, September 25, 2021

IEA forecasts the demise of oil but is unsure why


  •   6 min reads
IEA forecasts the demise of oil but is unsure why

The latest IEA road map for net-zero by 2050 is remarkable, and on the face of it, contains aggressive targets, yet it remains behind the curve and is still missing how disruptive technology can affect the future.

Moore's Law is an exponential function — at least it was, the frequency with which silicon-based processors double has slowed down in the past couple of years as we approach a point where it's not possible to cram any more transistors onto a an integrated circuit.  It is, or at least was, exponential because of the speed with which the number of transistors on an integrated circuit increase could be represented by an exponent. The formula behind Moore's Law describes it as 2x^: where ^ is 18 months, and x is the number of transistors. So 18 months from year one, the number of transistors on an integrated circuit is 2 to the power of 1, which is two. One hundred eighty months after year one, it is 2 to the power of ten, which 1024.

Renewable based technology advances at a pace known as a 'learning rate'. Every doubling in output (which tends to follow a time function) leads to a fall in cost. For solar, the fall in cost is around 28.5 per cent. That means every time output doubles two and half times, the cost halves (or efficiency measured in dollars, doubles).  The exponential rate will come to an end soon because there isn't much scope to keep doubling output, or halving cost.

Those who don't like renewable technologies insist that they are not growing at the rate of an exponential function.

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