2) The vast majority of renewable energy is used to generate electricity. Only about 20% of global energy use is electric – the rest is transportation, heat etc. Some of that can be shifted to electric but not without costs. And some of it cannot be shifted (heavy ocean transport, steel smelting furnaces etc.) 3) Our armies of 500 billion human laborers power the global industrial and manufacturing engine. Many renewable energy stories have rosy forecasts that ignore the current heavy lifting done by these laborers, who will be retiring in coming decades. 4) Solar and wind power at the margin has gotten cheap – and viable – but we need to look at the full system cost that will require either fossil back up or batteries or other for when the wind doesn’t blow or sun doesn’t shine. Also, solar/wind is only cheap at the margin with low penetration. At high penetration, the costs skyrocket. We are currently inundated with stories about the feasibility of 50%, 80% or even 100% renewables powering society by the year 2050, while in reality, each year of the past decade we have consumed more additional energy using fossil fuels on a global level than from renewables. Indeed, in 2018 the increase in global demand for electricity alone was more than the entire installed capacity of ALL solar PV installed since it was invented. 205 These promises are greatly simplifying the monstrosity of the task at hand: shifting our human energy system back from the one-time bounty of fossil energy to where it always was before: the cumbersome harvesting of low-density and erratic solar flows for our society.
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