4 Key Lessons From 2013

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Overall, 2013 was a good year for cleantech, and I expect every year following this one will also be good for it. The fact of the matter is: cleantech is increasingly just… tech (aka normal tech). There’s a lot of growing to be done, but it’s inevitable. The real question is, will it be enough to avert the greatest global catastrophes human society has seen?

What were the four key lessons from 2013? Here’s my take.

Nissan Leafs Barcelona Spain

1. Electric cars are now the best damn option you have for a car.

Sorry, I’m not going to mess around on this one and appeal to narrow-minded definitions of good. We have electric cars that drive much better than gasmobiles, that do not pollute the air we breath and the water bodies of the world, that do not cause global warming and catastrophic climate change, that do not keep us reliant on oil from foreign countries, that save their owners a ton of time, and that can actually save a ton of people money within just a few short years. There are now a variety of options on the market. You have ones with longer range that cost a bit more. You have 11 options that are cheaper than the average price of a new car bought in the US.

It’s very common for an electric car owner to say that they’ll never go back to driving a gasmobile — that driving electric is too much nicer. You have a lot of people who buy electric thinking  that they will just use the car for certain types of trips, and then realize that they never want to drive their gas cars.

Bottom line: for most of you, your next car should be one that you can plug into your wall when you get home.

Home solar panels & cash via Shutterstock

2. Solar panels are the best damn option you have for your electricity.

Again, I’m not fooling around here. We need to get off fossil fuels. We need to get off them fast! To an extent, the livability of the planet for humanity depends on it. The choice between killing someone in 10 years or not killing them offers a pretty obvious decision — don’t kill the person. Changing our energy sources in order to avoid killing millions or billions of people through global warming and climate change should be a given.

But even beyond the point made above, solar energy can now save millions of people tens of thousands of dollars in developed countries such as the US, Japan, and Australia. It can also provider cheaper electricity in the developing world than fossil fuels. Solar power also keeps our air cleaner, keeping us healthier. The benefits of solar power are enormous. Going solar should be a given.

fossil-fuel subsidies vs renewable energy subsidies

3. Fossil fuel industries and utility monopolies are going to use every tactic possible to keep their profits rising sky high.

Together, the fossil energy industry is the richest industry on the planet. The profits it makes every month could pull millions of people out of poverty. Yet, the fossil energy giants continue to get trillions in government subsidies. They have money, which means they have power, which means they have the ability to manipulate the system in order to make more money.

Naturally, the fossil energy giants don’t want any competitors coming in and stealing away their money and influence. They are doing everything they can to keep renewable energy upstarts out. Time is on the side of the fossils… which would rather stay in the ground than be burnt, of course. Clean energy sources will take over. The matter is really just a matter of how quickly, and that is what the fossil energy industry is working to influence — through attacks on policies that support renewable energy, efforts to retain their own trillions in subsidies, contributions to political parties and candidates that will fight for the fossil energy industry over humanity itself, and misinformation campaigns that start at “think tanks” and lead to honest citizens misinforming each other and fighting policies that would actually help them.


4. Society is totally f***ing screwed if we stay on the path we’re on today… or anything even close to it.

This is a topic we don’t cover that frequently here on CleanTechnica — it’s not our beat, of course. But we do try to cover it here and there, as a reminder of why clean technologies are so important. If we let societal inertia and the fossil energy industry determine our future, the bottom line is that we are totally screwed. There’s no nice way to say it. In fact, the more detailed we get, the worse it sounds.

Major civilizations have collapsed in the past due to arrogance and apathy in the face of huge threats. It has happened multiple times. Some of these threats have come from opposing civilizations, and some have come from environmental changes. Today’s biggest threat is without a doubt climate collapse. We are still a world of different nations and cultures, but we are more interlinked today than at any point in history — economically, politically, and socially. We are also interlinked in the fact that we are all creating global warming, and we all need to work to change that.

Those are my 4 big reflections from 2013.

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Image Credits: 1) Nissan Leafs in Barcelona by me, reuse permitted with credit to EV Obsession / CleanTechnica / Zachary Shahan; 2) Home solar panels & cash via Shutterstock; 3) subsidies chart by ODI; 4) global warming egg by AZRainman / CC BY.

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

Zachary Shahan has 7144 posts and counting. See all posts by Zachary Shahan

3 thoughts on “4 Key Lessons From 2013

  • 2013 a ‘good’ year? I’m an American who has been living in Hamburg for the past 26 years, so I was here in 1989 when the Berlin wall came down. That summer and autumn it was amazing and exhilarating to watch as one after another, small holes in fences and borders opened and widened, and trickles turned to unstoppable flows. This summer and autumn, following the cleantech news, I had much the same sensations; 2013 felt like a break-through year for renewable energy. But now comes the hard part! Best wishes to CleanTechnica for 2014.

  • From my (Dutch) perspective, my 4c:

    1. Despite the almost total absence of incentives for solar power, it became clear that the residential solar market had exploded in 2012 with citizens installing double the amount rooftop solar than had been accumulated over the years before: 220 MW. 2013 will be equally astonishing. Grid parity is a hard reality for the energy companies. They didn’t ask for it, didn’t see it coming, but it is thrown at their feet: “Deal with it”. This is unstoppable.

    2. Fastned got 201 concessions for building fast charging stations on each of the 245 highway rest stops. The other 44 went to other companies, none of them traditional gasoline vendors. Fastned were the driving force behind RDW (Dutch DoT) auctioning off those 245 concessions. Chapeau to the Fastned team, they have done an immeasurably important job to get the ball rolling.

    They also successfully fought off a lawsuit by the fossil fuel industry trying to protect their turf. The first 4 now have been built and when it is complete in 2015, you can drive your EV everywhere in The Netherlands without planning, without hassle. And when people ask me: “what do you do when you battery is empty?”, I answer: “The same thing you would do on an empty tank: I pull in a gas station”. This is unstoppable.

    3. Sales of EV’s quadrupled in 2013 compared to 2012 (and 2012 was already a quadrupling of 2011). This is unstoppable.

    4. The buildout of wind power has resumed. After a few years of stagnation, politics finally seem to be more favourable towards wind energy. Also at the lower levels, where municipalities usually sided with the NIMBY’s, things are starting to move again. More focus is on offshore wind, which is a better, more stable resource. This is unstoppable.

    • Excellent news, Anne. Hope we hear similar good news from other countries as the new year progresses.

      I expect solar is going to gain a lot of headlines in the coming year or two. So many are not aware of what has happened to prices and how that is now going to impact installation rates.

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