I think the problem is that we continuously define this problem as “the economy or the climate?” rather than seeking solutions that make it “the economy AND the climate.”
Shifting our frame of thought will be a slow and painful process as it involves the rethinking of utility business models, for an industry which is among the most heavily regulated and politically leveraged on the planet.
And this applies to far more than solar – any intermittent renewable or unpredictable source of power (eg. electric vehicles) on the grid needs to be accommodated. This will require a mix of policy and technology, and a mix of evolution and revolution.
My biggest concern is that it seems like black swan events are the only trigger point for meaningful, urgent action – such as 2012’s hurricane Sandy pushing the exactingly excluded climate debate into the US presidential election. Or the Fukashima disaster turning into a national energy strategy debate for Germany’s bundestag.
Well known challenges for solar have kept it from reaching critical mass yet, although these barriers are slowly coming down. Yet the industry still clearly relies on policy support, and that is weakening under economic growth and recovery pressures.
Of course switching our energy mix from carbon-based fuels to renewables can ‘save’ the planet from a lot of the damage we’ve done. But for me the bigger question is ‘will we let it?’
Article source: http://www.economist.com/debate/debates/overview/263