Renewable energy sources just wouldn’t be very high on the priority list with the price of oil less than half that of even six months ago, one might think today.
Indeed, OPEC doesn’t seem inclined to decrease oil production anytime soon, most likely hoping it can cripple Russia, which is already in trouble because of sanctions related to President Vladimir Putin in Syria and Ukraine. Low oil prices are also causing widespread turmoil in major oil-producing countries, like Venezuela, Nigeria, and Liberia.
Even the United States have increased oil production, and controversial projects, such as Keystone XL and drilling off the Atlantic Coastline, are suddenly glossed over. Of course, drivers are rejoicing with sub-$2 gasoline but, as US President Barack Obama notes, “it won’t last.”
OPEC General Secretary Abdulla al-Badri says as much, opining that $45/bbl oil is pretty much the floor, and that we should expect an oil price increase soon, maybe $200/bbl by the end of the decade. Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, have been steadily expanding, in spite of the recent drop in oil prices.
The National Solar Jobs Census 2014 shows that renewable energy jobs have been added at a rate 20 times faster than the rest of the economy. In the United States, 1.3% of all new jobs were in renewable energy. Solar power jobs increased by 21.8% from November 2013 to November 2014, and is expected to increase by at least another 20% by November 2015.
Currently employing over 173,000 workers, solar power jobs have surpassed even the country’s longtime coal industry, employing less than 95,000. Adding 31,000 new jobs in the solar power industry alone even trumped the nation’s booming oil industry, which added less than 20,000 jobs last year.
Of course, solar power isn’t the only renewable energy source experiencing a boom in the United States, as on-shore and off-shore wind, even geothermal energy, are also growing steadily. On-shore wind power is currently the nation’s cheapest energy source, even counting fossil fuels.
Renewable energy is set to expand even further, except that it suffers one small problem, that of intermittency. As we know, solar power only works when the sun shines, and wind power only works when the wind blows.
Even hydro power only works when there is enough rain, so the need for renewable energy storage solutions is a palpable one. Research and development is under way in these areas, and it shouldn’t be long before more areas can go 100% renewable, such as Burlington, Vermont.