While it may seem counterintuitive, the expansion of wind and solar energy necessarily leads to the preservation and eventual growth in fossil fuel energy generation. This “paradox” hasn’t gone unnoticed. As good business practice, fossil fuel companies are now actively advocating for and investing in wind and solar technologies.
In an analysis of energy return on investment , the installation of solar photovoltaics (PV) ultimately results in a net energy loss (Ferroni and Hopkirk, 2016). This is significantly due to the associated intermittent (and thus unreliable) availability, requiring backup from sources that provide continuous, all-day-long energy (gas, coal, nuclear, etc.). Solar energy investment therefore leads to a greater dependence on fossil fuel energies.
Likewise, as more wind parks are installed across the Earth’s pristine landscapes, more fossil fuel energy sources are needed to back them up (Marques et al., 2018).
In order for solar and wind technologies to grow their market share, fossil fuel technologies will necessarily be needed to grow alongside them. This is referred to as the “renewable energy policy Paradox” (Blazquez et al., 2018).
Image Sources: Ferroni and Hopkirk, 2016, Marques et al., 2018, Blazquez et al., 2018
Fossil fuel companies have certainly recognized the capacity for wind and solar energy to benefit them financially.
BP, for example, proudly acknowledges they are “partnering” their gas with solar and wind, or “using gas to complement the intermittency of renewables”.
Simply put, wind and solar energies are helpful to fossil fuel companies both for public relations purposes and for growing their bottom line.
Image Source: BP
Exxon is now investing in wind and solar too.
Image Source: HPPR.org
Shell is putting $2 billion into solar and wind technologies as well.
Image Source: GreenTechMedia.com
Chevron has added an entire renewable energy division and operates wind farms and solar projects.
Image Source: Chevron
With their growing advocacy for solar and wind energy, the characterization of fossil fuel companies as the enemies of “green” or climate change-friendly technologies seems to be increasingly unsupportable.
“Big Oil” may very well be on the same side as those championing (perceived) global warming solutions.
It’s just that each side may not be promoting wind and solar energies for the same reasons.