Forget about problems down the road. The criticism of renewables in the here and now: they’re expensive ways to generate electricity. But there are two big issues to bear in mind:
First, costs are falling fast—thanks largely to technological advances such as larger wind turbines and cheaper components for solar-power arrays—so solar and wind power can cost even less.
And also the question of hidden costs. Coal-fired electricity, for instance, has nasty side effects, including air pollution, health impacts and carbon-dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming and those don’t show up in coal’s price tag. If coal and other fossil fuels had to tally the total costs their use imposed on society, coal wouldn’t be the cheapest source of electricity, and clean-burning renewables wouldn’t look nearly so pricey.