Research project aims to slash cost of clean energy, improve storage

A new international research effort aims to tackle climate change by taking inspiration from the race to put a man on the Moon.

The Global Apollo Programme has set a target of making carbon-free electricity less costly to produce than electricity from coal within 10 years. It will focus on electricity storage and transmission, as well as the generation of wind and solar power.

A report published by the LSE last week, titled ‘A Global Apollo Programme to Tackle Climate Change’, highlights the importance of electricity storage and smart grids in making the transition to renewables:

If renewable energy is to become the primary source of energy, it must be capable of being stored and supplied when and where it is needed. Wind is an intermittent source of energy, and sunlight is confined to the daytime, whereas winter demand peaks in hours of darkness.

Cracking this research challenge will be a key to cheap and universal clean energy, the report states.

The authors also say that a complex balancing of supply and demand is needed to use renewable energy effectively in the electricity grid, and this will require major improvements in grid software and inter-connectors.

The experts behind the project, including Sir David King, former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, and Professor Martin Rees, former head of the Royal Society, believe that achieving the target within 10 years will require the equivalent of the Apollo space programme: a major scientific and technological programme of research, using the best minds in the world and the best science.

Countries joining the Global Apollo Programme will commit to spending at least 0.02% of GDP on the research and development and will join a committee co-ordinating the project.

A similar project co-ordinating research and development on semiconductors has resulted in continuous falls in computer chip costs.

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