Eric Holthaus: Our Glorious Green Energy Future is Just Five Years Away

4th of July Fireworks – Washington DC. Matthew Straubmuller from Bethesda, MD, USA [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to meteorologist and green activist Eric Holthaus, any minute now we’ll have the affordable magic batteries we need to make electric cars useful and renewable power reliable.

Batteries are key to clean energy — and they just got much cheaper
Clean energy future might be closer than we previously thought

ERIC HOLTHAUS
APRIL 10, 2019 8:00AM (UTC)

In a little less than a year, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35 percent, according to a new Bloomberg New Energy Finance report. Cheaper batteries mean we can store more solar and wind power even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing. This is a major boost to renewables, helping them compete with fossil fuel-generated power, even without subsidies in some places, according to the report. Massive solar-plus-storage projects are already being built in places like Florida and California to replace natural gas, and many more are on the way.

Electric vehicles will become cheaper to own and operate than gas ones. In places like California, Texas, and Germany, electricity prices have occasionally dropped below zero — a sign that the grid wasn’t yet ready to handle the glut of renewable energy produced there. Now, more of that cheap power will be stored and passed on to consumers. This could be the moment when renewable energy starts to shut down fossil fuel for good.

Read more: https://www.salon.com/2019/04/10/batteries-are-key-to-clean-energy-and-they-just-got-much-cheaper_partner/

I think this is wonderful news.

If Eric Holthaus is right, there is no longer any need whatsoever for government intervention in energy markets. Adam Smith’s invisible hand will ensure renewables prevail by virtue of their superior value, well ahead of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s 12 year deadline to save the world from climate change.

All we need is for power engineers and scientists to stop dragging their feet, and get on with building the magic batteries.

91 thoughts on “Eric Holthaus: Our Glorious Green Energy Future is Just Five Years Away

    • With these wonderful batteries, do we still need any bird chopping windmills or any bird incinerating solar plants? (He skipped it neatly).

      • Don’t you know those bird choppers and bird friers will be charging those wonderful batteries “when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing”. Which is a pretty wonderful trick indeed. 😉

    • I asked basically the same question of liberals back in the days when oil was being projected at $200 per barrel. That question was/is: If you really believe that, then where are the energy or alternative energy stock holdings at the top of your portfolio? Of course the answer is a sheepish look because they are only playing juvenile debate games in the first place with no intention of betting real money of their own.

      The same question / test also works during all other current event headlines of resource scarcity. Where is it in your own portfolio and why does it not dominate any portfolio when the premise is that no one is ever going to find anymore of the stuff, or substitute, or use technology to change the demand and supply profiles.

    • What IS Holthaus smoking? It must be really, really good.

      Seriously, does he ever go outside a building he inhabits?

      • What IS Holthaus smoking? It must be really, really good.

        and really, really illegal (at least at the Fed level). 😉

    • I think it is funny how folks who grew up with Moore’s law think’s it applies to every change in every product. If that were the case, our toilet paper would be mobile and no hands would be needed. Then, in a few years from now, it would transparent and so effective, only one square would be needed.

  1. But, the materials to build those ‘Magic Batteries” is certainly NON RENEWABLE and most likely not Sustainably Producible

  2. Too much Pot.
    Waaay too much Pot…

    “Happiness is a warm fast breeder”-old Hanford are T-shirt..

  3. “All we need is for power engineers and scientists to stop dragging their feet, and get on with building the magic batteries.”

    Well Why doesn’t Eric Holthaus get off his butt and just do it?

  4. Too bad for all those subsidies that came before the price drop. At least it’s not too late to learn that lesson.

  5. ‘Cheaper batteries’

    Cheaper than what?

    ‘mean we can store more solar and wind power even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.’

    The idea is to store solar and wind power when the sun IS shining or the wind IS blowing.

    What a maroon.

    • Cheaper than before doesn’t mean better than before. Lithium ion batteries are like methane digesters: a sound idea chemically, and OK if you nurse them continuously and keep everything in side without well-constrained limits. Outside those limits, they get sick and die, sometimes by explosion.

