How quickly can we build clean energy?

From ScienceForSustainability
Jump to navigation Jump to search

How quickly can we build the clean energy plants we need to decarbonise our energy (especially electricity) generation?

One can put solar panels on the roof of a house and connect it into the grid in a day, a wind turbine in a few weeks or months. A new nuclear power station can take over a decade to build. But the rooftop solar installation produces a few kilowatts (when the sun is shining); the turbine a few megawatts (when the wind is blowing), and the nuclear station produces gigawatts (24*7, almost 52 weeks a year). How can we compare them?

One way is to look at how fast countries have been able to build clean electricity generating capacity per person in that country. Janne Korhonen has done that, using data from the B.P. Statistical Review, to create this chart (from Korhonen and Partanen's book Climate Gamble)

Best increase in electricity generation over 15 years (updated 2020) - Climate Gamble.jpeg

Is this a fair representation or has the data been selected to favour nuclear energy? Korhonen discusses this in the article accompanying this graphic on their website.

Here is another chart, also visualising data from the BP Statistical Review, showing different energy sources for a wide range of countries:

Largest 10-year deployments of low-carbon electricity generation.jpg