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Are We Entering a Renewable Energy Tipping Point?

Are We Entering a Renewable Energy Tipping Point? thumbnail

Energy, the world’s largest industry, is currently undergoing a revolution. A switch towards renewable energy sources from the traditional fossil fuels we have relied upon to advance industrial and economic growth is underway.

Chris Goodall is a writer on new energy technologies. His book, The Switch, focuses on a global transition to an energy system based entirely on solar power. At the Reinventing Energy Summit Chris will share expertise on candidate technologies, most of which involve microbial transformations of simple molecules into energy-carrying gases and liquids. Taking illustrations from around the world, he’ll show that we are much closer than we might imagine to solving the long-term storage problem.

Solar power is going to get cheaper every year. Across almost all of the world it will be the obvious choice for power generation within ten years. Overnight storage will generally be provided by batteries, which are also falling sharply in price every year. But what about countries like the UK, with very little solar energy to tap in winter? The urgent need for northern countries is to find ways of storing energy for several months in massive quantities.

I asked him a few questions ahead of the summit to learn more about his work and the future of energy.

What started your work in renewable energy?

My long term concern about the impact of climate change on human society. I became interested in climate change ten years ago. Initially, I worked on how developed countries, and the individuals within them, could reduce emissions. I focused on issues such as encouraging a switch to plant-based diets and reducing air travel. Eventually I concluded that society probably didn’t want to cut greenhouse gases by changing lifestyles. So I moved on to thinking about how we could live our current lives without causing so much damage and I started writing books on renewable energy and investing in companies which have a reasonable prospect of making a difference to CO2 emissions. But, by the way, I still think it would be a good idea if we all moved to diets based on plants and only flew when absolutely necessary!

What are the key factors that have enabled recent advancements in renewables?

A growing sense that the world is hesitantly but inevitably shifting away from fossil fuels. This makes investment in renewables R&D seem less risky and more necessary. What are the main transformative technologies that will increase renewable technology useage? The single most important technologies are those that will transform energy from the sun into either electrons (electricity) or directly upgrade simple molecules into fuels (artificial photosynthesis).

What are the key challenges in long-term energy storage?

Energy storage in renewable gases (power to gas) or liquids (power to liquids) requires inputs of electricity to make possible. That is, when we make methane from spare electricity via hydrogen, we will lose half the energy value of the power. Only when that energy becomes very cheap does this become economically feasible. Paradoxically, the key challenge in energy storage is not storage at all, it is forcing down the price of solar PV to deliver cheap electricity.I put forward the case that the route is surprisingly clear and uncomplicated. The world will store surplus power, such as we might get on a sunny day in June in the northern hemisphere, by converting it into natural gas or liquid fuels similar to petrol. The chemistry is simple and well-understood. We can easily store these energy sources in existing pipelines and storage tanks for months on end.

What areas of renewable energy will see the biggest investment in the next 5 years?

Solar power will increasingly dominate as it becomes obvious that it is the best energy source of the future, almost everywhere.

Energy Collective

68 Comments on "Are We Entering a Renewable Energy Tipping Point?"

  1. Davy on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 12:01 pm 

    “A kwh from oil is not as good as a kwh from wind/solar/hydro, in my world at least.” I agree with your comment Ghung from an end user point of view. My comment is at Cloggie and his view of a shiny new Northern European green world significantly decarbonized yet still vibrant and modern. I just don’t see alternatives scaling to that vision. It would be wonderful and I would love to live in such a world but to me it is fantasy. If we are going to prepare for the worst with alternative energy strategies then it is exactly what you are doing that needs to be done with many end user applications especially rural locations. IMA, it will be the rural locations we need to maintain in a healthy way to ensure food production. Cities and towns have other dynamics. What Northern Europe is doing is amazing but there are limits to this.

  2. rockman on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 12:52 pm 

    You’re a gridweenie, you’re a gridweenie, you’re a gridweenie, you’re a gridweenie, you’re a gridweenie.

    Not directed at anyone…just have never seen the term before. It’s just fun to say. LOL. Thanks Ghung.

  3. Apneaman on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 1:33 pm 

    “Last time I checked the name of this site was peak-oil, not peak-grid.”

    So? Who gives a fuck about what you checked and didn’t check. Last time I checked you were a Dutch mental patient out on a day pass.