      Grid storage capacity is better achieved by using large grid storage devices, not thousands or millions of tiny ones.

  6. Just ask Panasonic about cheaper batteries. They’re strategically backing out of their partnership with Tesla at the so-called Gigafactory because the costs are too high. Panasonic is one of the biggest battery technology companies with years of experience. If they can’t do it then it is truly magical thinking to assume it is “just around the corner”.

    • I suspect that some of the reluctance on the part of Panasonic relates directly to the failing fortunes of Tesla. No point in building batteries if there are no vehicles to put them in.

      I’m also a bit astounded at the push by the major manufacturers to dive headlong into battery powered vehicles. If anything Tesla has shown a dedicated but small group of owners. I suspect we are headed to a market full of product and a lack of customers. Time will tell but my money is staying in my pocket and in my gas tank.

  7. Funny, I just purchased some batteries for a some drone that only last 31 minutes and they cost $129.95 each, last years models are 20ma (think small watch battery) less but only cost $50 each so how has the ‘cost’ gone down?

  8. They drive down the cost of the batteries by reducing the number of expensive materials used to manufacture them like precious metals.

    This is turn makes it less economically attractive to recycle them.

    Making the batteries cheaper and creates a bigger toxic waste disposal problem.

    But the ecoloons see only rainbows and unicorns.

      • yeah I admit to waiting for that to happen with some amazing force and following disaster/bushfires etc downunder

  9. Wasn’t there a news story today that Panasonic was backing out of deal with Tesla to build a new battery facility in China? It seem if there was an anticipated increase in demand by two the big battery manufactures they would be moving forward with the project.

  10. Cheaper batteries mean we can store more solar and wind power even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing.

    LMAO. That’s entirely the wrong time to be trying to store solar and wind power, as there is no power to store (or do anything else with) when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. The time to be storing that power is when the sun *is* shining and the wind *is* blowing.

    This is a major boost to renewables, helping them compete with fossil fuel-generated power, even without subsidies

    Excellent, so we can start scrapping the subsidies. Quick someone tell the government.

    Electric vehicles will become cheaper to own and operate than gas ones

    Cost to own and operate is only one factor.

    Will they have the range or towing capacity? I don’t care how cheap it is to own and operate if I can only drive 5 miles before needing a charge (yes I know EV can go more than 5 miles between charges, the number is only for illustrative purposes) or if I routine use my vehicle for towing loads too heavy for an EV to handle.

    Will they be able to fully charge up as quickly as an ICE tank can be filled? If I live in an 5th floor Apartment (and thus have no easy access to a home outlet) and have to rely on charging stations, it does me no good if I have to waste a hour or more of my time waiting at the charging station for my car to charge.

    And those are just two factors that would cause someone to prefer a “more expensive” but more convenient ICE vehicle to a “less expensive” but also less convenient EV. Only when EVs are fully comparable to ICE will they be able to replace ICE.

    • “BloombergNEF (BNEF), Bloomberg’s primary research service, covers clean energy, advanced transport, digital industry, innovative materials and commodities.”

      To me that says they are a financial propaganda and sales organization for “greeen energy”.

  11. As the fat lady said in “when Harry met Sally” I’ll have what he’s having, it must be pretty powerful stuff…

  12. “In a little less than a year, the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35 percent”

    On what, exactly?!
    As far we can determine, that is the price for expired batteries or a surprise sale at some outlet for same.

    HP certainly hasn’t sent me any emails about lower priced computer batteries. Nor have the tool companies posted new prices for lithium-ion tool batteries.

  13. It remains to be seen what the train wreck will look like with the EV demand swarm for batteries occurring at the same time power generation with batteries takes off. Here are the scenarios: 1) Either lithium supply increases smoothly to meet demand, or 2) EV sales do match the plans and sales fall back and harms battery suppliers, or 3) the power generation market runs ahead of EVs with better ROI from utility scale solar and pressures EV battery prices. Lithium supply additions can respond to all of these scenarios in the long run but its the cyclical swings in the short and medium run that causes financial train wrecks. Be careful out there.

