The three dominant industries competing are solar energy, wind energy and hydro power, and they all have pros and cons. China has proven to provide the cheapest solar energy: http://www.gstriatum.com/solarenergy/2010/02/china-may-be-worlds-cheapest-solar-energy-provider/. Renewable Energy Certificates systems of funding are the most cost-effective incentives for renewable energy: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaics.
Interesting question. One way to think about energy is not “manufacturing” or “creating” it but rather tranforming or converting it into a form we can utilize. This usually means electiricity or heat. So, for example, trees convert the sun’s energy into cellulose, and then if we burn it in a wood stove or in a gassifier, we are converting the energy stored in bonds to heat or gases that can be used for other purposes (e.g. heating a house or running an engine). Trees are pretty inexpensive to grow.
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