Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

“Yabut… To Get Wind Power You Need Fossil Fuel”

[source] Vaclav Smil staring at the skies, but is skeptical a solution of the world’s energy problems could come from there, any time soon. Mr. Smil urgently needs glasses.

In North-America, it is a very popular point of view that a renewable energy revolution is doomed to fail, since it is “impossible to eliminate the dependence on fossil fuel”. Even one of the most prominent US energy thinkers, Vaclav Smil, is flirting with the same chicken-and-egg “reasoning”, and most other Americans do too.

[] – “To Get Wind Power You Need Oil” (2016)

Wind turbines are the most visible symbols of the quest for renewable electricity generation. And yet, although they exploit the wind, which is as free and as green as energy can be, the machines themselves are pure embodiments of fossil fuels.

In 2021, at the early stages of the renewable energy transition, that is per definition true, indeed. But that won’t be true anymore, once all energy will be generated by renewable sources and adequate storage will be in place.

[] – Vaclav Smil

Smil is skeptical that there will be a rapid transition to clean energy, believing it will take much longer than many predict. Smil said “I have never been wrong on these major energy and environmental issues because I have nothing to sell,” unlike many energy companies and politicians.

(Mr. Smil has books to sell for the US market, notorious for renewable energy skepticism, lots of books)

Smil completed his undergraduate studies at the Faculty of Natural Sciences of Charles University in Prague… Smil completed a doctorate in Geography at the College of Earth and Mineral Sciences of the Pennsylvania State University

Smil is not a physicist or energy engineer. Yet he is seen as a prominent thinker on all matters of energy in the US and is adored by the likes of Bill Gates.

Smil is smart enough that he doesn’t rule out a 100% renewable energy system categorically:

For a long time to come—until all energies used to produce wind turbines and photovoltaic cells come from renewable energy sources—modern civilization will remain fundamentally dependent on fossil fuels.

Dear mr. Smil, that is exactly the purpose of the renewable energy transition: to ensure that all “energies” (sic) come from renewable sources. And if you realize that countries like Germany and Denmark already have 50% of their electricity from renewables and are still economically thriving, you know for a fact that in 30 years time, they can be expected to have achieved 200%, the required raw figure to ensure the same level of wealth as today, generated with a 100% renewable energy base.

[deepresource] – Blueprint 100% Renewable Energy Base for Germany

The renewable energy generation problem has essential already been solved.

[deepresource] – Lazard – Renewable Energy Cheapest by Far

Critical for the success of the renewable energy transition will be the availability of cheap long-term energy storage. All the signs are that adequate solutions will be found in time.

People like Smil are exemplary for the general North-American aversion to abandon the fossil success formula of 150 years and having to embark on a new mode of energy generation, in which they are at a considerable technological and industrial distance to their European cousins, where North-Americans love to imagine they have an innate superiority of the exceptionalist variety. And that’s a too comfortable a thought to abandon overnight.

“That’s OK”, you hear grinning Europeans think, while they proceed undeterred with conquering the global renewable energy and storage market of the future, increasing their industrial and patent clout, increasing the distance with the US with every passing year.

Probably involuntary, Vaclav Smil is a European geopolitical asset.

Single Post Navigation

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: