Published on December 28th, 2016 | by Jacek Fior0
The Only Cleantech Solution We’re Lacking
December 28th, 2016 by Jacek Fior
Breakthrough technology? New cleantech developments? Another innovation? If you believe that’s what’s needed to stop climate change, you are mistaken. The truth is, we have it all. Only one element needs improvement…
We’ve known photovoltaic cells for over a century. We’ve perfected the technology and it is globally available at a constantly lower price, being today the cheapest source of energy other than energy from the wind. It will naturally develop into PV roof tiles, PV wall plaster, PV sidewalks, you name it. Only one element needs improvement…
We’ve known windmills for a mere couple of thousand years. We’ve been able to use wind turbines to generate electricity for over a century. They are onshore, offshore, vertical, horizontal, big, and small. They have the potential to power all countries, as they largely do in Denmark. Yet, they only need one element to be improved…
Similarly, electric vehicles have been on the roads for over a century. Initially losing to gas cars, they are now reclaiming their proper position. They are cleaner, they are fun, they are the future. Most of the common obstacles, which are eagerly pointed out by oil-fumes enthusiasts — such as range or limited charging infrastructure — have largely been dealt with. Still, one more element needs improvement…
I could go on with more examples of simple or more complex technological solutions such as energy storage or harnessing the power of waves. I could name basic concepts of recycling waste or improving energy efficiency of our homes. I could… Yet, what’s the point if none of them will work unless we manage to improve the most critical piece of this puzzle — humans.
However sad it may sound, the majority of people don’t care about climate change and even those who do realize the problem and show some attention still do little to help the transition.
Price and convenience — these two somehow win with our efforts to educate people about clean technologies. How many times have you heard that solar PV is too expensive, wind will never be profitable, EVs cost much more than beautiful smoky gas cars? And then, even when they get cheaper: Why solar if I have easy access to the grid; why an EV if I can’t fill it up quickly in a trip across the continent?
I just don’t think we can rely on the regular adoption rates, even if they are exponential, while dirty industries are doing all their best to slow down the process. Solar PV is often cheaper today, but various delay tactics could slow down the full-scale transition away from fossil fuels for another decade or two! Can we wait that long? Surely, our planet can’t.
Having said all of that, I strongly believe there is a way to achieve our goal. What we need, and what I would consider the most important clean technology development, is a Gandhi-like figure of the cleantech world who would inspire people globally to be less short-sighted and understand that paying more today (when that’s actually the case) and allowing for some inconvenience (if that idea isn’t a myth) is necessary to let our children and our children’s children enjoy the world we are taking for granted today. It may not be one figure — it may be a number of Elons, a number of cleantech sites — as long as they succeed in going outside the circle of listeners or readers who already understand. Could it be a politician? I think so. Then, America is out of the race for the time being.
Yes, the only element that needs improvement is humans, and that is our number one challenge for the following decade.
Note: This is my entry into the 2017 Masdar Engage blogging contest.