    Old dutch, what happend to your claim that the masters of were out to shut you down? Or was that the NSA, CIA or the DNC? Maybe all of them just like your conspiracy tard superhero ALEX FUCKING JONES! If I had know that Alex was going to be so popular, I would have invested all my money in Alcan and cornered the tinfoil hat market.

  4. Cloggie on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 2:01 pm 

    Maybe all of them just like your conspiracy tard superhero ALEX FUCKING JONES!

    Yeah the grapes are sour, aren’t they Friday, now that your heroin lost big time and America is going to be redesigned from top to bottom.LMAO

    Why don’t you start a local cultural-Marxist self-help group together with ghung and boat and learn how to deal with your grief. After all, shared grief is half the sorrow.

    Old dutch, what happend to your claim that the masters of were out to shut you down?

    I haven’t the faintest idea. Perhaps the election result has arrived at the masters…
    (pictured right)

    …level and it was decided that political correctness no longer applied, now that the Trumpenfuehrer has won. New leader, new age.

    Your guess is as good as mine.

  5. Ghung on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 2:23 pm 

    @ Davy… It all depends on your world future-view whether or not one believes these hyper-complex, top-down ponzi schemes can be maintained much longer. In his arrogance, it doesn’t occur to Cloggy that the set of arrangements his society is utterly dependent upon to continue requires a lot of things to go right that are currently in the process of going very wrong. Maybe he thinks someone will just wave some magic-fucking-wand and avert another banking crisis, forgive trillions in debts, restore the climate, un-deplete resources, find homes for millions of refugees…… Or maybe he thinks none of this applies to his little swamp of a country, and is too busy telling everyone else how fucked-up they are. The guy is a rather insane blend of right-white supremacist and neo-liberal progressive asshole, so it’s no wonder he’s fundamentally confused about where our global economies are headed, and what the implications are.

    When all of what he considers money goes poof, all of Cloggie’s dreams go POOF!

  6. rockman on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 2:43 pm 

    Cloggie – Mucho thanks for taking the time for all the details. So you did a ground mount since you had the space. My friend’s $25,000 bid was for a roof mount. And he had a tle roof so not simple. And not inexpensive.

    Which brings up a big factor: space. In my neighbourhood of townhomes not too bad: flat carport roofs and homes have half a flat roof. But the vast majority of homes in Houston are A-frames. And not very big yards. So for a significant amount of solar roof installs in Houston the average price would be much higher then for rural folks.

    But you could probably better address community designed applications for those densely populated urban areas you have. I forget the term where there’s an central heating system for an entire block of apartments. But you can remind me. But again the same question: installation cost for a system serving 40 or 60 apartments? Sometimes upscaling helps…sometimes not.

  7. Cloggie on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 3:26 pm 


    Nope, no ground mount but on the roof, in fact the roof covers three stories, meaning a 3 x 2.50 = 7.5 meters high scaffold needed to be build. Pretty much like this (Helmond, 10 miles from where I live):

    I forget the term where there’s an central heating system for an entire block of apartments

    District heating.

    No, I am the first to have panels installed in my street. I am sure you can push down the price if you can convince the neighbors to participate and negotiate a deal with the installer after some thorough preparation first:


    Here prices including installation, excl. 19% VAT. So you see that a system consisting of 6 panels do cost in the range of 3000 euro, in the Netherlands that is.

  8. Cloggie on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 3:53 pm 


    I have yet to decide who is more angry, Friday or Ghung. I almost feel guilty for the suffering Trump’s victory has caused.

    OK, just kidding.

    Ghung is launching one straw-man after the other. If Ghung would take the trouble to read what I have said earlier in this thread than even he will notice that I am very well preparing for collapse in the near future.

    But depressions may be hurtful for the average citizen, like millions unemployed lining up at soup kitchen’s, society in general will soldier on.

    Take Roosevelt America in the thirties. Unlike what Hitler achieved in Germany, America had to endure a depression during almost the entire thirties. But five years later America was “at the top of the world” (at the cost of Europe).

    I hope you get the point. A crash means hardship for millions, pensions evaporated, wages collapsed, but the knowledge level remains the same.

    Meanwhile we have almost all the methods we need to set up a cost-competing renewable energy base, at least in the West. In Europe we are blessed with higher energy prices, which makes the necessary transition easier.

