A scientific “miracle” will have to happen in order for the world to achieve a new energy economy.
Forecasts are now commonly made, often rhetorically and without evidence, that we should expect to see a rapid decline in future costs for wind/solar/battery technologies that continue the gains already achieved. The first two decades of commercialization, after the 1980s, saw a greater than tenfold reduction in cost of solar and wind hardware. But the path for further improvements won’t emulate the past. Instead, it now follows what mathematics call an asymptote; or, put in economic terms, improvements are subject to a law of diminishing returns where every incremental gain yields less progress than in the past (Figure 1).
Mark P. Mills is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, and author of the recent report, “The ‘New Energy Economy’: An Exercise in Magical Thinking.” Follow him on Twitter here.
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