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. Offshore wind is currently 50% cheaper than new nuclear, so we should probably make a plan with renewables. You know, 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 as 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 wont be easy, but there are entire countries who’ve powered themselves for decent periods of time without so much as a sniff of fossil juice, so there’s definitely hope.

There is no single path to 100%, but this chapter will pay a visit to some off the truly exciting sights on the road that’s being built. It will also:

  • Give five exceedingly good reasons why we should make the transition to green energy (aside from leaving a planet that’s liveable for our grandkids)
  • Explain why future robots will cook your food but not install your solar panels
  • Show why Richard Nixon – who used to keep a fire burning in the White House with the air-con turned up high – passed some of the finest environmental laws known to man

While we’re on the subject of energy, we should talk about how to use what we already make a little more wisely.