    Summing it up: yes I believe in financial collapse (“believe” as in: it will happen) but it is at the same time irrelevant; nothing can stop the renewable energy transition and by 2050 at least Europe will have a nearly carbon free economy.

    Collapse or no collapse.

    Hopefully we will not be the only ones. But for Europe it will come easier since we have no alternative anyway.

  9. makati1 on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 5:46 pm 

    Cloggie, you have no concept of realty if you believe “nothing can stop the renewable energy transition and by 2050 at least Europe will have a nearly carbon free economy.”

    Like Ghung said, when the money stops, so does the world we know including “renewables” like solar. Solar is not portable in any useful amount except as built-ins for radios, PCs, etc. What do you do when you have to leave it behind or a storm (or fire) wrecks your house? As the oceans warm you too will experience hurricanes and waterfall rain storms regularly. Be patient.

    If you do not ‘own’ your house and have ‘money’ to pay the taxes on it until you die, how long will you be living there? Until the banks claim it? Or your cash strapped government?

    Europeans are mostly arrogant bastards. I see them here as tourists and they are as bad as Americans in their “we own the world” attitude. Enjoy your fantasy world. I’ll taker reality any day.

  10. Cloggie on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 6:34 pm 

    What the hell does that mean…

    “when the money stops”?

    Meaningless phrase.

    Before and after the crash there will be hundreds of millions of Europeans world wide and Chinese able and willing to work to set up a new energy base. The crash will mean evaporation of pensions, welfare money, collapsing wages, etc.

    But a day will still have 24 hours and can and will be used for work.

    Solar is not portable in any useful amount except as built-ins for radios, PCs, etc.

    Nuclear and fossil fuel power stations aren’t portable either. Your point?

    Europeans are mostly arrogant bastards. I see them here as tourists and they are as bad as Americans

    I am still forgiving myself for hypothesizing earlier that you are not what you claim to be: a white American, since you have zero loyalty towards your country you grew up in, let alone towards your race/civilization. You even chuckle at the prospect of the demise of the country. You were likely born in the same year when the Japanese invaded the Ps and the Americans stationed there were forced to withdraw. How many GIs had a local pregnant fiance they took with them? I am still forgiving myself for thinking that you have a Philippine mother.

  11. makati1 on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 7:10 pm 

    Cloggie, ask the Indians what “when the money stops” means. And that is only temporary.

    You have no concept of what is coming. Energy base? If you mean ‘hunting and gathering as a tribe’, you are correct. If you mean anything like today’s energy base, you are delusional.

    My point about solar portability is that you are dreaming if you think it will continue to make your life possible in any way like today.

    Yes, I have no loyalty to the GOVERNMENT of the country I grew up in. So what? Those who were loyal to Hitler’s Germany were any better? Stalin’s Russia? Mussolini’s Italy? I am not happy with the coming demise of all I grew up with, but I am realistic enough to know that it is coming, why it is coming and that I cannot stop it. Only try to prepare for it. The U$ has been asking for it for the last 100 years. It is about to arrive.

    As for race, like you, I am not pure white Caucasian. None of us are anymore. There was a lot of interbreeding in the last 5,000 years. Especially in Europe. They had a lot longer to screw each other. Asians are probably more pure whatever as they are less likely to breed with other races.

    I would not care if my mother had been Filipina, but she was Scotch Irish. My dad German. Long family history. Probably a touch of Spanish and maybe even African in me. No problem.

    BTW: What does race have to do with rationality or common sense? NONE! Are YOU a racist?

  12. Cloggie on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 7:56 pm 

    I wasn’t talking about loyalty to government’s but to people. You talk with glee about “your fellow Americans”. You talk about Americans (and Europeans) as if they are different people from you.

    Am I a racist? Now that’s a question with the potential to open a can of worms. Now that is a question with exactly the same charge as the one Soviets used to ask: “are you a class enemy?”.lol

    The latter question is no longer asked since the Soviet empire is no longer with us (thank God). The question: “are you a racist” is the equivalent question from the US empire. The idea is that the whole world needs to be rammed into said empire, but that’s not possible as long as there are people around who prefer to keep their own country separate from that black hole that would like to suck everything in itself (until November 2016 that is). Those people (and I am one of them) are called “racists”.

