(3BL Media/Justmeans) — We have seen impressive growth in renewables over the past several years, but much of that growth is based on the somewhat shaky foundation of continuing subsidies. So argues Eduardo Porter in the New York Times. Porter points out that while wind power added 13 GW of new capacity in 2012, only one additional GW was added in 2013. The reason why: expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC).
Referring to the rapid expansion in the market, Letha Tawney of World Resources Institute says, “any time there is uncertainty about the production tax credit, it all stops.”
According to the IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives report, their “annual progress report on global efforts to engineer a clean-energy transformation,” says that despite best efforts in many areas, “the carbon intensity of our energy supply is stuck.” Gains in renewables are being offset by added fossil fuel capacity. Furthermore, even where wind and solar PV are thriving, some of the other technologies, like offshore wind, geothermal, and biofuels have been lagging.
According to IEA Executive Director, Maria van der Hoeven, we have the technology and it is cost effective, but the political will is still lacking. How do we get people and governments in particular, to spend the money?
Here’s an analogy. Let’s say you just moved into a house that was built 30 years ago. The furnace in that house is very inefficient but it is still working. If you replaced the furnace today, you’d begin saving the money (and helping the planet) immediately. But how many of you, despite the fact that the investment can be shown to be cost effective in terms of payback, would still wait until the furnace breaks down before replacing it. That’s exactly where we are today on the clean energy journey. Even though these technologies can be shown to be cost-effective without incentives, it seems to take that extra push to move people to action.