This is electricity generation in Germany in 2022. We see that just over 40% comes from fossil fuels. Another 9% comes from biomass, which is typically non-renewable for all practical purposes. The rest is low carbon. Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?
Well, here’s what the pessimist sees:
Everything depends on fossil fuel and nuclear again at night and during winter! In other words, you can’t run the grid on renewable electricity!
Implicit here is the assumption, that electricity should always be available, at any moment we desire it. The reality is that we would probably be better off if it wasn’t always available. Would humanity be worse off or better off, if you couldn’t play video games at 2AM? And ultimately the bigger concern is: How should we respond to an emergency? Even if we would like to have electricity in the evening, we probably want to avoid suffering starvation more.
The reality is that with the technology we have today, we could have a lot of stuff. But we can’t have everything. You can take your vaporizer, go out at night, vape weed and listen to Spotify on your phone. You just have to make sure you charge your phone during the afternoon. And if there is no Internet during the evening, because there is no electricity, you’d have to download the songs you want to hear during the day. Your refrigerator can run during the day, then during the night you’d have to keep it closed.
We could have electricity during the night, in winter even. We can burn biomass. We would just have to make it expensive and reserve it for vital uses. After all, there are not endless trees available for us to burn. We can store some electricity too, but this is very expensive and the minerals for the batteries required are in short supply.
There are other things that we can’t do of course. An airplane uses huge amounts of energy to transport us. We have no way to produce electric passenger airplanes that travel at high speed, the energy requirements are just too high. We would just have to accept that traveling around the world within hours by air will be a thing of the past, just like eating meat.
Unfortunately, it seems to me that we’re so focused on keeping everything, that we’re going to end up with nothing.