Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The International Energy Agency just issued a report concluding that wind and solar are growing rapidly, unlike beleaguered fossil fuels, and that in only five years they will be generating a third of the world’s electricity, overtaking coal. They will overtake natural gas sooner, in 2023. Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, producing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, a dangerous heat-trapping gas that is rapidly heating the earth and its oceans and endangering our way of life.
The report says that renewables will comprise 95 percent of the net increase in “global power capacity through 2025.” In other words, nobody is building many coal plants any more– investors are putting their money into solar and wind farms. In part, that is because their price per kilowatt hour keeps plummeting, and in part it is because investors can see that governmental policy in China, Europe, India, and now even in the United States, will promote renewables.
The IEA report notes,
- “Net-zero emission targets in key markets are expected to accelerate the deployment of renewables. Following the European Union and several European countries, three major Asian economies recently announced targets for reaching net-zero emissions: Japan and South Korea by 2050, and China by 2060. While it is too early to assess their precise impacts, these stated ambitions are very likely to further accelerate the deployment of renewables across all sectors, with potentially significant effects on global markets.”
That is, if these governments are serious (and the European Union is as serious as a heart attack about this issue) about getting to net carbon zero by mid-century, the only way to accomplish it is through heavy-handed government policy, with carbon taxes and other instruments to bring the hammer down on fossil fuels and to jumpstart the rapid growth of renewables. The Turks have a saying that mountains and governments lie heavy on the earth.
Offshore wind is a particularly dynamic sector and will grow rapidly because of projects already authorized and in the pipeline.
India alone helps account for the sunny renewables growth outlook in the next couple of years. Mayank Aggarwal at Mongabay reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a goal for India to have 450 gigwatts of renewable energy in only 10 years, by 2030. At the moment, 53 percent of India’s electricity is generated by coal, while renewables are responsible for about 24 percent. But over half of that is hydro. That India in 2020 gets about a quarter of its electricity is an amazing feat for a developing country. The US doesn’t do quite that well.
India intends to double the amount of power electricity generated by renewables by 2022, which is also something you cannot say about the United States. And if New Delhi reaches its 2030 goal, that will involve producing five times as much wind, solar and hydro as it does today.