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BAC G1-G2 2010

Oral Test


Cheap Alternative Energy Sources


Supporters of renewable energy are fond of pointing out that patches of desert receive enough energy each year from sunlight to power the entire world. But few accept to explain how the construction of the millions of solar cells required to convert that energy into electricity would be financed. Utility bosses and policymakers tend to reject wind and solar power as noble but expensive distractions, sustainable only through large subsidies. But new studies suggest that renewable energy might not be as expensive as skeptics suspect.


In a report that was due out on July, Greenpeace, an environmental group, argues that utilities would save money by investing in renewables. Windmills may cost more to build, the logic runs, but they do not require the purchase of fuel, unlike coal-or gas-fired power plants. Those future fuel costs, Greenpeace says, massively outweigh the extra investment costs of renewables. If nuclear power were eliminated and renewable energy's share of power generation rose dramatically, Greenpeace calculates the average annual savings between 2004 and 2030 would be $180 billion.


These figures, of course, rely on all sorts of questionable hypotheses. In Greenpeace's scenario, the prices of gas and coal will rise, despite stagnating consumption of the former, and a drop in demand for the latter. It also helps that the future as Greenpeace sees it includes a big dose of energy efficiency, although its business-as-usual projections do not. Utilities, at any rate, must not be making the same assumptions, since they continue to invest in power plants run on fossil fuels.


Source: The Economist, July 7th , 2007

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