Wind and solar are hailed as the future of our world. Are they?
Wind farms were a familiar sight for me as they were an integral part of the landscape near my hometown in southern India. The general assumption was that these windmills would generate a significant amount of electricity to aid the energy sector that was struggling to meet soaring electricity demand.
However, the wind farms turned out to be a burden, not a boon. They generated unreliable and expensive electricity that was available only during the windy months of the year.
This is true with wind farms worldwide, which are infamous for killing hundreds of thousands of birds every year.
Much like wind, solar, too, has many limitations. It harnesses light energy only during the day, subject to weather conditions and cloud cover.
Solar and wind both need battery backup, and despite the falling costs of installation, the technology is far from competing with conventional energy sources.
Today, solar and wind together constitute only 0.8 percent of global energy. That is an insignificant percentage, given the energy demands of the industrialized world.
In contrast, most of the world’s energy comes from conventional sources such as coal, hydro, nuclear, petroleum and natural gas.
The U.S. energy sector is driven primarily by fossil fuel. Fossil fuel (coal, petroleum, natural gas), along with nuclear, constitute more than 87 percent of the energy produced in the country.
The heavily subsidized wind and solar together contribute less than 3 percent of the total needed energy produced in the United States.
The case is similar in Russia, where coal, natural gas and nuclear produce 80 percent of the energy needed in the country.
In China and India, the majority of the energy comes from coal. France and Canada are both heavily reliant on nuclear and hydroelectric plants.
This winter, both wind and solar failed miserably due to their inherent inefficiency — incapable of generating electricity in cold and dark winters. Nuclear- and coal-powered energy saved millions in China, the United Kingdom and Canada from freezing.
In India, record coal production helped the country achieve surplus energy (2017) for the first time in its history.
To put it in simple words, wind and solar made no significant contribution to global energy production. They have never done so. Even if all the member states of the Paris agreement install more wind and solar as per their individual commitments, solar and wind will produce only less than 4 percent of the global energy in the year 2040.
And it is not just the percentage of energy produced, but also the cost. The International Energy Agency forecasts indicate renewables will still be the most expensive energy source everywhere in 2040.
Thus wind and solar will never provide us the energy we need. Yet, environmentalists have labeled them as the future of our world. Through climate agreements, they are now asking countries to make a mandatory transition to them.
If nations don’t resist, a near energy disaster is likely.