      • If you want a few hundred GWatts of base load battery backup, the lithium supply and lithium prices will be a really big problem…and cobalt supply will be an intractable problem.

  14. Australia’s soon to be Prime Minister Bill Shorten who has declared he wants 50% of all cars sold to be electric was asked on a radio show how long it takes to charge an EV.

    8-10 minutes!

    • Come on, that should get you out of the driveway and half a mile down the road, but you will have to get it towed back/

  15. What the author fails to consider is the fact that 3 gallons of fuel oil equals the KWH output of one Tesla battery. It is pretty easy to store one million gallons of fuel oil as a backup source. The number of batteries needed to store even the smallest part of the US electrical output is beyond practical. Add to that maximum battery life is about 10 years and one can see how impractical Lion battery storage is.

  16. As a matter of fact sodium-sulfur batteries are much more promising for utility-scale storage, since they are much cheaper and have a longer life than li-ion. However the high operating temperature and weight makes them unsuitable for non-stationary use.

  17. don’t those LION batteries tend to catch on fire ? ALOT ??? just imagine a football field sized building full of them just burning gloriously for days on end …

    • Well, not a lot really, but occasionally they do, and they are well-nigh impossible to put out once they have started to burn (“thermal runaway”).

      However a lot of fires are started by physical damage to a cell, so a stationary battery is less likely to burn.

  18. “This could be the moment when renewable energy starts to shut down fossil fuel for good.” Yes, just like 2008 was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal”, because, Obama. This could also be the moment that mankind finally realizes that he needs to protect himself from an attack by space aliens. This might even be the moment that Greenie Believers start to see the light and realize they’ve been 100% wrong. For moments like these, there’s Coffee Mate, or was that Minties. I forget.

    • You are thinking of the 1980s Minties ad. (I had to look that up as I had no idea what you were going on about, we don’t have minties here in the US of A,).

    • Correct, apparently it wasn’t just the 1980s, the catchphrase dates back to the 1920s, it’s just the first thing I found was the 1980s ad.

  19. Battery cost isn’t the only problem. Volume, charge time, and weight are at least as significant.

    However, progress will be made and at some time battery cost, charge time, weight and volume might make them competitive. But I think we are more than five years away. Five years is the production horizon for technologies that are already well known and in use in niche markets, not for technologies that aren’t even known yet.

    • I think there needs to be an increase of energy density of at least one order of magnitude, and a lifespan increase equal to that before battery technology becomes viable in support of intermittent generation by devices which themselves need to be more efficient at converting their low-density energy sources to electricity, in order to attain a successful market share and truly compete with legacy power production methods.

      • Shhhh….
        🤐
        The climate clowns are creating their sciencey myth.
        Don’t disturb them with rational thought and critical thinking.

      • As you say, the energy density needs to increase. Otherwise, more batteries are required to store more energy so the overall price remains the same, offsetting the price reduction.

  20. Plug-in cars will appeal to the city dwellers more than the country folk. But those that live in older cities with no garage and no driveway and no place to put one, those people who have to park their cars on the streets, they will find that the extension cord across the sidewalk will not make many friends.

    • The cords will need to be replaced on a daily basis as the winos will steal them to sell the copper for scrap and use the proceeds to buy Mogen David 20/20.

      There are some city dwellers, many of whom live under underpasses, that are looking forward to the EV revolution.

      Depending on your perspective and taste in wine, it’s a win-win situation.

  21. And still, no one will tell us where all the electricity to charge these batteries will be generated.

  22. Something tells me the Climate powers that be will still be clamouring for that $100 trillion to “save the planet” … aka: line some pockets.

