The first of the five interdependent pillars supporting an upcoming third industrial revolution is probably the most obvious one. Remember Jeremy Rifkin’s idea is that the convergence of being now able to use renewable sources of energy and the internet would launch the TIR? Obviously, this means shifting from fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and nuclear energy to renewables. Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, ocean waves, and biomass energies still account for only a small amount of the global energy mix. Why is it so?
First, the technologies targeting them are new while those leveraging fossil fuels have been studied and continuously improved for decades, so that their cost-effectiveness isn’t yet really competitive. Plus, as by nature, renewable sources of energy tend to be distributed, there are fewer opportunities to mass-produce green energy and cut costs by scaling up, which would be helpful in the beginning phase and is closer in terms of operating mode to how energy is produced today: centralized power plants distributing energy to all consumers.
However, renewables are on the one hand supported by governments. In Europe, one of the five targets of the ten-year growth strategy “Europe 2020” is known as “20-20-20” and is annoncing the following objectives for 2020:
- greenhouse gas emissions 20% lower than 1990
- 20% of energy from renewables
- 20% increase in energy efficiency
On the other hand, renewables are unconcerned by environmental costs with which you have to deal when you’re speaking about fossil fuels, so that they have a great chance to overcome the profitability question and thrive in the coming years.
Finally, as green energies generally are distributed, the technologies associated with them necessarily involve lower initial investment costs (in absolute terms). And as those initial investments locate on a smaller scale, individuals and (even small) businesses could take over the unavoidable “pilot phase” of these technologies’ development.
All in all, it seems renewable energies are simply at the start of their development and suffer what all technologies suffer at the beginning: improvable techniques and awareness, still structuring offer and financing options, etc.