    Yes, I do not want that Holland seizes to exist, just because some Soros boozoo has decided that that needs to happen. And no, I do not hate other people (whites or non-whites). When I go out I do not hit people with the “wrong color”.lol And on an individual level I do not really care that much with whom I have to deal. But I do not want to see my country overrun by French, Germans or Americans (who all of them btw aren’t coming in the first place other than as tourists) or by Arabs or Africans, who do indeed arrive in great numbers. And if this continous unabated Holland will be gone in a few decades. Americans of the deplorable variety btw think exactly the same, hence the victory of Trump. So, to answer the question straight from the belly of the US empire “are you a racist?”. The answer is: “get lost with your pushy imperial baloney!”.

    People think that mixing people is irreversible. But many examples from the
    recent past show that if significant demographic changes (Yugoslavia, Iraq, USA) or political events (Kiev coup) occur, that old identities resurface, often violently, to reassert itself and to ethnically cleanse the opponent. That’s why I oppose mass-migration, because it is a recipe for humanitarian disaster and genocide. And if that brands me as a racist, I couldn’t care less.

  13. makati1 on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 9:12 pm 

    Cloggie, why should I be ‘loyal’ to the very people who are allowing their country to go down the shitter? What makes them exempt from blame. I have to share some of it, but I cannot change anything at this point in my life. Nor can you. They can, but they are rolling over and allowing it out of a misplaced idea of freedom and security. And, yes, greed in huge amounts. The America I grew up in is gone. What is left deserves no loyalty or respect.

    And, yes, you are a European Racist. It is obvious to anyone reading your comments that you are. I’m not. I was raised to accept all races and colors as equal. Any country with 320+ million individuals will be everything under the sun and have every kind of problem and division. The U$ is not the size of your city state. You asked for your fate when you allowed non-elected bureaucrats to run your country. At least the U$ works better than the EU, an Imperial Wannabee.

    BTW: “Hate” does not mean only physical abuse. It can be more obvious and hurtful in words.

  14. Boat on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 9:26 pm 


    Each country should make the decision about immigration and like most issues the dynamics keep changing.
    You and your racist ilk worry about mixing blood when pollution and sustainability should be the topics.

    I like you would end immigration but for vary different reasons. Races not being able to assimilate is stupid. Adding population to California which is low on water is equally stupid. Adding population to any country with unemployment is stupid.

  15. GregT on Tue, 22nd Nov 2016 10:02 pm 


    Population overshoot is not a national problem, it is a planetary problem, and at this point in time it would make no difference at all if immigrants such as yourself returned back to their cultural homelands. Cloggie is correct, as the going gets tougher, human beings will become even more divided along ethnic and religious lines. Stupid or not, it’s just basic human nature.

    And also Kevin, countries do not make decisions. People do. Countries are imaginary lines drawn in the sand used to control human livestock, such as yourself. Baahhh!

  16. makati1 on Wed, 23rd Nov 2016 12:52 am 

    Cloggie, The EU is now officially many ‘Snowflake” nations.

    “Donald Trump And The Return Of European Anti-Americanism”

    “We now face emptiness — fear of the void. What will happen to the West, to Europe, to Germany without the United States as its leading power?” I now say: BOOHOOHOO! Get over it snowflakes.

    “Brexit and 11-8 should be followed by the WORLD-EXIT. What does it mean? Simple: ‘Let the West eat its own shit, alone, finally’! And let the world be free from those governments and economic and colonialist concepts, which no one here (in Asia, Africa, Latin America or the Middle East) really elected and wants!

    Once we are at exiting, rejecting and defending, let’s also build huge protective walls around all non-Western countries. To defend them from the Crusaders and hordes that have been looting and plundering the entire Planet for centuries.”

  17. Cloggie on Wed, 23rd Nov 2016 3:58 am 

    The EU is now officially many ‘Snowflake” nations.

    Wrong makati, it is just the EU establishment that’s in panic, now that their overlord is withdrawing on which they have built their careers… because they understand very well that they are now facing a very hostile populist population, that doesn’t like at all what the EU “elite” is doing, namely trying to replace the local population with third world import in an effort to stamp out nationalism once and for all, so the EU bureaucracy can rule supreme. The Soros “Open Society” agenda in action.

    The EU elite remembers very well what happened to the Eastern European elite when their (Soviet) overlord began to withdraw in 1985. Four years later it was game over for them:

    I hope that this doesn’t happen here and trust that Merkel will flee in time to Santiago de Chile, just like her former GDR master Erich Honecker did:

    Once we are at exiting, rejecting and defending, let’s also build huge protective walls around all non-Western countries. To defend them from the Crusaders and hordes that have been looting and plundering the entire Planet for centuries.”

