Current Challenges with Green Energy
We’re big fans of renewable energy
Hope you're having a great week so far. Happy Cinco de Mayo! A few weeks back we took a look at climate tech startups that we were keeping an eye on. Today we’ll be taking a high-level look at the energy industry and how focus has shifted this past year.
Humans have been harnessing natural gas for thousands of years — and having to make the switch over to renewable energy for cities and countries will take time. Schools, homes, businesses, and public buildings would all have to transition how they are run. The technology to create large amounts of renewable energy takes time to build and won’t be solved overnight.
The main problems touted about renewables:
Green energy can be costly.
There's geographic restrictions (areas that don't get as much sunlight or wind can't take advantage of solar/wind as much).
Today, renewable energy is cheaper than coal, with solar power costs dropping by 82% and wind costs dropping by 39%. And these costs continue to fall in the coming years, with this continuing trend to enable highly competitive reasons to replace existing coal plants both in cost and in labor.
Geographic restrictions do continue to be a big challenge, but similar to our approach to transporting natural gasses around, the infrastructure to set up renewable energy continues to be built over time and will only get better as more people buy into it. Cities and states, like CA, are adding these resources to their electric grid in the hopes to eventually phase out fossil fuels.
Why is it hard for society to adopt green energy?
Green energy is often incorrectly seen as the source of blame for problems such as the electric grid. The recent Texas winter storm in Feb 2021 left millions of Texans without power for several days, originally blamed on renewable energy, when instead it was found to be a problem with regulation on its natural-gas facilities.
And when challenged about green energy’s popularity, natural gas industry leaders can often be found faking large amounts of support from local communities with ghostwriting. When solar power is also considered as an option, processes put in place by government officials tend to delay work, slowing down the speed these projects get approved. NIMBY-ism, or “not in my backyard” also remains a major challenge with installing these projects in different communities.
What about electric vehicles?
Despite drops in price in lithium-ion batteries, electric cars continue to still be the same sticker price that it was years ago, if not more expensive. Costs of these EV cars are cheaper over the long-term compared to gas cars, according to Consumer Reports, and we know demand for these cars continues to grow.
Cars haven't budgeted in terms of sticker price — they have generally gotten more expensive and the semiconductor storage has caused prices to spike. It also doesn’t help that the USPS plans to purchase 148,000 more gas-powered delivery trucks over the next decade, with false analysis about its cost.
So what gives? Most often companies in America approach selling these cars with a high initial cost because they start with more expensive models with more expensive batteries to fund the supply for cheaper models. And while cost of cars overall have grown, this approach has led to higher profit margins for the companies.
The Biden administration has recently established a strong goal to hit 50% of all new car sales to be electric by 2030, so eventually this shift to lower-cost vehicles will have to happen.
How are other countries committing to green energy this year?
Recent economic pressures put many countries in a bind as they hope to address climate change carbon emissions, but continue to push forth coal production. Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine has sparked the push from the EU to cut their reliance on Russian oil and gas; however, this often leads to turning to coal or natural gas, neglecting the goal to reduce fossil fuels.
Other countries such as China and India are also facing challenges that involve them immediately turning to coal and gas to help boost the economy. China plans on boosting coal production capacity by over 7% this year, with plans to build more power plants as energy shortages caused blackouts and factor shutdowns. India is facing a brutal heat wave, but given the 70% of reliance on coal and its recent high prices, the country is unable to keep up with the high demand for energy resources.
Oslo in Norway is trying to tackle the energy crisis with a very ambitious plan in the form of policies with incentives. These measures include cheaper parking for electric vehicles, banning oil-fired furnaces, mandating zero-emission machinery, and building partnerships with private companies that use electric vehicles. In the past decade, this seems to have dropped total emissions by 16%, but continued funding and more public transportation usage continues to remain a challenge.
Things We're Consuming This Week
SCOTUS’s challenge to Roe v. Wade will also have the potential to affect environmental law, as the justices are willing to go against their previous rulings such as the 2007 ruling in Massachusetts v. EPA, effectively affirming the federal government’s right to regulate greenhouse gasses.
Apple announced its first “self service repair” for owners to repair their smartphones at home, with Microsoft following shortly after with a study on the environmental benefits to repairing devices. Google and Samsung are soon to follow, under pressure from the public and shareholders.
The world lost tropical rainforests at an alarming rate last year — 30 Central Parks, or 40 square miles, every day in 2021.
The U.N. stated in their Global Land Outlook report that farming, mining and longing has damaged up to 40% of the world’s land, threatening significant hits to crop yields and carbon gain.
John Oliver recently discussed environmental racism on his Last Week Tonight show, and the damaging effects the government and industry are failing people of color.
Patagonia recently put out a short video called Holdfast, discussing the lost traditional California Indian food sources along the California coast due to the effects of climate change.
A recent US climate activist dies in front of the Supreme Court after he set himself on fire in protest against climate change.
A new sustainability-focused college will be added to Stanford due to a recent $1.1B donation from a venture capitalist.
Spring may have arrived, but not for these birds. Climate change has shifted their egg-laying schedule by over 3 weeks, affecting the entire forest ecosystem.
Things You Can Do
🌵 Cinco de Mayo is today! If you're looking for some plant based dishes to make for the occasion, look no further.
💡 The Biden administration announced new standards for energy efficiency, essentially ending the sale of new incandescent light bulbs. Switch over the LED light bulbs if you haven’t already.
🧺 Run your electric appliances (dishwasher and laundry) at times when not as many people are using the electric grid. This not only reduces your footprint by a bit but also helps save money.
♻️ This one is tough to hear, but recycling is not really as ideal as it seems. NPR found that big oil companies have been lying to the public for years about how recycling is actually done, with only 9% being recycled. California is opening an investigation, but it might be too little too late. Lesson: buy less plastic. Recycled products aren't really recycled.
Questions or comments on this piece? Want to know more about green energy? Suggestions on what we should cover next? Send us a note.