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Cairo Review: “The New Age of Renewable Energy”

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Article author Jeffrey Ball is the scholar in residence at Stanford University’s Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance and a lecturer at Stanford Law School. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Cross-Brookings Initiative on Energy and Climate.

Quote from the article: “...though wind and solar energy represent a tiny percentage of total global energy, they have achieved critical mass. They have arrived at a third stage, one with massive ramifications for the global economy: the Age of Viability.

What has ushered in renewable energy’s Age of Viability is an extraordinary, and extraordinarily fast, decline in renewable-energy prices. Driven first by Europe and then by China, the Age of Subsidy scaled up renewable energy. Those subsidies slashed renewable energy’s prices to levels that, in some locations and in some circumstances, now are lower than the prices of electricity produced by coal, natural gas, and nuclear power.

Wind and solar still are subsidized in major markets. And the wind and solar industries have assembled powerful lobbying machines gunning to preserve the subsidies. But many leading economies—the United States, and many countries in Europe, and even China itself—are reforming their renewable-energy subsidies in a bid to make them more economically efficient.

Yet something strange is happening: despite the rationalization of these subsidies, the percentage of electricity that these countries generate from wind and solar continues to grow. In 2016, wind and solar together accounted for nearly 20 percent of electricity generation in Germany, the world’s fourth-largest economy; nearly 15 percent in the United Kingdom, the fifth-largest economy; and 20 percent in California, which if it were a country would be the world’s sixth-largest economy.”

And to counter the inevitable naysayers who claim that wind and solar are only growing because of government subsidies, I would point out that the author notes this: there is the annual amount of “$260 billion spent globally on fossil-fuel consumption subsidies.”

As Elon has repeatedly pointed out, he would be fine if all renewable energy and EV subsidies were taken away as long as the orders of magnitude greater fossil fuel subsidies were also taken away.