Top 5 Signs cheap Renewable Energy is taking the World by Surprise

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

1. Vice News points out that a new report from the Paris-based International Energy Agency estimates that in just five years, by 2020, slightly over one quarter (26%) of all the electricity being generated in the world will come from renewables. The report concludes, “By 2020, the amount of global electricity generation coming from renewable energy will be higher than today’s combined electricity demand of China, India and Brazil.” That will be up from 22% generated by renewables in the world right now. Between 2010 and today, 40% of US coal plants have been shut down. The rest have a big red X on them put there by the Environmental Protection Agency.

2. A report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance has examined 55,000 energy projects around the world, last January and this fall, for the cost per megawatt-hour of electricity generation by various fuels. Here’s what they found:

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You can see that wind is highly competitive with fossil fuels in the US, but runs rings around them in Europe. Wind is now cheaper than coal or natural gas in Britain and Germany even without government subsidies. Solar is also in the competitive range, and the price is falling rapidly. Of course if you take into account air pollution, health and climate change effects, the cost of renewables is tiny compared to expensive dirty coal, oil and gas.

3. Just a week after SolarCity announced a rooftop solar panel getting 22% efficiency in turning the sun’s rays into electricity, Panasonic went them one better with a panel that gets 22.5% efficiency. Germany now gets 7% of its electricity from solar panels, and the solar revolution in the US has been driven in part by rapidly falling prices of the panels. But many panels still are relatively inefficient. These advances are essentially also price drops, since the same number of panels will generate more electricity (and will likely be less expensive than a few years ago).

4. South Africa has announced that it will build a 1.5 gigawatt solar park in the northern Cape.

5. Renewables are making money for corporations and saving consumers money. This is a recipe for massive growth. Canadian photovoltaic giant SkyPower is going to invest $1 billion in Panama to produce 500 megawatts from utility-scale solar plants. This investment will generate 10,000 jobs. SkyPower is not doing this for the health of its executives. They are making money. And, people in Panama should have their heads examined if they don’t go solar.


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7 Responses

  1. The newest solar electricity delivery contracts are coming in as low as 6 cents/kwh in places like Nevada and Austin, Texas. It’s a race to zero.

    • Although this is great news, the Austin area is an exception in Texas. There is stiff opposition to residential solar panels in the most populated areas of Texas and outright bans by many counties in Texas.

      Here is a good example. HOAs (home owner associations) banning solar until a development is built-out by Texas state law.

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      These bans forestall homeowners from installing solar power for years, even decades.

      Electrical power providers can attach large fees and draconian administrative processes to solar powered homes.

      Counties with nuclear power plants, coal-fired power plants or heavy fracking activity ban solar power, altogether.

      Solar farms must remain well-lit and patrolled at night to prevent vandalism and theft. Light pollution and attendant noise generates strong local opposition.

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      Texas has a very long way to go.

      • No doubt certain fossil fuel interests are using the political process to delay the transition. Most efforts to put roadblocks in the way of residential solar are ultimately defeated. Surprisingly if you frame it as a consumer freedom issue you may be able to enlist tea party types in the struggle.

        • The Tea Party, now known as the Freedom Caucus, has been pre-empted by the very powers that they should oppose. It’s a great concept but guns and bigotry (the new Jim Crow as super390 points out) have attracted the attention.

          The problem here in Texas is that “No Child Left Behind” has finally left most folks in Texas well behind, the good folks they may be but it’s like herding cats here to get anything useful accomplished.

      • I’m talking about the technology, not Texas. Other countries will reap the benefits. I’m in Texas and I know the culture here is insane. I wouldn’t be surprised if developers are allowed to claim their development is NEVER finished so that they can block solar panels indefinitely, a sort of solar Jim Crow to go with the actual Jim Crow being restored down here.

        As far as I’m concerned, America, the South, and Texas should have paid a crippling price for their anti-intellectual, anti-secular and anti-science culture years ago, but somehow, like the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this behemoth is too big to fail until it fails catastrophically. The international system is too rigged in favor of incumbents.

        I also think that things don’t change because the incumbent empires reform first, but because they are overthrown by rising empires exploiting new technologies. Kevin Phillips’ book “American Theocracy” talks about how Holland’s social order built on wind power got eclipsed by Britain’s discovery of coal power, and Britain in turn by American oil. Each of these countries had used its wealth to create the intellectual capital to stay ahead of their rivals, but their financial & cultural elites became entrenched in their previously successful energy paradigm and led their lands to failure. But this took a long time to become apparent.

        It is an irony that Texas was the Ground Zero of the oil revolution, and now it has the resources to lead the world in wind, geothermal and solar but won’t do so because Big Oil enshrined an “American way of life” here that impedes development in a way that it doesn’t in China, India, or Latin America.

        • Leaving a few lots vacant in a development forestalls solar for residential power, indefinitely. Insane is correct if one considers unbridled greed and complete control insanity?

          Texas has become the prototype for the oligarchy enshrouding our country for the next few decades. What is happening here will spread to every corner of the U.S. and perhaps much further? Lineages such as Bush, Koch, Wilks and Hunt among others have already bought out what little government that remains. They flat out OWN Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and much of New Mexico. A Hunt is ready to acquire all of the wind farm transmission lines and when the purchase of ONCOR is complete much of the power in the entire region will fall to the control of one single family who got their start in oil, ironically. Wilks got Abbott and Cruz elected and leveraged Austin to ban counties from banning fracking. A Bush heads the Railroad Commission who controls all of the fossil fuel dealings in Texas including the pipelines to and from. Most of the oil and gas drilling is done directly on top of the largest aquifers in the U.S. and is controlled by the Koch’s and a Bush.

          Other Bush enterprises include school textbooks used nationally, electronic information aggregators and toll road development to the extent some bear their name.

          It is true that emerging technologies and renewables – solar, wind and aquifer water sources is the future. Peak oil has come and gone. Aquifer water pressure is being used to pump out what gas remains. And is the source of the miles down earthquake storms in Oklahoma and north Texas of late.

          The real issue is who will be insane and also control the future. Knowing madmen are indeed taking over.

          Good point.

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