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A new report by the independent think tank RethinkX has found that 100% of global electricity could be generated using SWB (solar, wind and batteries) by 2030. It is not only possible but also economically viable meaning that SWB will be the cheapest electricity system by the beginning of the next decade.

The costs associated with solar photovoltaics, onshore wind power, and lithium-ion batteries have been decreasing for years. This, coupled with an increase in their capabilities, should trigger the abandonment of investment in expensive coal, gas, and nuclear power assets.

“The disruption of the conventional technologies is now inevitable, and...no new investment in coal, gas, or nuclear power generating assets is rational from this point forward.”

A RethinkX Sector Disruption Report, Adam Dorr & Tony Seba

The findings of the report can pave the way for the most profound disruption to the energy sector in over a century.

But how can this be when traditionally, policymakers, investors, civic leaders and the general public have been under the impression that a total shift to SWB power would be impossible to implement and completely unaffordable?

Historically, disruptive technologies result in systems much broader than the ones they replace, but people generally fail to take this into account. According to RethinkX, these stakeholders have been misled by the failure of conventional models and forecasts making this very mistake. As a result they vastly underestimate the growth of to understand that future solar and wind generating capacity, which in the future will significantlygreatly exceed today’sthe total installed powerelectricity generationng capacity installed today.

SWB will not only replace the current coal, gas and nuclear systems but will naturally produce a huge surplus of clean energy at near-zero marginal cost. RethinkX refers to this as super power and asserts that it has the potential to be as disruptive to energy as the introduction of computers and the internet was to information technology.

Examples of super power applications include electrification of road transportation and heating, atmospheric water generation or water desalination and treatment, waste processing and recycling, metal smelting and refining, chemical processing and manufacturing, cryptocurrency mining, cloud computing and communications, and carbon removal.    

“Conservation in the new system will mean maximizing rather than minimizing energy use, because it is not harmful to utilize electricity generated from sunshine and wind but rather it is harmful to let it go to waste.”

A RethinkX Sector Disruption Report, Adam Dorr & Tony Seba

In case studies that focused on the US states of California and Texas, it was found that the lowest cost 100% SWB system will produce more super power output than today’s total annual electricity demand. The cost of installing a 100% super power system in an area the size of the United States is $2 trillion over the course of the 2020s – just 1% of GDP – and would createsupport millions of new jobs during that time. This also applies to nearly all the overwhelming majority of other populated regions of the world.

Transforming to 100% SWB systems will not completely eliminate fossil fuels outside of the electric power sector, but generating this amount of super power could displace up to half of all fossil fuel energy use in sectors such as transportation, industry and agricultureoutside of the existing electric power sector.

The findings of the report are clear: efforts to mitigate the world’s carbon footprint over the course of the next ten years will be led by regions who decide to invest in SWB systems.

Furthermore, the return on investment is not linear so regions may choose to make an additional investment to disproportionately increase the quantity of super power that their clean energy system produces. In countries with sunny climates, an additional 20% investment could double super power output, further enhancing the economic and social benefits that arise from energy superabundance.

The data-driven evidence presented by ReThinkX leaves no doubt that a cleaner, more powerful and cheaper way of generating electricity is possible within the next decade by embracing an energy revolution driven by solar, wind and battery systems.

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