Do we need more subsidies for renewables? Not necessarily. Just less for fossil fuels.

Do we need more subsidies for renewables? Not necessarily. Just less for fossil fuels.

An article from a solar energy supplier rarely starts with praise for fossil fuels, but this one does. Fossil fuels have improved our society at almost every level and for all layers of society over the past hundred years. We live longer, are healthier, have more freedom and are able to travel around the world in just a few hours. The list is endless. Yet it is time to turn our backs on this old friend.

A comfortable stranglehold

Everyone knows the consequences of continuing to use fossil fuels. To keep this article manageable, I suggest you watch ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet‘. We are currently in the final minutes of the fight against fossil fuels. This war was waged more than 40 years ago at the end of the 70’s. Back then, even fossil fuel giants like Exxon and Shell warned the world about the disastrous consequences of large-scale CO2 emissions at the end of the 1970s.

In the 1990s, Shell and Exxon stopped providing information about climate change. This was replaced by campaigns in which the role of mankind in climate change was questioned (for more about Shell’s role in the energy transition, see ShellWatch). This, combined with large-scale lobbying that caused increased energy consumption and stifled climate legislation, is why our economy is entangled in a comfortable, but deadly fossil fuel stranglehold.

While advancing modern society in the 1970s, few energy sources were as profitable, efficient and abundantly available as coal, gas and oil. Because of the lack of climate change research, there was no reason to explore and use alternative sources. The consequences of emissions caused by coal, gas, and oil only came to light when major investments had already been made. 

The story of unclean energy and their place in the 21st century is a completely different story. The development of solar, wind, and other renewable forms of energy are going at record speed, and it seems that this revolution will continue. Still, it is not fast enough to reduce CO2 emissions to the point where we remain well below  2°C warming, as agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement. How have we not already moved past a fossil fuel driven society?

Fossil fuels on life support

Unfortunately, fossil fuel giants have unobstructed access to the meeting rooms in Brussels, giving them a  chokehold on the European economy. From 2010 to 2019, the top 5 oil and gas companies and their advocates spent around € 250,000,000 on the fossil lobby in Europe. These efforts gave them front row seats at the table for essential climate policy negotiations, the ever-important European Green Deal being one of them. The result of the discussion? A tax reduction or total tax exemption for fossil fuels in the EU worth at least € 137,000,000 per year. A substantial return on investment. In fact, fossil fuels are subsidized 36 times more than renewable energy across the world. 

Meanwhile – despite all the subsidies – things are not going well in the world of fossil giants. NextEra Energy, the world’s largest supplier of solar and wind energy, dethroned ExxonMobil as the largest energy supplier in the United States in early October. A historic moment indicating a transfer of power from fossil fuels to green alternatives. Shell, too, has decided to cut budgets for drilling new oil by more than 40%. These blows, coupled with the ongoing Corona Crisis, has caused demand for fossil fuels to plummet.

“Worldwide, the fossil fuel industry is subsidized 36 times more than green alternatives”

Investors are not blind to developments in the energy market. Because of the global climate energy shift, they see that money can no longer be earned when investing in a drilling platform. Therefore, they invest in technologies for sustainable generation and storage. The prices of renewable energy sources have plummeted rapidly in recent years. Solar energy, for example, has been cheaper than fossil energy sources in almost all parts of the world for years.

Beyond the Tipping Point

The so-called ‘Grid Parity point’ has been reached in recent years. Grid parity is the crucial point in which unsubsidized energy becomes a cheaper form of energy than coal, oil and gas. On paper, this seems meaningless. One could even compare it to the difference between 0 and 1 degrees. Naturally it is only 1 degree difference, but that miniscule difference causes solid ice to turn into fluid water. In this sense, it is the difference between a stagnated market, and one in which funds flow, causing near exponential growth.

In the last ten years, all around the globe, unsubsidised solar energy has become cheaper than unsubsidised fossil fuels. Resulting in a massive increase in solar panel installations

Once Grid Parity is reached, the autonomous market takes its course. The big question, “who will pay for the energy transition?” is simple to answer once you know where the money is headed. We do not want to argue for more sustainable subsidies, but rather for less money to the industry that makes our global climate and energy targets unattainable. This is how we create a ‘level playing field’ and leave the rest to the market.

We owe a lot to the fossil industry, but it’s time for this old, gray friend to enjoy its retirement. In order to get there, the financial flows and political participation of the fossil giants need to be removed. This way, the new generation of green alternatives – even without global subsidies – will have room to take over the market in a natural, unimpeded way.


Globally, governments spend 36 times more on fossil fuels than they do on renewable energy sources. Without subsidies, renewable energy sources are already cheaper than fossil energy sources worldwide. If we remove these fossil fuel subsidies, the market will do its job and investors, consumers and companies will choose the green alternative. 

Solar is now the “Cheapest Electricity Source in History”

Solar is now the “Cheapest Electricity Source in History”

The world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries. That is according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020. The 464-page outlook, published by the IEA, also outlines the “extraordinarily turbulent” impact of coronavirus and the “highly uncertain” future of global energy use over the next two decades.

Some of IEA’s findings:

  1. Renewable energy will overtake coal as largest energy source by 2025
  2. Solar power is 20-50% cheaper than thought
  3. Electricity generation from coal is lower than ever and will not recover from corona crisis

Read Carbon Brief’s full article here.

