For decades, my colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute, now abbreviated as RMI, and I have argued that the transition to clean energy would cost less and proceed faster than governments, companies, and many analysts expected. In recent years, this point of view has been fully demonstrated: the costs of renewables have fallen even faster than expected, while these sources have spread faster than expected, bringing their costs down even further.
Thanks to this virtuous cycle, renewable energy sources have been able to impose themselves. Now, new analyzes from two trusted research institutions are adding to the wealth of data that shows a rapid transition to clean energy is the least expensive path forward.
The urgency calls for policy makers, business leaders, and financial institutions to consider the promising implications of this development. With the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow approaching, it is essential that world leaders understand that achieving the 1.5°C warming target set by the Paris Climate Agreement is not about making sacrifices, but about seizing opportunities. The negotiation process must be reformulated, less about burden-sharing than about a profitable race to deploy cleaner, less expensive energy technologies.
Because the world is already experiencing natural weather events, a rapid transition to clean energy also has the advantage of being the safest way forward. If we fail in this historic mission, we risk not only wasting trillions of dollars, but also pushing civilization down the dangerous and potentially disastrous path that climate change is taking.
One can only guess why, for decades, forecasters have underestimated the low costs and rapid spread of renewable energy sources. But the results are clear: bad predictions have secured trillions of dollars in investments in energy infrastructure, projects that not only cost the most, but do the most harm to human society, and all life on the planet.
We now have what may be our last chance to make up for decades of missed opportunities. Either we continue to waste trillions more on a system that kills us, or we quickly move to cheaper, cleaner, more advanced energy solutions of the future.
New studies shed light on the way the rapid transition to clean energy is taking place. In the International Renewable Energy Agency’s “Renewable Spring” report, Kingsmil Bond showed; Its lead author, that renewables follow the same exponential growth curve as previous technological revolutions, while sticking to predictable and well-understood patterns. Accordingly, Bond notes, the energy transition will continue to attract capital and build momentum. However, this process can and should be supported to ensure that it proceeds as quickly as possible. Policymakers who want to bring about change must create an environment conducive to the optimal flow of capital. Bond clearly outlines the sequence of steps that this process entails…continued.
Project Syndicate, 2021.
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