Other threads focus on the science, measurement, attribution and prediction of climate change.
Another on specific issues such as nuclear power safety.
They are distinctly different topics and more technical than social and political. It's a mistake to politicize the science and scientize the politics. To hide our values and visions for a good society behind arguments that use science as a proxy.
But responding to global warming, clean air, and sustainability are as much social and political as they are about science and technology. Scientists, the IPCC, and engineers can advise but they are no more qualified than citizens, campaigners, and politicians when it comes to deciding how individuals, societies and governments should respond.
Review of a new book “Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet”
In summary a systemic response is called for where economics, regulation and public policy are just as important as technology.Varun Sivaram, in his forthcoming “Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet” lays out this case in what may be the first important policy book of 2018. To be clear, Sivaram, who holds a doctorate in physics, is a solar expert and an energy adviser -- he’s no enemy of alternative energy sources. He thinks government should increase its support for energy research and development, aiming at diverse pathways, applied at various stages of technology development, and targeting game-changing breakthroughs. In other words, we need to recognize the limitations of today’s solar power if we are going to make it really work.
The first disquieting sign is that solar companies are spending only about 1 percent of their revenue on research and development, well below average for a potentially major industry. You might think that’s because things are going so great, but some major solar users may have already maxed out their technology. According to Sivaram’s estimates, four of the five most significant country users -- Italy, Greece, Germany and Spain -- have already seen solar energy flatten out in the range of 5 percent to 10 percent of total energy use. The fifth country, Japan, is only at 5 percent.
... A common view is that solar power will come into its own once batteries and other storage technologies make steady improvements. Yet Sivaram notes that lithium-ion batteries in particular are not well-designed for storage across days, weeks and months. Also note that about 95 percent of global energy storage capacity is from hydroelectric power, [pumped storage] a discouraging sign for the notion that solar energy storage is on a satisfactory track.
Promoting solar energy also isn’t in the interest of regulated utilities. They fear a scenario where many users deploy solar power to detach from the energy grid, either wholly or in part. Other customers’ bills would have to rise to cover the costs of the grid, and that in turn would encourage even more secession into solar and alternate energy sources. Because that scenario is a financial loser for the utilities, regulatory institutions discourage utilities from integrating solar power into the grid, which limits competition.
... Sivaram calls for “systemic innovation,” based on “refashioning entire energy systems -- including physical infrastructure, economic markets, and public policies -- to enable a high penetration of solar energy.” I would add that we should reconsider the abandonment of nuclear energy, a topic that Sivaram touches upon but does not emphasize.
One lesson is that marginal improvements aren’t always enough, and economic dynamism is more important than we have been realizing. A whole series of integrated breakthroughs may be required to move significantly closer to a green energy future. I do think the U.S. will eventually get there, but after reading “Taming the Sun,” I have to wonder if we are up to the challenge now.
-- https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles ... n-it-seems