new power, everywhere. Our job as human beings who care about this planet of ours is to make sure we get there as soon as possible.
While we’re on the subject of energy, we should talk about how to use what we already make a little more wisely.