  23. Eric is a jerk. Batteries STORE electricity, they do not generate electricity. Batteries scanot transform renewable power generatros into reliable power generators. There is no limit to the period of time thatreneables produce little or no power. And batteries can’t store very much electricity, either. Current li ion prices are roughly $200-$250 per kWhr as constructed. A typical nuclear plant can produce power at one gigawatt level.
    So one hour’s worth of output would be 1,000 MWhrs, or 1,000,000 kWhrs. That means you need $200 million dollars worth of batteries for each hour’s worth of output you want to store. Wind/solar power can disappear for hours,days, even weeks. Estimated prices of molten salt nuclear power plants is about $2 1/2 billion for 1 gigawatt power output. If that money was used to buy batteries for a 1 gigawatt renewable generator, you could provide storage for 12 1/2 hours of power output. The molten reactor will last 60 years, the batteries less than 20. This makes zero economic sense. Or any kind of sense – if the batteries are used to replace absent renewable, then how is the storage going to be replenished when the renewable power reappears?

  24. First you have to produce enought and a bit more energy for a given time period to supply the needs, and then you need the batteries to store the excess energy to periods when the turbines and solar panels produce less.
    I suppose all turbine operators will install batteries in the turbines, so that they can deliver the needed power when needed. Such a turbine would be a break and should capture all the windturbine market.
    What could be wrong?

  25. I like the part about electricity cost falling to less than zero. What the h*** does that mean. The windmill produces electricity and dollar bills float down to the ground. electricity can not cost less than zero. Even without considering capital and maintenance you still can’t get to less than zero.

    • He was somewhat correct on that one. Electricity prices, not costs, have fallen below zero when the wind is blowing and there is insufficient demand for electricity. Utilities in California, Denmark, and Germany have been forced to give away electricity to neighboring states (countries) or pay renewable energy producers not produce. Of course, when the wind dies, they purchase electricity from neighbors at premium prices. No surprise that large German utilities have lost billions of euros over the last ten years.

  26. People like Holthaus are so idealistic, it clouds their vision, they want others to jump on the renewables train while they themselves keep on using fossil fuels as before, waiting for some miracle of batteries to come along. It will never happen.

  27. “In places like California, Texas, and Germany, electricity prices have occasionally dropped below zero — a sign that the grid wasn’t yet ready to handle the glut of renewable energy produced there.”

    I have to call up LADWP. They apparently owe me a rebate check! Last i checked the electric rates here on the left coast were 50% higher than the US national average and climbing every year. The only consolation is we pay less per kwh than Germany. Not as far along the moral evolutionary curve I suppose but trying to catch up.

    • Occasionally? All last weekend from 9am to 4pm, except for 1 hour.
      Go to http://www.caiso.com . This is the official web site of the grid operator.
      It has a look of good unadulterated data and graphics.

    • Darcy don’t hold your breath waiting for CA rated to go down. The PG&E bankruptcy and the increasing insurance rates that it will create will insure LARGE rate increases very soon.

  28. I think we should take electric Holtause at his word
    all energy generators have to commit to providing energy 24 hours in advance
    if they fail – big fines

    we all know the result. even with big storage, 2 days of lack of production will lead to big fines

  29. A brave warmist moving a timeline forward rather than back/just over the horizon as they usually do. He is at risk of people seeing this prediction is BS like all the others, and be around to be reminded.

  30. Still no explanation about how the alleged new reliance on batteries is going to buck the limits imposed by energy density.

    On the other hand I am happy to report my work on producing a scale of the mental density of eco-loons and environmentalists is progressing. I am using Attenboroughs as my base unit, although in the States you might care to stick to Gores or Manns. Rude? Yes, but these people abuse and insult everyone else far more with their nonsense.

  31. “…Electric vehicles will become cheaper to own and operate than gas ones…”

    Nissan Leaf MSRP is $30k while the similar Versa Note starts at $16k. Replacing the battery in the Leaf is 50% or more of the MSRP of the Versa Note.

    You pay a huge premium for an EV.

      • And LEAF depreciation is catastrophic: 70% in two years.

