Renewables are "Rewriting the Whole Economy"

by Anna Gretz
October 19, 2017
Energy

It’s been happening pretty much every area of our lives; new technology has been completely changing the way we think about, and interact with the world on a personal and collective economic level.

Historically, people have seen these upending changes as a threat. Every generation comes to a point where they feel like new inventions are disrupting their lifestyles, and pushing them out of their comfort zones. But is the new tech the threat? Or is it the creative response to the real threats that have always been creeping up behind every new generation?

In the 1970s, the oil crisis threatened our gasoline supply, leaving us wondering whether or not we could maintain the freedom of mobility in the future. In the 80s, property crime rates peaked. Homeowners felt unsafe in their homes, and powerless against intruders. In the 1990s, data hackers presented a threat to our new, computer-technology-based lifestyle. Next, after the turn of the century in the year 2000, identity theft threatened our very identity, as well as our credit.

As each threat loomed above us, we rose to meet it. With each new threat, a new industry was born.

In the 70s, Toyota and Volkswagen created an industry of small cars, insuring us that we could make it through the oil crisis with our freedom to travel still intact. In the 80s, companies like ADT stepped in with affordable alarm systems, making sure everyone could feel safe and secure in their homes. When computer viruses and data hackers posed a new threat in the 90s, Symantec came out with the first version of Norton Anti-Virus, giving us the opportunity to safely secure our computers. In 1005, LifeLock was founded to help us protect our credit, and protect our identity.

Each time we are threatened, we have answered with new, innovative industries that protect and secure our way of life.

Today, there is a new threat on the horizon. Our supply of electricity is in danger, and along with it, every device in our technology-centered lives.

Not everyone is aware of the fragility of the power grid, but once you take a look at it, the signs couldn’t be more obvious.

Our grid is aging. 70% of its infrastructure was built before 1980. Along with our bridges and our roads, our electrical grid has been neglected, and not given the maintenance it needs to remain safe and strong. But though the grid itself continues to deteriorate, the demand our society is placing on it is higher than ever. Due to the full infiltration of electronic devices into our society, the need for electricity to run and charge these devices is on the rise. Because of climate change, the need for electricity to control the temperature inside of our homes is on the rise. We are putting an unprecedented amount of strain on the power grid, with no sign of letting up anytime soon. Our grid is overloaded.

This is the real threat. And our next, creative response?

Renewables.

The new technology that is, yet again, changing the way we think and use energy is based in renewable energy sources like solar and wind. Just like before, we’re on the brink of an exciting revolution, and with it, a disruption of the current market.

In a recent report published by Wood Mackenzie we’re about to have a huge shift in our current economic system, lead by the “drive for deep carboniation and the falling cost of renewables.” The steep decline of renewable energy prices and the unprecedented advancement of recent technology have finally met together to create the perfect environment for energy change.

Prajit Ghosh, the head of power and renewables research at Wood Mackenzie, said that “this is not just about decarbonization. It’s about rewriting the whole economy.”

What could a new energy normal look like?

First, the way utilities meet the energy demand of customers is about to change… again. Recently, natural gas leapfrogged over coal as the largest source of power in the United States. Now, renewable energy sources are gaining ground

Second, new technology will continue to emerge at a blistering pace, with prices falling even faster. In the past decade, solar PV prices have fallen by almost 80 percent, along with the price of energy storage, like batteries.

Batteries themselves make up a third major change, making both solar and wind energy sources a more consistent, viable, and economically sound energy source.

Another major leap came with the growth of popularity of this new technology, most clearly seen in Tesla’s rise in the auto industry. In only five years, Tesla and the electric car have continued to take up an ever-growing portion of auto sales and publicity. Now, a much wider range of automakers are eyeing the electric car market, and plan to increase the number of electric models they offer dramatically in the coming years.

The last step in the renewable energy revolution is digitization. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have already helped companies like Google cut their energy use, and “smart” thermostats are making their way into households everywhere.

In the same way that ideas like Smart Phones and Netflix have turned their respective industries upside down, renewables is on its way to becoming the new, more sustainable, normal in the energy sector. California has already seen major changes in the energy sphere, and has embraced most all of the steps listed in this article. Swell is excited about the huge role energy storage is playing in the new play for energy security.