Preparing a Future EU Strategy on Energy Sector Integration

Preparing a Future EU Strategy on Energy Sector Integration

The Climate Reality Project Europe welcomes the public consultation on Preparing a future EU strategy on energy sector integration opened by the European Commission.


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The biggest challenge for solar energy? This duck.

The biggest challenge for solar energy? This duck.

Rapid, major developments often bring unexpected challenges. For a world with an increasing amount of panels, this challenge comes in the form of a duck.

Time for alternatives

With the rapid advancement of affordable, sustainable forms of energy such as wind and solar, the energy playing field is changing drastically. Previously, energy was only generated at a number of central points in the country. The coal-fired power stations were built at a remote location where they cause little inconvenience; the power generated is transported from there by thick cables to households and businesses further afield. Simple, efficient and less burdensome for society.

But these coal-fired power stations have one disadvantage: they are extremely polluting. Coal contains toxic substances such as nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide and mercury. When coal is burned, these substances end up in our air and in our drinking water. Resulting in lung problems, cardiovascular diseases, brain damage and eventually premature death. Also, the working conditions in coal mines are often hidden from the public eye and the greenhouse gas emissions of coal-fired power stations have a devastating impact on the climate.

It is time for energy alternatives, which are often cheaper nowadays. These alternatives, such as solar and wind energy, are already widely used worldwide, but are very different from coal-fired power stations as a source of energy. The most emphatic difference is that these energy sources depend on natural conditions, such as the amount of sunlight and wind.

The difference between the consumption and production of electricity in a day.


Let’s zoom in on solar energy. Anyone who comes outside or looks outside will recognize it: the sun rises in the morning, peaks in the afternoon and quietly disappears behind the horizon in the evening. For solar panels, the more sunlight they receive, the more energy they generate. So as we install more solar panels worldwide, the amount of energy we all generate during the day increases significantly. In addition, the demand for electricity is increasing, because we drive, cook and heat more and more electrically.

The biggest challenge for solar energy is called the ‘Duck Curve’. For a few years now it has been flying around the ears of managers of national electricity grids on a regular basis. The Duck Curve owes its name – not entirely surprising – to its resemblance to the side profile of a duck. The orange line stands for the amount of energy that coal-fired power stations and other central energy sources have to deliver per day. You can see that every year the line drops a little at noon, and rises a little in the evening. This change is due to the increased amount of solar panels on roofs of companies and households. Those who generate their own energy during the day – when the sun shines – do not take energy from the electricity grid.

The total amount of energy needed from the electricity grid.

A second development in electricity consumption is the head of the duck. During the evening we use more electricity to charge our electric cars, cook on induction and heat the house with an electric heat pump. Conclusion: the valley is getting deeper and the peak is getting steeper.

Why is this a problem?

For power plants and grid operators it is important that the amount of energy needed in a country is stable and predictable. An increasing amount of solar panels is interrupting this. Does the weatherman predict sunny weather? If so, the coal-fired power stations lower energy production. Is it cloudy after all? Then they will quickly reignite. In regions with many large solar parks, the amount of energy generated is so high on sunny days that the cables of the electricity grid are not strong enough to transport all the solar energy.

In some cases, they opt for ‘curtailment’: ensuring that the solar panels deliver (much) less energy than they can. In other cases, a newly completed solar park is not connected to the electricity grid at all.

This way, we are not going to achieve our targets for more sustainable energy. Anyone who hears that the electricity grid is too weak will think that the solution is simple: strengthen the electricity grid. But that’s how we feed the duck. Moreover, strengthening the grid takes years and is extremely expensive.

How do we beat this duck?

Let’s look at the core of the problem. We generate electricity in places where we don’t use it, after which it has to be transported via long cables. In addition, we generate the least power at moments when we need it the most, and vice versa. This can be done differently.

One of the biggest advantages of solar panels is that we can install them where the energy is consumed. Meaning, on the roofs of households and businesses. Part of the solar energy that is generated is directly used during the day. The part that remains is stored in batteries. In this way, stored power is always available, even when the sun is not shining.

Another big additional advantage: with stored energy from a battery, a household, company, school or hospital can operate independently from the energy grid for a few hours. This is especially important in countries where blackouts due to weather conditions or gnawing squirrels are the norm.

In a world where everyone generates and stores their own energy, we can easily distribute it. For example, not all households have a suitable roof for solar panels because it’s in the shade of tall trees. Those households can now easily use energy that is generated on the roof of a school nearby, for example. This creates so-called ‘micro-grids’ mini versions of the national electricity grid where energy is generated, used and distributed among themselves. Large energy suppliers and polluting coal-fired power stations will be a thing of the past when households and companies become power plants themselves. By using a decentralized energy supply on existing roofs, we do not need to strengthen the energy network as we did when building a new solar park. That way we save money, but above all we save a lot of time. Time that we need to use to make our energy supply more sustainable at record speed.


The rapid rise of solar energy and the increase in our electricity consumption are shaking up the energy world. Grid managers are struggling with a major challenge: the Duck Curve. This is the phenomenon that occurs as solar panels overload the electricity grid during the day and the peaks in our consumption increase. We solve this by generating solar energy in the places where it is used and storing it in batteries. This stored energy is used when no solar energy is generated or shared with households that do not own their own solar panels.

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