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Solar’s Cheaper Than Coal – Great, So We’ve Beaten Climate Change Then, Right?

It’s not necessary for us to actually agree with the following statement in order for us to derive a logical conclusion from it. After all, we might demur a little about whether solar really is cheaper than coal, or ponder on whether simple cost per watt is quite the right way to measure between continuous and variable electricity sources. However, if we do take this seriously then we are able to derive a useful logical conclusion from it:

Building new solar power projects would generate cheaper electricity than running most of the world’s existing coal power plants, according to a global renewable energy report.

New figures have revealed that more than half of the world’s coal plants could be undercut by the falling cost of new large-scale solar projects, which are now more than 80% cheaper to build than in 2010.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) has found that up to 1,200 gigawatts of the world’s existing coal capacity could cost more to run than the cost of new utility-scale solar plants.

If energy companies replaced only their most expensive coal plants with new solar power projects or onshore wind farms, totalling 500 GW globally, they could save up to $23bn (£18bn) every year and wipe out 5% of last year’s total global carbon emissions, according to Irena.

Excellent, we’ve beaten climate change then.

For recall what the original prognosis was. That we’d carry on fuelling an ever growing industrialised society through the use of fossil fuels. More, in the worst scenario (what is now RCP8.5) we’d run out of conventional oil and gas and so turn back to the more emmittive coal. Now we’re being told that we’re simply not going to do that. Solar is cheaper. So, logically enough, people are going to install solar. Why wouldn’t people install the cheaper option?

This logic goes on to tell us that what we needed to do in order to beat climate change was get the cost of non-fossil energy sources down below those of fossil. Which, as above, we’ve done. We can now sit back and allow normal human greed to drive the rest of the process. After all, there is no one at all who favours fossil because they love clouds of black smoke now, is there?

Future energy installations will be solar, driven by pure capitalistic greed, and we’re done. We don;t have to overturn industrial society – or capitalism – itself. We’ve solved the problem without doing that.

Which leads to two further pieces of logical deduction. There are those who insist that we must still over turn that capitalism, that industrial society to beat climate change. Even though we’ve already, as the figures above show, solved the problem. A possible deduction from this is that they don’t believe the above numbers and our response to that must be, but, but, don’t you believe the science, deniers? The other would be that they’re – as they have been all along – just looking for a reason to over turn capitalism and any old thing will do there. For it really is true. If we’ve made non-fossil fuel energy generation cheaper than fossil then we really have already beaten climate change. No more need be done.

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Ben S
Ben S
10 months ago

Still wondering why anyone bothers with the expense of piped water when rain is free…

Boganboy
Boganboy
10 months ago

Clearly all regulations compelling the purchase of solar electricity and the subsidies paid to its producers can and should be instantly scrapped.

Pat
Pat
10 months ago
Reply to  Boganboy

Indeed, and tax the exploitative fat cats getting rich by supplying cheap wind and solar for more than the price of expensive coal.

Esteban
Esteban
10 months ago

Reminds me a bit of the cases where the usual suspects argue that some store or product should be outlawed because nobody wants it.

Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat
10 months ago

We’re only talking about electricity generation here, which is (from memory) only 18% of UK power needs and 16% of world needs. Electric road vehicles may be coming along, but aircraft and shipping are going to be needing hydrocarbon fuels for the foreseeable future.

John B
John B
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur the Cat

And replacing the energy from motor fuels with electricity will require an increase of at least 50% in current generated output: plus the infrastructure to go with it.

And from fossil fuels we get a huge range of every day things, the prices of which will increase dramatically once revenue from motor fuels no longer contributes to costs and profits.

thefat tomato
thefat tomato
10 months ago
Reply to  John B

well there is a research opportunity, which is probably already being worked on

GR8M8S
GR8M8S
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur the Cat

And then there is the energy required to process all that lithium and the resulting pollution. https://www.salon.com/2019/06/17/lithium-mining-for-green-electric-cars-is-leaving-a-stain-on-the-planet/

Matt
Matt
10 months ago
Reply to  Arthur the Cat

With very few exceptions, transport does not run on coal. Yes there are still some steam trains in the third world; yes there are heritage railways, heritage paddle steamers, classic steam rollers, etc. (which aren’t really transport in the same way that rollercoasters aren’t really transport). There are very few places where coal makes up a noticeable proportion of heating energy. It’s used in virgin steel production and electricity generation: everything else put together is trivial. To get any of the high RCP scenarios, we have to have coal as a serious proportion of the energy mix, and digging the… Read more »

John B
John B
10 months ago

Solar electricity is cheap because for about two thirds of the time you are not paying for it because you aren’t getting any.

Jon Jermey
Jon Jermey
10 months ago

Except at night, of course…

P1234
P1234
10 months ago

Thought Mr Moore and friends had firmly put the boot into renewables

Leo Savantt
Leo Savantt
10 months ago

In Hampshire I saw what was once a green field providing pasture and therefore food recently covered in solar panels. They don’t produce any food, no electricity at night and bugger all in the winter, brilliant. There might be an argument for micro-solar on roofs of both industrial and domestic buildings, but covering precious fertile fields is an idiocy of incredible proportions. Of course we could go for more on shore wind, killer of millions of birds and billions of insects that are required to pollinate plants, including food crops; of course they don’t work on windless days and provide… Read more »

Spike
Spike
10 months ago
Reply to  Leo Savantt

I saw the same in New Hampshire. An extra enormity is that best-case 20% capture of solar energy with silicon (before loss in storage and transmission) is much worse than good old chlorophyll in plants.

Bill Heller
Bill Heller
10 months ago

From Michael Moore:
JUST NOW: Great news! We are back up on YouTube after 12 days of being shut down by an outside attack using the copyright law to silence us and not let you see Planet of the Humans. Now you can watch what they don’t want you to see.
https://youtu.be/MrOcBdnC3kw

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