        Ah, perhaps that’s where it “will become cheaper” – for whomever buys the turkey after it’s massively been depreciated 🙂

    • To be fair, Michael, the sentence was future tense IE “will become” and you are quoting present tense (IE what the prices are right now). That said, that’s a pretty big gap that it has to overcome just to reach parity let along become cheaper, so that “will become” is a good long ways off (if it ever happens, which is in some doubt).

  32. First problem tho — need unicorn blood to fill the batteries…..

    Then rainbows to keep them charged.

  33. No, no, don’t need any expensive, environmentally damaging batteries for when the sun isn’t shining – just copy those teat-suckers in Spain and rig up some floodlights over the solar panels, connect them up to diesel generators, and ‘hey presto!’.

  34. Eventually it will become undeniable that worth-less-than-nothing wind and solar junk power is nothing but “grid poison” and should be “landfilled” (most of the material is non-recyclable). Combined cycle gas turbines now & small scale modular nuclear reactors phased in beginning in 2027(see NuScale SMR news). Brainwashed warmist’s aren’t ever going to stop hating “fossil fuels”. Our only hope is for them buying into an incremental phasing in of NuScale SMR’s as a replacement for wind/solar/bio-fuels as renewable production and investment credits expire.
    If batteries experience a technological breakthrough and storage becomes economically feasible than the batteries should be installed at large base load generating stations for night charging when power demand is low. Expensive new technology batteries scattered among thousands of low output intermittent wind and solar farms? Surely we aren’t THAT stupid.

  35. Great ! Once I made a rough estimation. Yes, I took very pessimistic 25% fuel efficiency engines.

    How much of Tesla automotive batteries could supply the minimum energy for an empty 747 flying from New York to Paris. Yes, no payload, just a ferry joyride. Only the trip fuel, no contingency, diversion, alternate and other reserves. Equally no winds, just A to B ignoring even the evil climb fuel flows.

    It boiled to more than 500 tons of whatever powers the Tesla model S. Wow. That’s sure worth a “HEAVY” after the call sign.

    So what gives ? Well… Mid air refueling.

    Depleted batteries would be jettisoned and land, like guided ordnance in selected areas. They could also deploy RAT’s (propeller driven generators) and use them to windmill and partially recharge on their way down.

    Fresh recharged batteries would be fired as hydrogen powered rockets and lodge in specifically adapted orifices in the aft portion of the fuselage.

    It’s all a matter of synchronism, charged batteries need to be fired in advance and penetrate the fuselage at the moment depleted ones are jettisoned.

    Over the oceans, large solar powered barges could generate the electricity to recharge the ejected batteries and produce enough hydrogen to refill their rocket engines.

    Yeah, see, electric commercial long haul flights are just a few technicalities away …

    *palmface*

    • You are unduly pessimistic. Using the best theoretically possible batteries (Lithium-Air) with assumed near perfect efficiency, motors with a better efficiency than the best existing today, and propellers dito, and aerodynamics at least as good as the best possible today, I calculate it might just be possible for a really big (much larger than a ’747) aircraft to cross the Atlantic from Portugal to New Foundland by landing for re-charging on the Azores.

      Of course with minimal reserves and no headwinds.

      In other words, someday we might just possibly have electric aircraft with performance comparable to what conventional aircraft had in 1919.

      • Well, my bad then if I used real world real fuel burns from a real 747-400 on a real ferry flight.

        Should have considered a hypothetically futuristic bigger than a 747 hypothetical aircraft with hypothetical low reserves flown by a hypothetical crew of potentially suicidal individuals who don’t care of pressurization, cabin temperature, anti-icing, and keeping lithium/air batteries warm by outside air temperatures of -55 Celsius and a bunch of other energy dependent “details” inherent to a “bigger than 747” heavier than air aircraft.

  36. Ironically this is just 4 posts away from an article on how molten salt reactors are just five years away and will give us limitless power…

  37. Unthinking, myopic, self important & noisy, virtue signalling and basically= dazzled by Hi Tech.
    Most of the characteristics possessed by children but even more so their mothers. Young kids are coming to hate smartphones. There’s an Invisible Hand = that of Old Ma Nature?

