Economic thinking, sustainable development and the role of solar energy in the 21st century
Paper presented at the International Symposium "Balancing Energy, Economy and Environment: The Solar Energy Contribution", February 16th, 1993, University of Delaware, Newark, USA
The long term survival of mankind will only be possible if economic thinking as well as economic theory understands that the world economy is only a subsystem of the global ecological system. Only if the scale of the economic system stays within the limits determined by the long term resource availability and the assimilative capacity of the global ecological system, sustainable development and the survival of mankind can be achieved. Solar energy as the only long term energy source supplied from outside the global ecological system needs to be a central building block of sustainable development. Today the main obstacle for a widespread use of solar energy is its relative price. The paper shows that the present prices of non-renewable energy sources are heavily subsidized by not including the costs of health and environmental damages as well as the long term costs of wasting non-renewable energy sources at the expense of future generations. If these costs are taken into account the relative costs of solar energy look far more favorable than present market prices show. Photovoltaic electricity generation may become cost effective within this decade.