Superpower to reign the world by 2030
Energy industry is to witness a profound transition to 100% wind, solar and storage electricity grids in the coming decade according to Stanford University futurist Tony Seba. This drastic change caused by solar, wind, lithium ion battery storage or SWB will be similar to digital disruption of Information Technology.
In the last two decades, we have seen similar disruptions of traditional information-based industries by the Internet, digital media, smartphones, and cloud computing that deliver products and services at near-zero marginal cost. The resulting superabundance of information and communication has created trillions of dollars of new value, dozens of new industries, and tens of millions of new jobs, which together have had a dramatic impact on the economy and society at large. Just as information technologies transformed the world of bits, SWB will transform the world of electrons.
RethinkX is an independent think tank that analyzes and forecasts the speed and scale of technology-driven disruption and its implications across society. They produce impartial, data-driven analyses that identify pivotal choices to be made by investors, businesses, policymakers, and civic leaders.
The dream of having 100% clean electricity from SWB across the continents will see daylight by 2030. It is physically possible and economically affordable. The exponential adoption of SWB worldwide will offer the cheapest electricity option for most of the regions. Solar and wind are cheap options compared to coal and nuclear power plants in many areas, thus making it financially unviable. It will become stranded by 2020s.
Compared to 2010, the cost of SWB systems have fallen tremendously. A further decrease of 70% is expected by 2030 making electricity cost less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour by 2030.
A recent analysis from Seba and the RethinkX team points at the pace of technology change, the energy transition and climate goals. International Energy Agency and Bloomberg NEF are of the view that most disruptive and climate-safe scenarios depend on pro-active policymaking, and less on technology change, whereas RethinkX assumes that change is driven by technology, as the disruption is already caused by the uptake of wind and solar.
100% of SWB systems produce a huge surplus of clean energy which is called the superpower. It will disrupt all the existing uses of energy. In sunny locations, an additional 20% investment can more than double superpower output. Regions that choose to make these additional investments will further enhance the economic and social benefits that arise from energy superabundance. It will create new growth opportunities.
RethinkX wants policymakers and energy institutions to start to rethink the way they manage the energy sector, and what it can do. They give importance to breaking up utility monopolies and supporting individual energy rights. Individuals, communities, industries, regions, and entire nations need to make the right choices today to make the maximum benefits out of the new energy systems.
In sunny areas, a 100% SWB system will produce a surprisingly large amount of superpower, more than twice the total electricity demand. The resulting superabundance of clean energy will open the door to extraordinary new possibilities for society, the economy, and the environment. The superpower will be plentiful enough to displace a large portion of other energy use outside of the electricity sector alone, such as in water desalination and filtration, road transportation, heating, waste management, and industrial and chemical processes.
According to RethinkX, the investment to construct a 100 percent SWB system in the continental United States would be less than $2 trillion over the next ten years – just 1 percent of GDP – and would support millions of new jobs. And the superpower produced by this system could displace up to half of the fossil fuel energy use outside of the existing electric power sector.
“Not only can it solve some of society’s most critical challenges but it will usher in hundreds of new business models and create industries that collectively transform the global economy. When a system generates hyper abundant electricity at a marginal cost close to zero, the potential for new value creation is limitless. This isn’t a problem of overcapacity. This is a Super Power solution.”
Reaching 100% SWB will eliminate virtually all greenhouse gas emissions from the existing electric power sector, and further reduce emissions by displacing fossil fuel use in the residential, commercial, industrial, transportation, and agriculture sectors as well. Just as a landline telephone evolved into the internet, the grid will evolve into a larger, more flexible, diverse, and capable system.
The superpower will also change the dynamics of local economic development. The local government could encourage or subsidize the development of an additional SWB superpower. These companies would benefit from superabundant energy at near-zero marginal cost while generating local jobs and development. This would not be the traditional extraction-based model, but a creation-based model of economic development: everyone would benefit from investments in superpower. Residential, commercial, and industrial users would all see their electricity costs tumble. As power costs go down, the cost of transportation, food, or materials to build a new home would drop, helping to lower the cost of living and saving everyone money.
With the plan of using super power for various industry, transport, buildings, increased manufacturing and export, many governments and energy experts have set the target of achieving 100 %renewables in a decades time.