The Future of Solar: It’s a Lead Pipe Cinch

coalWe are not competing with coal to make electricity from solar. We are replacing coal. This is not a competition with coal in the marketplace on a cents per kWh basis – this is a replacement of a harmful infrastructure. Coal, like lead pipes, is a harmful infrastructure.

We get very confused about competing in the marketplace for the electricity customer. But that is not happening. Instead, we are telling the electricity customer, “You are being poisoned by your lead pipes. What are you going to do about it?”

We are not waiting until coal power plants retire. We are turning them down and turning them off.

It’s the same for gasoline. Gasoline is an even more insidious lead pipe – besides poisoning us, it comes from somewhere else, engenders costly wars and political polarization, and steals our jobs and our economic well-being – we don’t want it anymore. It is another lead pipe cinch we need to replace it. We can do it with electric transportation from solar.

The replacements for lead pipes have to compete among themselves for the right to replace them. Solar PV, solar thermal electric, wind, nuclear, and a few others have to compete on all the basic properties to be the replacement. Those properties include cents per kWh, but also regional availability, variability, water use, land use, carbon footprint, safety, life-cycle cost, food, fuel, and arable land issues.

It’s a lead pipe cinch that solar will have a big part in replacing our old pipes. The issue is timing – how long will we tolerate the old pipes, how much can we afford to replace them, and how fast?

It’s a lead pipe cinch.

Ken Zweibel