In an article published in Science Daily on February 28, 2018 by University of California – Irvine, researchers maintained that “the United States could reliably meet about 80 percent of its electricity demand with solar and wind power generation” in the future. Meeting that amount of electricity demand with solar and wind would require, however, our ability to store several weeks’ worth of electricity to meet demands during evening hours or during periods of calm.
“The sun sets, and the wind doesn’t always blow,” noted Steven Davis, UCI associate professor of Earth system science and co-author of a renewable energy study published today in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. “If we want a reliable power system based on these resources, how do we deal with their daily and seasonal changes?”
Researchers maintain that the solution lies in the expansion of our current transmission and storage capabilities, a policy initiative that would requires both legislative leadership and a sizable investment. They estimated that the cost of the new transmission lines required, for example, could be hundreds of billions of dollars. In comparison, storing that much electricity with today’s cheapest batteries would likely cost more than a trillion dollars, although prices are falling. The US commitment to solar not only lacks this kind of financial backing but also leadership at the federal level. There are states that are making progress – like NY – but we lack clear and progressive policy at the top.
But, progress is being made – as evidenced by the leadership being displayed primarily in countries other than the US. On Sunday, March 11, for example, the International Solar Summit in New Delhi met for the first time. Speaking at that meeting, French President Emmanuel Macron announced an additional investment of 700 million euros for global solar energy generation in France by 2022 to reduce the use of fossil fuel and help combat climate change. “The French Development Agency will allocate additional 700 million euros to its commitment to solar energy by 2022,” Macron said. Macron said France was committed to the use of clean energy by generating over 1,000 GW of solar power by 2030, one of the outcomes of the Paris accord.
The French President co-chaired the summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India under the auspices of the UN. India has also made a sizable commitment to expanding its solar energy capabilities. Addressing the heads of 23 nations and 10 ministerial representatives who attended the founding meeting of International Solar Alliance (ISA), Modi called for concessional financing and less-risky funds for solar projects to provide cheaper electricity and cut carbon emissions.
Modi said India will generate 175 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2022. This will be more than double the present renewable energy capacity and be enough to overtake renewable expansion in the European Union for the first time.
The commitment and vision of both India and France are to be commended. The fact that the International Solar Alliance meets in New Delhi without the US participating is unfortunate. Perhaps that situation will change as the potential of solar becomes clear to those in US leadership positions.