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Opinion
Eric Beinhocker, J. Doyne Farmer, and Cameron Hepburn

Going Big and Fast on Renewables Would Save Trillions in Energy Costs

For decades experts thought the net-zero future would cost more than the fossil fuel present. They were wrong.

Solar has become 2,000 times cheaper since its 1958 commercial debut.

Solar has become 2,000 times cheaper since its 1958 commercial debut.

Source: Bloomberg

The Biden Administration this month set out a pathbreaking plan to boost solar power to 45% of U.S. electricity by 2050 from the current 4%. The announcement was made against the backdrop of destruction from Hurricane Ida in the U.S. East and vast wildfires in the West. The goal is a necessary step on the way to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and preventing such climate disasters from growing drastically worse.

But aside from the climate benefits, a fast, decisive shift to solar and other zero-emissions technologies will yield significant economic benefits, likely saving trillions in energy costs. The conventional wisdom for decades has been that a clean-energy future would cost more than the fossil-energy past, but was worth it for all the future benefits of avoiding climate damage. This thinking (pioneered by Nobel economist William Nordhaus) concluded that going slower would stretch out the costs and minimize the pain of transition.