Sunday, June 20, 2010

Why a climate sceptic can go solar

Reasons to adopt green energy

It has long been considered self-evident that green energy will cost more than conventional sources. Individuals opting for green energy do so because of their strong belief in the necessity of achieving a greener planet. Given the possible alternatives, this small price premium is not an issue. These people are truly early adopters, proud to anticipate major shifts in the energy market. Companies, on the other hand, are generally perceived to be investing in green energy to stress their public image of corporate responsibility and consider this added cost as part of doing business.

Beyond the green energy hype

Today, the green energy climate has changed. The period of big hype is over. Green energy is becoming increasingly mainstream. In addition, the worldwide economic crisis is forcing potential investors to think twice before spending their money. In the current economic climate, the assumption that paying more is acceptable is no longer obvious. One can regret this evolution, but the de-idealisation of the market also brings along certain advantages. The Jersey City Independent recently featured an article on the Szapala family. Adam Szapala calls himself 'a climate change sceptic' but has installed photovoltaic arrays on his rooftop. Sceptic or not, he has decided to take advantage of the ample New Jersey state financial incentives and the system of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to bring the payback time of his installation down to five years.

Beyond climate change arguments

The SUNfiltered blog picked up this story and launched an open question to its readers: 'Can clean economic growth, however it’s incentivized, trump climate change denialism?' In other words, once renewable electricity becomes affordable, does climate change cease to be its main driver? And if one day, grid parity is reached and government incentives have become obsolete, will climate change denial cease to be a barrier to the further expansion of renewable energy?

The article in the Jersey City Independent also shows that there is more to green energy than climate change. Adam Szapala mentions the financial advantages as the main reason for installing PV panels on his rooftop, but also calls in two additional arguments: he supports reducing pollution from power plants, and would like to see the U.S. make a break from Middle East oil. 'Solar,' he says, 'can only help.'

In fact, Adam Szapala is making his own small-scale sustainability evaluation for himself and his family. He thinks about his financial situation on the longer term, and balances the risk of investing in his own PV panels with being permanently dependant on utility companies. He does not see climate change as a major threat. However, he would like to prevent his children from fighting wars over oil or from living in the shadow of a polluting coal-fired power plant.

Perhaps the promotion of renewable energy has been placing too much stress on climate change mitigation in recent years. The concept of climate change, real as it may be, is extremely complex, not directly visible to the layperson. It is consequently very easy to deny. Other convincing criteria in the realm of sustainability are at hand. Everybody can see the huge importance of energy in today’s economy. Everybody can understand that fossil fuels are not going to last forever. And everybody can see the virtually eternal power of the sun. That creates a very powerful mix of arguments in favour of solar energy.

1 comment:

solar panels for your home said...

"It has long been considered self-evident that green energy will cost more than conventional sources." - Yes, but I believe only at the beginning. Even what we consider "conventional sources" nowadays started out very inefficient. But the cost can only go down as the technology develops.