There are a variety of ways to examine this issue, which means that critics of renewable energy can cherry pick in order to promote their arguments. Admittedly, this may also be true of renewable energy proponents, but it’s worth looking at the case for the defense. Many critics do not take into account the wider external costs of conventional fossil fuels, particularly over the long term, compared to renewables which are rarely reflected in the market price, thereby giving the false impression that a particular fuel source is cheap when actually it is more expensive in real terms. One such cost is contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. This is especially true of coal which, according to a report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2013, enjoys subsidies of $1.9 trillion per year.
The true picture then is that the cost of renewable energy is actually falling. This is true for both wind power and solar. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), the cost of wind power has fallen by 58 percent over the past 5 years. In the UK, the government’s own advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, has found that renewable energy investment, rather than fossil fuels, will be the cheaper option in the years ahead. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, electricity from Australian wind energy is already cheaper than that from fossil fuels at A$80 (US$84) per megawatt hour, compared with A$143 a megawatt hour from coal or A$116 from natural gas with the cost of carbon emissions included.
Solar meanwhile has already reached grid parity with fossil fuels in California and looks set to become the cheapest power source in many countries across the world within the next few years.
[Image source: Ian Muttoo, Flickr]
Renewable energy is unreliable
Intermittency makes it useless
Not available 24/7