The transition to green energy will not come cheap. It will cost taxpayers $15 trillion over the next 30 years, OilPrice writes. Four-fifths of this astronomical amount, 80%, will go to renewable energy sources. In addition to investments in the production of wind and solar energy, large expenses will be needed for environmental protection.
BloombergnNEF analysts, who made the calculations, also emphasize that in 2020-50. another $14 trillion will have to be invested in the construction of networks and their adaptation to renewable energy, the share of which will rise to 56% in the middle of the century.
The switch to renewable energy will also lead to a small gold rush in the mining sector. For the production and energy of wind and sun, a lot of metals and other minerals are needed, without which wind turbines and solar panels cannot be built.
The authors of the forecast of the World Bank (WB) in 2017 calculated that the demand for silver, then 24 thousand tons per year, will exceed 400 thousand tons in 2050. And this is under the best scenario. In the worst case, the demand for silver may rise to 700 thousand tons. The picture is roughly the same with many other metals needed to create turbines and panels.
We must not forget about energy storage, because without this there can be no talk of any transition to “green” energy. This problem is very serious considering the current situation with energy storage. For example, two years ago in the Massachusetts Technology Review, an article by James Temple was published, which expressed doubts about the transition to green energy precisely because of energy storage.
The WB believes that storage capacity will have to grow from 100 GW in 2015 to 305 GW in 2050. Meanwhile, the authors of the forecast of the International Energy Agency (2014) concluded that by the middle of the century the capacity for energy storage will grow to 500 GW.
Meanwhile, almost all the currently available capacities (99.3%) are for storage hydropower (PSH). However, it is impossible to maintain this percentage because PSH has limitations. An alternative could be batteries, but this alternative is not only very expensive but also technically so far, it seems, is not feasible.
Tesla and France’s Neoen announced last week that they are building a giant 300-450 MW battery system in Victoria, Australia, double their previous record, also in Australia, of 100-129 MW. The 300 MW battery will be able to store renewable energy to supply electricity for an hour to half a million homes and buildings. The project cost is estimated at $84 million.
There are batteries that can power households for more than an hour. Of course, work is in full swing to improve the batteries, but all of them have a duration of operation limited to a few hours. This means that batteries are not suitable for the constant supply of renewable energy to consumers. At least at this stage.
In October, analysts at Wood Mackenzie calculated that a green energy transition would require a $1 trillion investment in several key metals. This means that the next 15 years will require almost twice as much investment in the extraction of minerals necessary for the transition than in the previous decade and a half. In 20-25 years, many of the installations made from these metals will need to be replaced. They will require landfills to store them because not all wind and solar energy production equipment can be recycled. This applies, for example, to wind turbine blades, which are made of fiberglass.
Most of the components that can be recycled are in solar panels, but the process itself is not very profitable financially. Consequently, few businessmen want to recycle solar panels. As a result, many solar panels, by the way, containing a lot of toxic materials and substances, are also sent to landfills and increase the cost of switching to “green” energy also at the expense of environmental protection.