Ever cheaper wind and solar power means the decline of coal, oil and gas is unstoppable. The trillion-dollar question is how, and how quickly, their demise comes about
While we don’t know exactly how the energy transition will pan out, the fossil fuel age is ending as it began, as we learn to exploit a vast, cheap, easy-to-use energy resource that is self-evidently superior to the existing options. Now, it is wind and solar power. “The peak of the fossil fuel era is here or hereabouts,” says Kingsmill Bond, a strategist at energy think tank Carbon Tracker. “The plateau is going to last a bit, but then go off a cliff.”
How high the cliff is and what is at the bottom depends on which of the scenarios available to us we choose. For the various fossil fuels, however, it will be first in, first out. “Coal is finished,” says Andreas Goldthau at the University of Erfurt in Germany. Regulatory pressure, changing economies and the competitiveness of renewables are doing for old king coal.
How we can transform our energy system to achieve net-zero emissions Fatih Birol interview: Using energy isn’t evil – creating emissions is How to understand world energy use – in 10 graphs