But in some cases alternatives are already cheap enough to compete with conventional power. In Ireland, for instance, wind power can be supported with minimal subsidies, said Jason Bak, CEO of Finavera Renewables, which specializes in wind-powered utilities and wave power equipment. The wind blows hard on the island and its on the edge of Europe's power grid. Recent studies sponsored by the government show that wind power in many instances will be cheaper than electricity from natural gas plants.
"It's a pretty unusual market," he said in an interview in our offices this week. Sweden, Denmark and Scotland may also be able to achieve wind power parity, he speculated.
Concentrated solar power, which harvests the heat of the sun, can also compete with conventional electricity, but the plants have to be extremely large, say proponents. To date, none are large enough.