Volts podcast: the good news about clean energy, with Kingsmill Bond

The transition to a system based on renewables is accelerating and unstoppable.

  
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It seems like good news is difficult to come by in the US these days, what with democracy on the verge of crumbling and the last big chance to address climate change held in the fickle and ill-informed hands of the Senate’s most conservative Democrat, who lives on a yacht and literally makes money off of coal plants.

As it happens, I have a stash of good news I’ve holding in reserve — a guest I’ve been meaning to talk to forever, but have been treating like a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency thing. I felt grim enough this week that I finally called him up.

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His name is Bond. Kingsmill Bond. (Sorry, had to do it.) He’s an energy strategist at the think tank Carbon Tracker, where he arrived after decades of doing market analysis and strategy for big financial institutions like Deutsche Bank and Citibank.

Bond’s experience and research have led him to the conclusion that the shift to clean energy has become unstoppable and that it will be the dominant force shaping financial markets and geopolitics in the 21st century. He argues that we are on the front end of a massive, precipitous wave of change to rival the industrial revolution — one that will unfold even if policy support is weak and erratic, purely on the strengths of economics and innovation.

We need to update our mental model of climate mitigation, he says. It’s not about pain, about how to distribute extra costs and who will be the most altruistic. It’s about gain, about which countries will benefit most and fastest from the tapping of almost limitless new markets and opportunities for growth.

There are no fundamental limits to the spread of zero-carbon energy. There’s more than enough renewable energy, accessible with today’s technology, to supply the world’s energy needs. Not only do we know how to get there, it is where we are headed, based on current market and technology trends. The key to succeeding on climate change is simply accelerating what is already underway, pushing a rolling boulder a little faster.

Like I said, I’m in need of good news like this, so I was excited to talk to Bond about the cost of renewable energy, the peak in fossil fuel demand, and the inevitability of a 100 percent clean-energy system.