    Today’s tangent = Thought Experiment.
    As some commentators here have queried, jokingly but possibly they have hit the nail on the head, what is Hothaus smoking – implying the use of a very potent chemical depressor.

    What exactly *is* the contemporary requirement to be chemically depressed via alcohol or dope?
    If ‘things’ really *are* Better Than Ever like we always hear, why all the hostility when someone ventures to ban or restrict those substances = things that switch your brain off & thus remove you mentally from this self proclaimed Utopia? In short time they can also remove you physically.
    It really is quite incredible.
    What is the reason we want to Save The World while trashing our own personal selves?
    Guilt?
    Otherwise makes the antics of lemmings (and now walrus) look quite sensible dunnit?

    What would happen if you took a Properly Functioning Human Animal (as evolved, defined & created by Ma Nature) and *did* switch off large parts of its thinking processes & memory – what would you be left with?
    I’d assert just the very things you were born with. IOW = A return to early childhood

    Someone behaving and talking like Hothaus is here – and in his previous F word outburst recently?

    (Did he in ANY way get censured for that – his (childish) outburst makes Marie Antoinette look positively saintly. Patently not as here he is raving away soon after. Also, don’t children imagine themselves ‘so very clever’ when they start to learn Bad Language?)

    Process & memory *do* get switched off – projections say that 50% of all Death Certificates in 30 years time will have the word ‘dementia’ writ upon them.

    Yet Hothaus’ thinking is akin to many others now = i.e. that the use of Neodymium in wind turbines (and EV motors) is essential. We saw that even here recently – even skepticism is going down the pan.

    No no no. Neo is used where you need a lot of magnetism in a tiny space.
    Wind turbines are ‘tiny’??
    Every motor car on this planet has a self-excited alternator bolted to its engine = No Permanent Magnet. Solid proven reliable technology, why not use that – even *before* we recall how old Windmill Technology actually is.

    For EV motors:
    When I was at Uni in Leeds, my Dept, (= Electrical & Electronic Engineering) was playing with switched reluctance motors. Totally no permanent magnet at all.

    Problem in the 70’s was with finding the high speed switches *and* A Controller.
    MOSFETs, IGBJTs and Raspberry Pi fixed that.

    Elon is playing with switched reluctance motors seemingly.
    See one soon near you in a moving car-crash or flaming-wreck.
    Some folks call them ‘Teslas”

    So it is with Lithium. Used to create compact & high density sources of power.
    Nowden, 10% of Earth surface is entirely = wasteland (desert)
    If you want batteries, put them there – totally No Requirement for any space-saving attributes.
    =No Lithium Requirement
    How will Eric take that?
    (I think we can guess – wear a bullet-proof vest if you do try telling him)

    If you do want battery, use a Flow Battery or Nickel-Iron
    Esp Ni/Fe =solid, proven, reliable, VERY long lived and tolerant of epic abuse.
    (Maybe not short circuits as was talked about before round here but are *much* tougher than Li-Ion)

    But those ‘old’ things don’t appeal to children. Do they?
    The penny will drop eventually for Eric but, how much damage will his (and many others) wild ideas, foot stamping and tantrums have done meantime?

  38. Peta I think one of the reasons that PMs are used in wind turbines is weight reduction. You would need a lot more iron on top of a long pole without them. I am sure that each additional pound up there increases the weight of the entire structure geometrically.

  39. ” Electric vehicles will become cheaper to own and operate than gas ones. In places like California, Texas, and Germany, electricity prices have occasionally dropped below zero — a sign that the grid wasn’t yet ready to handle the glut of renewable energy produced there.”

    In places like germany 330.000 households can’t pay the global highest energy bills:

    https://www.google.com/search?q=germany+households+can%E2%80%99t+pay+electricity+bills&oq=germany+households+can%E2%80%99t+pay+electricity+bills&aqs=chrome.

  40. and that is redistribution from the poverty-endangered to the wealthy:

    the lower class has to give the last money to pay for the electricity bill.

    The wealthy do not realize that something like electricity bill exists.

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