This documentary about the European embrace of solar energy is eye-opening. Germany and Spain especially are well on their way to totally replacing fossil fuels. The technology is accelerating. The tipping point is nearer than we have been led to believe.
What's most interesting about the German proponents of this strategy is their well-founded belief that solar energy will inevitably displace the fossil fuel and nuclear industries -- not someday, but in the next couple of decades. And that a major shift in the economic power structure will accompany it -- the passing of the dominance of the energy companies which have ruled the world economy for a century.
Solar is an electronics and technology industry, displacing a tired old extraction industry. It's the next big arena in which the tech world will dominate. Solar energy is the third wave of the post-world-war-II tech revolution which brought us personal computers and the internet. It's essentially decentralized and based on a world-wide commons -- a renewable resource, sunlight. Everything changes as a result of solar displacing fossil fuels (non-renewable) and nuclear (unsafe). The new energy economy becomes a major counterforce to global warming and wars of extraction. And nothing can stop it. It's inevitable. It's happening now.
The investment tipping point is near. Don't build new fossil fuel or nuclear infrastructure, solar proponents say, because within ten years your investment will be in trouble. Investments in technology to harness sunlight, however, will be Silicon Valley like in their profusion and (many inevitable small failures aside) spectacularly successful, dominating the economy much as computers and the internet have.
Of course, climate change is also looming -- and has a time lag. Solar does not cure all problems, but its advent (sooner than we've been expecting) will be really good news for our kids. It will give them a fighting chance against climate change, and against the powerful old energy oligarchies that so deeply corrupt the political system. It will have its own corruptors -- but since it is not based on resource monopolies, it is inherently much more open, develops much faster, and presents a more level playing field.
The marginalization of the idea of solar elsewhere in the world (in the U.S. in particular), its perception as a distant potential and partial solution rather than a looming total replacement of the current energy system, is due to carefully cultivated misconceptions (lies), exactly as practiced with climate change denial (for exactly the same reasons, by exactly the same vested interests). [Watch for Naomi Klein's forthcoming book on that subject!] Solar technology is advancing faster and faster, and is already unstoppable, much as computing power has been during the last tech revolution. A kind of Moore's Law applies already to the efficiency and cost of solar electricity production devices. The oil and coal companies know this. They see their fate. But they seek to obscure the truth, and delay their end. But they are powerless to avoid it, because an extraction industry (based on scarcity) cannot reposition itself as a technology industry (based on an infinite supply of free sunlight).
Photons -- so small, so many of them, so cheap. Carbon-free. Gotta love 'em.