There are a lot of smart things in this oh-so-modern age: smart phones, smart cars, smart washers and dryers. Smart is the name of the game. Even our cars lock themselves at a specific speed. We can answer our doorbell from another country.
Smart is good. We're pro-smart.
But recent reports show that there are folks just a little too eager to rush the country into green/renewable energy. That's an admirable goal. The problem is the rush.
In the future, you can bet that most of the world's energy sources will be renewable and green in nature. We've just got to be careful how we get there. Mankind can't flip a switch and suddenly have his world running on renewable energy. Why? Because science.
Our power grid is a lot like a living creature, heaving and breathing, running and sleeping, making noise and making mistakes. The grid has to constantly supply power to homes, businesses, hospitals and more. And careful adjustments have to be made when customers are using more power--or less.
During the summer, for example, we will use more electricity during the day to keep air conditioners running. And we'll use less energy at night. This creates a peak time in which the grid is more heavily stressed, and many smart engineers work around the clock to make adjustments to keep the power on.
We can't dump fossil fuels overnight because those green replacements aren't readily available, and reliable, just yet. Our scientists are making great strides every day to expand solar and wind farms, but those kinds of power sources still don't produce nearly as much energy as their fossil fuel counterparts.
But perhaps the biggest problem with renewable energy right now is price. Places that have increased their share of renewable energy have also seen prices soar. Why? Solar panels and wind turbines are cheaper than they've ever been. The issue comes from the unreliable nature of solar and wind energy. Solar and wind energy produce too much when we don't need energy and not enough when we do, Forbes reports.
The sun isn't out at night, and wind isn't always blowing. But we constantly need electricity. The result is places with high production of solar and wind sometimes have to pay neighbors to off-load excess energy so their grids don't get overloaded. And they need to rely on natural gas plants and others to be able to produce power the moment the sun sets or the wind stops blowing. This explains why places that have steadily increased renewable energy usage (like Germany, Denmark and California) have also seen customers paying higher power bills.
Environmentalists will point to batteries as the solution for this problem, and they're probably right. Homo Faber, man the toolmaker, just needs to find better ways to store excess energy.
The efficiency of batteries, while increasing every day, isn't there yet. Tesla and other companies are making great strides in battery tech, but the efficiency isn't sufficient for us to entrust our entire power grid to batteries. Not to mention, customers get double-charged with batteries. They get charged to store excess energy and charged to access it when needed.
The Wall Street Journal reports that California has passed a bill to mandate 100 percent of its energy come from renewable energy by 2045. It's almost like folks there haven't been paying attention to the results of their current goal--50 percent by 2030. Wealthier Californians on the coast may not mind paying for higher energy bills, but those with lower incomes that live inland and rely on increased electricity to keep their homes cool might balk.
Man needs to be smart as he shifts toward a green(er) future. We can't just throw fossil fuels out and place all bets on renewables. Yet.
When green energy is as reliable as fossil fuels and costs less, you won't have to wait long for businesses and other customers to flip the switch. When that time comes, it won't just be the environment that drives decisions, but our wallets.
Editorial on 09/14/2018
Print Headline: Ain't easy being green