Renewable energy is a value, not a cost miracle

In his latest post ‘Who created the renewable-energy miracle?’, Paul Krugman writes that “there’s a really good case to be made that (US) government support for renewable energy created a cost miracle that might not have happened otherwise — and this cost miracle may be the key to saving us from utter climate catastrophe.”

Although I agree with the arguments of his opinion article, I wouldn’t call it a miracle. Earlier this year I wrote that ‘Affordable’ is becoming redundant in the Sustainable Development Goal Nº7. Instead of a miracle, I see the success of renewable energies as a revolution. In other words, it is a triumph of a leadership model, in which the “revolutions don’t break out but result from a plot or are guided by experts” (Geels).

What makes this revolution different is that it is comprised of thousands of learning organizations that are continually expanding their capacity to create their future (Senge). Therefore, as a result, the fundamental driver of this change is that renewable energy technologies follow learning curves, which means that with each doubling of the cumulative installed capacity, their price declines by the same fraction.

But renewables are not just becoming more affordable. They are also the catalyst of economic growth and environmental sustainability. Windmills and solar panels are the landmarks of the Good Life. But not the ‘good life’ measured solely by purchasing power. They are the landmarks of the eudaimonic ideal of a good life as well-lived meaningfully with purpose and hope. Their presence speeds action for the ongoing transformation where networks of frontrunning learning organizations are bridging the divide between ‘materialist’ and ‘idealist’ worldviews.

But if, as an exercise, I should see it as a miracle my response to: ‘Who created the renewable-energy miracle?’ would be: A fertile environment for frontrunners committed to the shared vision driven by common carrying for our planet. Inquiring into whether it was the government support (public initiative) or entrepreneurial spirit (private initiative) what created the ‘renewable-energy miracle’ is similar to dealing with the chicken or egg causality dilemma. Eggs came before chickens, but chicken eggs did not. Chicken evolved through genetic mutation. Through a process of natural selection. It is through a similar process that the renewable energies cost competitiveness went through the market competition. Government support certainly played its part, but let’s not forget the succulent subsidies that the fossil fuel industry has and is still receiving worldwide.

The transition to renewable energies should not be about the cost it takes but the value it brings. The cost is the amount spent to produce renewable energies, while the value is what people believe it is worth to them. While the renewables price constantly declines, their value keeps on increasing. By bridging ‘materialist’ and ‘idealist’ worldviews, the value of renewable energies is way higher than the economic price we pay. Hence, the value and not the cost of this ‘miracle’ is the key to saving us from ‘utter climate catastrophe’.

Then again, no, I wouldn’t call it a miracle, but, yet, while seeing the chart, I do wonder: Why are renewable energies still being considered ‘alternative’?

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