December 5, 2020

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Peter Foster: The IEA’s solar spin cycle

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Article content continued So, what proportion of electricity generation did solar account for in 2019...

Article content continued

So, what proportion of electricity generation did solar account for in 2019 after that transformative 20-fold increase? Two per cent. And since electricity takes up only around a fifth of primary energy demand, the contribution of solar to primary energy demand is 0.4 per cent, which hardly looks like a solar revolution.

Assuming that all those meddlesome mandates and burdensome subsidies stay in place, what will solar’s share of electricity generation be in 2030? According to the IEA, eight per cent — but that still amounts to only a two per cent share of primary energy demand.

The world will still be overwhelmingly fossil-fuelled in 2030. The proportion of oil and gas will be up a bit and that of coal down a bit, but together the three will still account for 76 per cent of primary energy versus 80 per cent last year. Coal will still be responsible for 28 per cent of electricity generation — three and a half times as much as solar — and it will be contributing 10 times as much as solar to primary energy demand. And emissions will still be at levels threatening climate Armageddon, at least if you believe worst-case scenarios.

But all is not lost because there are those fantasy beyond-best-case scenarios, specifically the “sustainable development scenario” and the scenario for policies that will bring the world to carbon neutrality by 2050. The first might be dubbed the “pigs-might-fly” scenario, the second, the “pigs-might-fly on batteries, powered by solar wings, while simultaneously juggling.” These scenarios’ details can safely be ignored, except to note that they demand considerable behavioural changes and personal discomfort. More cycling, less flying. More cold in winter, more heat in summer. (And no actual spin cycle in summer because you’ll be line-drying your washing.) Needless to say, the scenarios simply assume away the inevitable damage to growth and jobs, not to mention freedom, from such socialist masterplans.