Over the past 60 years, there have been four major energy technologies: nuclear power, liquefied natural gas (LNG), solar power, and wind power. It took many years for each technology to impact the global energy supply significantly, and it was when each technology reached one exajoule (a lot of energy) that they started to take off.
Nuclear power was the first to reach one exajoule, but it took 19 years. Once it did, it started doubling its energy supply every few years and now provides eight times more energy than it did 50 years ago. LNG had a slower start but took off in the late 2000s. Wind power is snowballing too, and supplies almost 30% more energy than nuclear power at the same stage. Lastly, we have Solar power, which is on its path and surpassed nuclear power’s energy supply within a year of reaching one exajoule.
So before I go on, let me throw some facts out.
One exajoule equals 277 terawatt-hours, enough to power the entire country of Turkey for a year. If you needed to power a country like the United States, you would need about 100 exajoules of energy per year. This equals about 27,700 terawatt-hours, which is a lot of energy!
Anyway, despite the fast growth of these newer energy technologies, global energy consumption has also increased dramatically over the years, which is not surprising, especially with the growth globally, not to mention the occasional war. This means that even though these technologies are proliferating, they still need to grow much faster to have the same impact that nuclear power had in the past. Hence a global effort by our commodity leaders is focused on getting us there. It’s true to say that these commodity leaders don’t get enough good press on this topic.
According to recent figures, solar power is expected to add 316 gigawatts, while wind power will add 110 more gigawatts. This is excellent news, of course, for decarbonizing global energy, but it’s important to note that these newer energy technologies still have a long way to go before they can have the same impact as nuclear power did in the 1970s and 1980s. But the positive news is the Commodities industry is united in pushing harder to speed up this process.
In 1973, when nuclear power became a significant energy contributor, it only supplied about 0.4% of the world’s energy consumption. By the time LNG reached one exajoule, it had provided about 0.3%. When solar power reached one exajoule in 2016, it only met less than 0.2% of the much-increased global energy demand, according to a recent report by one of our Majors.
While wind and solar power combined now generate more electricity than the world’s nuclear power fleet, they still need to grow at least twice as fast to have the same global impact as nuclear power did in the past. This statement needs to be advertised more because the efforts to make this happen are no mean feat. But while the road may seem long, it’s reassuring to know that the Majors of the Commodity Industries walk arm in arm with the rest of the Traders down the right path.
Location, location, location is also absolutely critical in the positioning of these solar and wind farms, which is why, according to meteorologists, the ideal areas for solar and wind power facilities include regions with high solar irradiance and
wind speeds and shallow waters, such as the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea. Furthermore, with current technology and resource availability, solar and wind power have the potential to power at least 50% of the world’s energy needs within the next few decades, provided there is a sufficient investment and supportive policies. However, such policies currently need to be improved.
By harnessing the power of the sun and the wind, we can significantly reduce our reliance on traditional energy sources such as coal, oil, and gas. But more people need to be mindful that something else needs to get dirty (I have an article about this on my site if you want to read more). So as we take steps towards this utopia, we must exercise patience.
In order to fulfill the commitments made in the Paris Agreements, it is crucial to recognize the efforts of policymakers in introducing measures like feed-in tariffs and tax credits. Nevertheless, the intermittency of renewable energy sources continues to pose a significant obstacle. The absence of a dependable energy storage system means that surplus energy generated during peak periods cannot be stored for use during lulls.
Additionally, the increasing penetration of renewable energy sources requires upgrades to the transmission and distribution infrastructure to accommodate grid modernization. The transmission and distribution infrastructure upgrades are essential to ensure that renewable energy can be transmitted from where it is produced to where it is needed.
Addressing these challenges is crucial to transition towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future successfully. By developing energy storage solutions and upgrading the transmission and distribution infrastructure, we can unlock the full potential of renewable energy sources and create a more resilient, reliable, and sustainable energy system.
To wrap up, the transition towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future relies on the extensive uptake of renewable energy sources, including solar and wind power. These cost-efficient and expandable technologies can enhance energy security and mitigate the risk of supply disruptions and price fluctuations. Meeting the 1 exajoule target necessitates investments in research, development, and deployment, coupled with the valuable efforts of the commodity industry. Despite the existing hurdles, such as energy storage and grid integration, the benefits of renewable energy are evident and practical, fostering a cleaner and more prosperous future for ourselves and future generations.