The International Energy Agency’s groundbreaking report last month states that “any further investment in fossil fuels is incompatible with a net zero future.” The Agency, formed after the 1973 oil crisis, is a highly influential authority on global energy that has been known as a mouthpiece for the oil & gas industry. Media reaction to the turnaround was swift -The Financial Times said the IEA was “calling time on the fossil fuel industry." Dave Jones, global lead at climate research think-tank Ember, called the report a “knife into the fossil fuel industry."
The key to net zero is solar, wind and battery. The IEA says that solar, wind, and battery (SWB) farms, or battery-backed solar and wind, are the key to achieving these goals. Nuclear and carbon capture are far too expensive to be players in the near-term IEA path. In the next four years, wind energy costs are projected to reach 2-3 cents per kilowatt-hour and for solar, 3-4. Jim Robo, chairman and CEO of NextEra Energy, the largest US utility company, says that all the coal plants can be almost immediately turned off, as the price of operating a coal plant is more than building and running an SWB system.
Seba and Dorr. Energy experts Tony Seba and Adam Dorr contend that 100% SWB electricity systems along with an overhaul of the national electrical grid can become dominant by 2030 and produce 100% clean energy for the US and the “overwhelming majority” of the rest of the world, while cutting current electricity rates and creating millions of jobs. The power generated will be so abundant that it will also largely displace fossil fuels in non-electricity sectors like industry, transportation, and agriculture. Seba and Dorr have also found that new and existing natural gas plants run at a capacity of only 58% instead of the 87% level that is assumed. This means that the cost of newly built natural gas electricity is actually 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour and not the 4 cents currently believed.
Outlook. Seba and Dorr project that implementing SWB on a national scale would cost $2 trillion to manufacture and install – less than 1% of the US’s predicted aggregate GDP over the next ten years. Having a SWB-based national grid would put the average cost of electricity under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour. Many expect the SWB disruption – including converting thousands of applications that now run on fossil fuels – will parallel the digital disruption of the past 20 years. The rise of the internet and computing power led to thousands of new business models that transformed the global economy. As Seba and Dorr state: “What happened in the world of bits is now poised to happen in the world of electrons.”