“This decade will see enormous opportunity for those that embrace change, and catastrophic risk for those that fail to do so” according to RMI experts Kingsmill Bond and Sam Butler-Sloss who illustrate how rapid energy technology change is inevitable and beneficial in The Energy Transition Narrative.
(This post is sourced from RMI materials: The Renewable Revolution and The Energy Transition in Five Charts and Not Too Many Numbers article by authors Kingsmill Bond and Sam Butler-Sloss.
The Renewable Revolution: Exponential, Global, Now
Following are the summary points from The Renewable Revolution slide deck:
- Overall: This is the pivotal decade in the energy transition because change is driven by prices and flows.
- The technology revolution is the key driver. Renewable technologies enjoy learning curves and exponential growth, which has already led to peak fossil fuel demand.
- China is the leader. That both makes change easier and has sparked a global race to the top.
- This is the decade of change. Solar and EVs will rise to dominate sector sales by 2030. Renewables will hit price tipping points in every major area of energy demand. Energy efficiency will double as it follows technology up the S-curve.
- The barriers to change are many but they are solvable with continued (and likely) support from technology, policy, finance, and civil society.
- The debate will be very different by 2030 when change will be priced into markets.
- For investors, companies, and banks there will be a shift from tactics to strategy; from ESG to energy system transition thinking.
- Most policymakers will embrace the competition to lead the “Age of Renewables” and enjoy energy security.
- For the Global South, there is a new development opportunity. And for petrostates a necessity to reform.
- For climate, health, justice, and nature there is hope from the application of superior technology.
- For energy modelers, it is time to up your game or become stranded experts.
The energy transition is a technology revolution.
Like past technology shifts, it is a transformation, not merely a substitution. As RethinkX notes, this is not a brown caterpillar to a green caterpillar, but rather a caterpillar to a butterfly, which means different economics, geographies, winners, and energy carriers. Just like past technology shifts, the falling costs of the new render the old obsolete.
The renewables revolution is exponential, not linear.
The growth of the key new energy technologies is exponential. It has been in the past, and it will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Companies and countries need to be quick to act, for it is hard to catch an exponential curve from behind.
This is the decade of change.
The 2020s are the disruption decade, where renewable technology sales race up the S-curve. If the energy transition were a novel, this decade would be its climax.
The energy system is one of stocks (the bathtub) and flows (the dirty tap and the clean tap). By the end of the decade the clean tap will be on full and the dirty tap will be drying up. Heat pumps, electric vehicles, solar, and wind will all be near the top of their sales S-curves. Once the flow from the tap is clean, the drain (or natural retirement rates) will flush away the fossil system in succeeding decades.
By 2030 the renewable revolution will be obvious.
By 2030, renewables will dominate the sales of energy-producing and consuming technologies. The green prize will be evident. Cheap renewables will be even cheaper. Fossil fuel demand will be off the current plateau and in clear decline. The negative externalities of fossil fuels will be increasingly weaponized. Climate impacts will be more visible. In 2023, it is hard to imagine what this will look like, let alone model it in any detail.
If the energy transition were a novel, this decade would be its climax.
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