    Quite a hilarious sight; apparently you have discovered your inner Lenin, ready to lead the third world masses in a anti-white revolution. You’re completely delusional. They way things are your pets will attempt in ever greater numbers to make it to the West, not the other way around.

    And a note on your personal safety… the only reason why you are treated with respect is because of your American passport and money. Once the West will crash financially and the ATM in your Manila street will say ** SORRY **, you will pretty quickly find out that your anti-racist Christian-American-pro-immigrant down-with-us mind set is truly unique in the world, where most people, certainly Asians, are pretty much tribal and all of a sudden lose interest in you. I predict that you will be back in the States in no time “after the break”. That mysterious farm of yours, you have been talking about for five years or more now, isn’t really making that much progress, is it?

    Time for a pipe and a rocking chair on a veranda somewhere in Arkansas Bill.

  18. Cloggie on Wed, 23rd Nov 2016 5:24 am 

    “Donald Trump And The Return Of European Anti-Americanism”

    Rule number one before you read any article: ask yourself who wrote the article, what is his background and what is his agenda (everybody has an agenda):

    Dual German-US passport, Atlanticist, worked for the USAF (in Germany), lives in Wisconsin and a specialist on “European anti-Americanism”. He is a true globalist.

    He also studied politics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has visited more than one hundred countries, including most of those in the Middle East; he has recently returned from an extended trip to Iran, arguably one of the most fascinating countries in the world after the United States and Israel.

    No further questions, your honor.

    To get the record straight: there is no European anti-Americanism. It doesn’t exist, except perhaps in France a little. Certainly not at the population level, they all speak English, consume American movies, have Youtube song lists with Lady Gaga and what not, visit US sites, etc., etc.

    What does exist is a disgust among the leftist European elites (politics, media, academia) with the rise of Donald Trump. Because they fear (entirely correct) that the same might happen in Europe.

    But this Kern chap tries to drive a wedge between the US and Europe… because what he really wants is a US alliance with China, after Trump will be toppled (or so he hopes) or simply sit out. Kern knows that an alliance EU-Russia is in the cards after the US will withdraw from Eurasia, as Trump probably intends to do.

    This is what the US deep state will do once the Paris-Berlin-Moscow confederation would be in the saddle:

    From 6:47 onwards Wallerstein says that his theory is that in the long run the US would prefer to link with China, rather than with Europe.

    (Correction: the US deep state, including Wallerstein, would prefer to link with China rather than with Europe, because it would be a winning coalition)

    Wallerstein in 2011 about Paris-Berlin-Moscow:

    This opportunity was temporarily blocked by the events in Kiev in early 2014, foreseen by nobody, not even Wallerstein.

    Therefore, from a European and European-American perspective, you can’t warn enough against a premature formation of Paris-Berlin-Moscow and automatically drive America and China in each other’s arms. Before we do, we Europeans need to team up with the “deplorables” in North-America on the very moment the (financial & economic) collapse will begin and draw them into the Eurosphere alliance, if necessary with European military presence on North-American soil, while beginning to form the Euro-Siberian confederation.

    EU 500 million
    Russia-Ukraine-Belorus 200 million
    T(rump)-America ca. 100 million
    Together 800 million.

    That should be enough to balance 1350 million Chinese and 1.5 billion Muslims.

    Geopolitics 101.

    This or go under.

    Yesterday the decision was finally made to set up a European army, independent from NATO under loud protest of the British, who are merely member of the EU to attempt to sabotage it from within:

    Even Nigel Farage, pro-Trump and married to a German woman, blasts the idea:

    A relatively positive development is that apparently the Frenchman Fillon will win the nomination for the right-wing bid for the French presidency, defeating the two other (kosher) candidates Sarkozy and Juppe. Fillon is a conservative Thatcherite, but also a classical Gaullist, meaning oriented towards Russia, not Anglosphere. He will compete with ultra-nationalist Marine le Pen next year. So whoever wins in France, a pro-Russian attitude is pre-programmed. The German right is also pro-Russia.

    This would mean that *if* Merkel will be defeated late in 2017, all conditions will be met to make the move, away from the West towards the North, at a suitable point in time.

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