That’s what the oil industry says, and their friends in the energy sector. No one says the transition will be easy, but it has a few upsides few talk about.
Like in the picture above hydro is a great power source, but it is limited by geography mostly. So, some countries are luckier than others in that regard. For example, Norway and Brazil are lucky enough to have a lot of it, and that’s good, brilliant in fact.
It can work as a battery as you can store energy in them in times of rain and then meter it out as the power is needed, but it’s not infinite after all, even with the last years increasing rain and bad weather.
The choice you traditionally had as a country then was coal, natural gas or maybe nuclear power if you can find the money and the time to build it.
And so that’s what happened, and some countries in the world that could deliver oil and gas and coal made a lot of money, because they had resources that other countries are dependent on to keep the lights on and the heater and cooker running, do you keep doing it.
But what if the price of coal goes up, or a conflict shuts down the gas-pipe? like Russia threatened Ukraine with the withdrawal of their gas to the country if they kept opposing the will of the Kremlin.
And the oil crisis of 1973, where OPEC decided to cut their production that drove the prices sky-high as a way of striking out against the US for them providing Israel with military equipment and stuff, this is partly what drove the US into shale and fracking for oil to get more self-dependent.
During the oil crisis the Monarch of Norway actually took the tram in Oslo, as cars was banned on Sundays, would never happen again, I guess.
The point is, that when your energy source is left out to other powers to deliver, they leave you open to being held hostage as the energy source is being withdrawn.
On top of that it is very expensive and needs constant refueling, the exception here is nuclear, but there we have the issue of storing it for basically infinity when its spent.
And most of the world have built out their energy systems to go from central big powerplants and out to consumers, because it made a lot of sense, you could not exactly have a coal fired powerplant besides your house, or a small nuclear powerplant, no matter what the wonderful 1950’s ideas of the future tried to tell us it would happen.
Now, however, you can make your own energy, and you can use it whenever you want to as well, at least mostly. And using some. Billions in building up new capabilities and options, and using renewables, your free up capital in the long run because, because once built it will work for 20-50 years with only maintenance, and if decentralized it will be a lot harder to knock it out too.
In Norway all the old analog energy-meters were changed with smart meters, they read and report your consumption on an hourly basis, and they also allow me to see how much energy I use, and when the peaks are. And based on that I can tell you that with a 10kWh battery I could run my flat off-grid in the warmer parts of the year. Because I know that’s the maximum I use during the waking hours in that time of the year. In the wintertime, it would have to be 20-25kWh because heating is running, and all food is made on the stove, not BBQs outside like in summer, and in Norway we use electricity to power heating and stoves and hot water.
So, with what is basically an old Leaf battery, I could run this flat without grid power if needed all year long. The energy could come from solar panels charging the batteries and running the flat, the only downside is winter, it might be around two, two and a half months a year we would be without much solar power in this country, and the north would be without solar for several months a year, so clearly, we need a power grid. But even then, decentralized power makes sense. With smart metering one can calculate how much energy is needed in any given sector or parts of the country, and let’s face it we do have a power grid so it would make little sense not to use it.
But if we could decentralize some of the energy use for private homes and housing estates? We would free up energy for the industry and keep the existing grid as it is because it is mostly very good.
If a war broke out or a hacker from a foreign country decided to bring parts of the energy grid down, a battery back-up could go into emergency mode and shut down all non-essential equipment and keep the flat or house running for 24 hours or more. That would give the end user a safety of mind, and would strengthen the grid a lot, as it would do peak shavings and demand adjustments locally, not centrally, and it would make putting the grid down a lot harder, but not impossible.
On top of these one has heat-pumps, ground heat energy and other ways to heat water and houses and take the load of the electricity grid too.
Storage also works without solar, just charging the batteries at night , at night there is always some surpluss energy production and energy is mostly very cheap indeed.
But this is a dream, it will be stupid expensive and require a lot of reworking the existing grid.
Well, it well it will be easy and not cheap no. But as the world electrifies the transport, and parts industry, we need more energy and strengthening the grid too, one follows the other to a certain degree.
But instead of building out like we always did, we should learn from what happens in other parts of the world, Kenya for instance build energy grids consisting of a lot of solar panels and battery packs. Granted they don’t have the power consumption of my flat, and they have more sun, but the point is that they can scale it easier on a local basis, without the need for huge dams or other gas power plants. We already have the systems to automate such a power-grid, both Tesla with their auto bidder software to decide when to sell and buy power and distribute between grid solar and battery power, and also just cuts power to safeguard the grid in case of a power outage. Norwegian Tibber also run a very advanced software that automates how you get our power and already can do local peak shaving, so we already have the technology to do it, and the energy storage can be a mix of batteries, flow batteries, and also compressed air or other technologies that can scale too really big scales easily and be backup energy.
Of course, all of this requires money, and energy has to come from somewhere, so we still need to build offshore wind, geothermal and solar. And some of this money can be taken from money that would otherwise go to the fossil fuel industry. And once you build it out, a solar panel can last for 25-50 years depending on conditions, turbines last for 20-30 years, and there are several projects looking into recirculation recycling of the blades too, something that now is a big issue with turbines, same with solar panels.
So that would make all of your energy production done nationally and locally, so the country would not be dependent on a foreign substance and it would over time save money once all is built and said and done, and the costs of upkeep and refurbishment of such a grid would be less and more stable than the variable prices of fossil fuels.
And countries would still exchange energy with each other, Norway sells hydro power to Germany, Great Britain or Sweden when they need capacity. Or they sell excess wind power to us if they have over production. Some of this overproduction will probably be stored in the future, to keep more of it locally and get better prices for it as storage gets cheaper and more widely accepted.
Maybe I am just too optimistic, and it will never happen, but I believe the pandemic have shown that we can do changes very quickly if we want to, and if the money and politics points in the same direction then it can accelerate a change, like Norway have shown in EV’s.
The future is electric, and it will be interesting to see what direction it takes the next 15 years.
It has always been my passion to advocate for sustainable growth in this industry and to also rely on the future of electrification to take us forward in the coming years, and Mats is right, the powers that be will be are restricting the future for years to come without the need for us to step up and make the change. I have clear plans in place and we also have many forms and ways to harvest energy.
For example in Iceland, with minimal solar, they power most of their country using geothermal which allows them to harvest that heat for power, but also to heat the surrounding areas all while capturing the carbon and using it as fertilizer. There are always ways to work out things. It has always been my dream to have solar panels on the top of my house and also have a battery storage form that will be able to capture and store that energy for the night.
I also believe there is a market in the recycling of used EV batteries such as what Mats was saying in order to stick them on the side of your house and use that as the battery storage form. Evve when some batteries have a degrading on 30% this is still good as even with them now on the side of the house, they will never have to be subject to quick charging and discharging along with extreme drainage to zero. If we could harvest these cells and modulate them, this could be a recycled battery that doubles as a storage form on people’s houses.
We must now stop thinking of the miracles of going electric or waiting to move to electric. This is the future and the future is now. Tesla is not the only company do it either. There are many lower cost options which are available that suits everyone.