What would be the cost to change humankind’s entire energy supply to solar energy? In 2014, more than 1,300 billion USD (=1,200 billion €) were spent on arms expenditure worldwide, of which almost half was spent by the USA. Solar cells are currently available for 100 €/kW peak performance – prices between 60 and 70 €/kW are expected for the nearer future. Using the annual military budget of 1,300 billion USD, more than 10,000 GWpeak per year in photovoltaic systems could be built. Compare this to an annual global power plant output of 5,550 GW (2012) with a current share of already 26% renewable energies.
Even considering that this calculation is too simplistic, as considerable additional investments in grids and storage are necessary, it shows one thing: The global military budget of only a few years would be enough to switch the world’s electric power supplies to solar energy use!
Technical developments of the last few years have shown that solar, wind and hydro power not only provide eco-friendly electricity, but can also be used to produce organic raw materials.
Renewable energies are used to derive the elements hydrogen and oxygen from water. Combining the generated hydrogen with CO2 forms methane, methanol and a variety of other chemical building blocks. This process can be achieved catalytically or biotechnologically. More than 20 pilot plants worldwide are operational already and the first commercial plants are under construction. This technology is called Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) or power-to-gas and power-to-liquid.
Calculations show that, using this technologies, it is possible to sustainably supply the chemical and plastics industry with organic raw materials. Even with a strong growth, the carbon demand of the chemical and plastics industry could easily be met through CCU technologies in 2050: About 2% of the world’s desert area would be enough to cover the global carbon demand of the chemical and plastics industry with solar and CCU technologies even in 2050.