The comparison of fossil fuels with renewables has been a hot debate for decades. Comparatively, renewables are newcomers compared with fossil fuels in energy production. Fossil fuels, however, have revolutionized the world with unprecedented briskness in the late 19th and throughout the 20th and 21st centuries as well. In solar energy production, fossil fuels such as coal, natural gas, and oil have had a pivotal role with over 85% of the global share in commutation, production, and distribution of goods and services.
In contrast, renewables still contribute a slight proportion to global energy demands. Solar technology is the latest addition to renewables with a little more than 3% of the global energy mix as of 2019. It is expected to increase up to 10% by 2030, thanks to the tax reforms, nationwide subsidies on photovoltaic production and installation, and generous tax rebates offered for research and development and consumption of solar energy.
Future Projections of Solar vs Fossil Fuels
Fossil fuels are likely to remain the major sources of energy for the next few decades, at least. The sprawling demand for oil, gas, and coal is because of the fact that renewables such as solar and wind-powered energy are still evolving to grow into more efficient and cost-effective sources of energy compared with readily available cheap fossil fuels with efficient supply chains.
The exponential success of solar energy is because of its capacity to harness unlimited energy supply from the sun. Also, solar energy is getting cheaper and more efficient every year alongside the governments and worldwide organizations merrily encouraging citizens to shift to clean and green energy with tax breaks and soft loans.
At various international summits for climate change including Paris Conference and COP26, world leaders have pledged to cut carbon emissions to half or more by 2035 and promote renewable sources of energy, including solar to keep up with global power consumption. These plans also include subsidizing PV unit manufacturers and end consumers and incentivizing efficiency-oriented solar energy production alongside hydel and wind energy production to fill the gap between fossil fuels and renewable sources of energy.
Coal is the cheapest energy source with approximately $0.05/KWh average power output, followed by oil and natural gas. Meanwhile, solar energy would only cost about $0.03/KWh with its present-day efficiency rate of 18-20%. With more improvements in technology and innovations in the queue, the figure is likely to halve or lesser in the upcoming years.
Solar energy incorporates high one-time costs, including PV solar panels, batteries, inverters, cables, and installation racks, but the long-term benefits outweigh upfront costs by a wide range. Moreover, installing a rooftop or ground-mounted solar system would cut down energy costs by about 60 – 70% for an average residential consumer. If you own an electric car, the compounded savings would be enormous.
On the contrary, fossil fuel prices are on the hike since the pandemic and are still mounting amid the looming political crises in Eastern Europe and the Arab world, which are the largest producers and exporters of oil and natural gas worldwide.
Both solar and fossil fuels are accessible everywhere from the dead sea to the Himalayas and the farthest mountain ranges in Alaska. Still, the transportation costs of fossil fuels are highest as it requires reliable supply chains and an efficient network for uninterrupted trade, significantly raising costs for end-users. On the contrary, solar energy only requires one-time installation. Solar energy is available in unlimited supply for most hours of the day. In the long term, fossil fuels will become more costly when these reserves reach the depletion phase.
Fossil fuels were the primary drivers of an astonishing global economic expansion in the 20th century and are continuing well into the 21st century. Fossil fuels, apart from their massive carbon footprints, have been major components of revolutionary transformations around the globe. Amid the phenomenal changes fossil fuels contributed to humanity, these fuels have been major stimulants of ozone layer depletion, global warming, and decimation of natural habitats.
The alternatives such as solar power generation and e-technology are presently held as the future technology as the world transforms its energy needs from replenishable oil, natural gas, and coal reserves to non-depletable natural resources. Of them all, solar energy is the best alternative of all the renewable means and has the potential to tend to global needs from powering residential buildings to commercial power plants and automobiles.