#1: The Solar Revolution
In the realm of energy, the solar revolution has vast potential for long-term impact. Prices have fallen a hundred-fold since the 1970s, and the German Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems has predicted that by 2050 solar PV will cost as little as 2 cents/kwh.
Today, residential solar is selling for $3-$4 per watt, with utility-scale solar selling for $2 a watt (10 cents/kwh). By 2032, the year in which Journey to the Future takes place, these prices have halved. A parallel revolution in electric batteries has also happened, making storage cheaper and easier.
As an example of what’s possible, if all of Egypt’s seven million cars were solar-powered electric, the electricity needed could come from a solar farm in the desert just eighty-five square kilometres in size—a tiny fraction of Egypt’s total area.
For humanity, the Solar Revolution is the Fifth Great Energy Revolution, following the first (fire, deriving energy from solar-fed firewood), the second (agriculture, deriving energy from solar-fed crops), the third (animals, deriving power from solar-fed oxen and horses), and the fourth (fossil fuels, deriving energy from ancient stored solar energy).
What is needed to speed the change? In regions where coal and gas still contribute to the grid, the Feed-In Tariff has proved its ability to increase the uptake of solar PV and other forms of renewable energy. An integrated approach to solar acceleration might include:
- 1. Federal and state policy commitments to achieve 100% renewable energy for all purposes, as in Denmark;
- Similar policies by cities to achieve 100% renewable energy, as in Vancouver;
- A Feed-In Tariff, with a falling tariff for producers as the price of solar continues to fall;
- Community financing tools that encourage people to invest in solar, as in Vermont, and in RRSP-eligible Solar Bonds;
- Support for community solar installations;
- Streamlined solar-permitting, as in California, and zero-permitting for simple systems;
- A single integrated regional website as the go-to place for clear and current information, as in Utah.
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