In the recent past, a booming market, driven by technological change, has spearheaded economic growth. The world’s venture capitalists made huge profits from the computing boom of the 1980s, the internet boom of the 1990s and now think the next boom will happen on the back of energy: renewable energy. These past booms, however, were fed by cheap energy: coal was cheap; natural gas was cheap; and apart from the 1970s, oil was comparatively cheap. However, in the space of the past half a decade, all that has changed. Oil has become more expensive and there is a growing concern that the oil supply may soon peak as consumption rises, known supplies dwindle, and new reserves become difficult to find.
The possibility of plugging your car into an electric socket, rather than filling your tank at the gas drive-ins, no longer looks like technological madness. Wind-and-solar powered alternative no longer looks so costly by comparison to natural gas, whose prices have risen substantially in sympathy with oil. Coal remains cheap, however, its extraction damages ecosystems by destroying ecological habitats. Additionally, combustion of fossil fuels pollutes the air by emitting harmful substances into the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide that contribute to global warming. Oil spills, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and leakages at the extraction points destabilize marine ecosystems and kill aquatic life. Moreover, utility firms seeking to avoid political and capital costs of building new power plants have began to focus more on energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies that guarantee less harmful emissions. These underlying issues have opened up capacity gap and opportunity for solar, wind, and other low-carbon technologies, and are the main drivers of growth and consumption of clean energy… full article available at PM Global Sustainability Community of Practice