What’s the cheapest source of energy in the world?
I’ll give you three guesses. Actually, as this is a letter and not a conversation, I’ll just tell you. It’s solar. At least, in many places in the world it is. And according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance study, solar could be the cheapest energy source everywhere by 2025.
According to the report, last year several countries (like Chile and the United Arab Emirates) saw solar prices fall to 3 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s half the average global cost of coal.
Hang on. I know what you’re thinking. It’s all very well those places having cheap solar. They’re sunny. How can cheap global solar possibly be a reality when so many places don’t have such abundant sunshine? That’s where battery technology comes in. It’s why we spent so long banging on about it last year (and why we will again this year, until you see the huge opportunity it presents).
Keep in mind a lump of coal or a barrel of oil is just a kind of natural battery: a store of solar energy to be unlocked. The key is storing or transporting solar energy in such a way as to get it to where it’s needed, when it’s needed. Just yesterday, Tesla opened its “Gigafactory” for investors at the CES conference in Las Vegas to look around. That’s one vital piece of the battery puzzle. If you want to see Eoin Treacy’s research on the industry (including two solar/battery tech recommendations you can buy now).
The war on cash, Greek edition
I’ve lost count of how many countries we’ve seen anti-cash movements in. India dominated the headlines at the end of last year. This time around it’s Greece.
It’s an unusual one this. And it feels complicated and therefore less controversial. That makes it more dangerous in my opinion. In the war against your personal freedom, there is no need for shock and awe. Insidious, complex and seemingly harmless measures are the things to watch.
Case in point: Greeks are now being forced to spend a minimum of 10% of their purchases with an electronic debit card. In other words, you can’t buy everything you want with cash. A certain amount of what you buy needs to be “in the system”.
That’s if you make less than €10,000 a year. If you make up to €30,000, it’s 15% of your purchases that have to be cashless. After that it’s 20%.
If you refuse, you pay a penalty of 22%. And rent, power and electricity bills, loans, transport and the like don’t count.
You have to admire the deviousness, in a way. As a system it’s hard to get your head around. It’s not like India suddenly pulling the plug. But it forces a chunk of your spending away from cash. That’s a beachhead from which the authorities can expand. My guess is it’ll be increased steadily until only a small portion of spending is allowed to be conducted in cash.
I’ll also stick my neck out and predict it’ll be rolled out in at least one more European nation before the end of 2017.
Foxconn goes “workerless”
Just hours after I wrote to you about automation and globalisation on Wednesday, we got more news from a key player in the story.
Remember I told you about Foxconn, the iPhone manufacturer that Donald Trump had lauded for bringing its operations back to the US? It’s the same firm that replaced 60,000 Chinese workers with robots. And according to the head of the firm’s Automation Technology Development Committee, Dai Jia-peng, that’s just the start.
The firm has a three-part plan to fully automate its entire operation. Stage one involves replacing dangerous manual tasks with machines. Stage two involves entire product lines. Stage three is full automation. No wonder the firm is considering moving back to the US. If you don’t have high (or any) labour costs, it’s cheaper to manufacture products in your biggest market.
Associate Publisher, Capital & Conflict
Category: Investing in Technology