Elon Musk says wind and solar will solve sustainable energy for Earth

He was commenting on a report about how renewables trumped coal and gas in electricity generation in Europe.
Ameya Paleja
Elon Musk and Modern Dutch houses with solar panels.
Elon Musk and Modern Dutch houses with solar panels.

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Elon Musk backs wind and solar energies, along with battery storage, to solve the challenge of sustainably powering the Earth. Before adding nuclear fission, geothermal, and hydroelectricity to his response, Musk tweeted,

Though Elon Musk's company Tesla offers both solar and battery-based energy storage solutions, he is also a long-time proponent of nuclear energy.

The report on which Musk was commenting, on the other hand, highlights how Europe moved toward greener and cleaner energy solutions in 2022 and produced 22 percent of its electricity needs from wind and solar. This shift had come at a time when the continent was expected to shift its energy dependence to coal in the face of an energy crisis.

2022: The year of the energy crisis in Europe

Europe's troubles with energy security began with Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February. Cutting off imports would be risking blackouts for European countries, most of which were heavily dependent on Russian gas. However, continuing to purchase the gas would also be aiding in Russia's advances toward Kyiv.

As summer began, the continent faced its worst drought in 500 years. Rivers dried up, and the possibility of generating hydro energy also evaporated into thin air. Supply from nuclear power plants also suffered as sites in France were shut down for maintenance while some had to cut production after rivers that cooled them dried up.

To fill in the deficit, as much as 22 million tonnes of coal were bought, Euronews reported. However, only a third of it was actually used for electricity generation from wind, and solar stepped up.

The solar policy pays dividends

When it really mattered, it was the long-term policy of governments that worked rather than the reflexive buying of fossil fuel. According to the analysis of the clean energy think tank Ember, solar energy grew by 24 percent in 2022 alone, saving the continent around $10 billion in gas import bills.

The Netherlands sourced 14 percent of its energy needs from solar power, beating sunnier countries like Spain to occupy the top spot in the share of electricity produced by solar power. Policies such as the net-metering scheme encouraged residents to take up solar, apart from energy woes.

Together wind and solar energies accounted for 22 percent of the electricity produced on the continent, with gas accounting for another 20 percent. Coal consumption showed a 1.5 percent increase from 2021, accounting for 16 percent of electricity produced.

Energy consumption during the winter months toward the end of the year also remained low as temperatures remained mildly cold, and the cost of living crisis also kept energy demand low, Euronews said in its report.

2023 has begun on a brighter note for the European Union, with gas generation down 37 percent and estimates of fossil fuel generation pegged to plummet by 20 percent. At a time when green goals appeared to be in jeopardy, Europe has become a beacon of transition and even made Musk eat his words about upping the gas and oil outputs to make up for Russian exports last year.

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