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A New Market for Solar Energy: Gunawan Jusuf Explains the Terrawatt Initiative Can solar energy surpass fossil fuels as the world's dominant energy source to meet climate change goals by 2030?

By Rohan Goyal

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Can solar energy surpass fossil fuels as the world's dominant energy source to meet climate change goals by 2030?

Can solar energy surpass fossil fuels as the world's dominant energy source to meet climate change goals by 2030? Gunawan Jusuf believes it can, bolstered by the findings of the Terrawatt Initiative.

The Terrawatt Initiative is driven by seven deep convictions:

  1. The world can achieve the transition from fossil fuels to solar power as its dominant source of energy in just the next 7 years.
  2. Solar power can become the world's main source of electricity.
  3. Solar cells, batteries, and hydrogen storage are becoming available at scale.
  4. The switch to solar energy from fossil fuels will be driven by economies of scale, not environmental commitments.
  5. The speed of the transition to solar energy primarily depends on the political will to break out of silos dominated by special interests.
  6. Since the economies of less-developed countries are less completely integrated with coal and petroleum energy sources, they will make the transition to solar energy first.
  7. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) will achieve its goal of US $1 trillion by 2030.

The Terrawatt Initiative has been incorporated as a charitable foundation in France with the purpose of encouraging cooperation, creating international standards, and making electricity from solar sources available to the world for just US $0.02 per kilowatt hour, less than 20% of what it costs now. Joining in this effort are BlackRock, IBM, KPMG, Total, and the Sugar Group.

How can the world transition to solar energy by 2030?

The first step in transitioning to a solar-powered world, Gunawan Jusuf says, is making energy available where it is needed.

Renewable energy has the advantage of being available anywhere. Every square meter of the earth's surface receives some solar energy at some time during the year. There is no need to transport renewable energy from distant lands,

Fossil fuels have the advantage of being available all the time. They can be accessed with tools ranging from a match to a jet engine. They can be transported to the locations where they are needed to release thermal energy.

To compete with fossil fuels, the Terrawatt initiative believes, renewable energy must become cheaper than oil, coal, and natural gas. Solar energy for electrical power must be affordable, and reliable.

Carbon taxes, of course, make dirty energy less affordable and clean energy more attractive. But the Terrawatt Initiative recognizes that, ultimately, clean energy cannot rely on placing a tax on fossil fuels. The cost of clean energy must come down because it can be stored the same way dirty energy can be stored.

A virtuous cycle will power the growth of solar energy, Gunawan Jusuf says

The immediate success of clean energy depends on a virtuous cycle, says Guanawan Jusuf. The lower the cost of renewable energy, the more money is left over for investing in batteries and hydrogen power storage. The more human activity that can be powered by the grid, the lower the cost of renewable energy.

Frugal innovation in the developing world will drive the technologies that expand the grid. More disruptive technologies that reduce hydrocarbon use in industrial activities can follow.

Just two cents a kilowatt is the goal, Jusuf says

Gunawan Jusuf is optimistic that the Terrawatt Initiative is right. A new economy can power the world when the cost of solar power reaches just two cents. Mission impossible, some will say, but we must at least give solar energy a try.

Gunawan Jusuf of the Sugar Group is on the board of directors of the Terrawatt Initiative.

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