Quantcast

7 Facts That Prove the Renewable Energy Revolution Has Arrived

Business

The global transition to clean, renewable energy and away from nuclear and fossil fuels is well under way with remarkable developments happening every day. The Great Transition by Lester Brown, Janet Larsen, Matt Roney and Emily Adams of Earth Policy Institute lays out a tremendous range of these developments. Here are seven that may surprise you:

Over the past decade, world wind power capacity grew more than 20 percent a year.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

1. Solar is now so cheap that global adoption appears unstoppable.

  • The price of solar photovoltaic panels has declined 99 percent over the last four decades, from $74 a watt in 1972 to less than 70 cents a watt in 2014.

  • Between 2009 and 2014, solar panel prices dropped by three fourths, helping global PV installations grow 50 percent per year.

  • See more solar power facts here.

2. Wind power adoption is rapidly altering energy portfolios around the world.

  • Over the past decade, world wind power capacity grew more than 20 percent a year, its increase driven by its many attractive features, public policies supporting its expansion and falling costs.

  • By the end of 2014, global wind generating capacity totaled 369,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 90 million U.S. homes. Wind currently has a big lead on solar PV, which has enough worldwide capacity to power roughly 30 million U.S. homes.

  • See more wind power facts here.

3. National and subnational energy policies are promoting renewables, and many governments are considering a price on carbon.

  • Unfortunately, governments worldwide still subsidized the fossil fuel industry with over $600 billion, giving this aging industry five times the subsidy that went to renewables.

  • But by the start of 2014, some 70 countries, including many in Europe, were using feed-in tariffs to encourage investment in renewables.

  • See more energy policy facts here.

4. The financial sector is embracing renewables—and starting to turn against fossils and nuclear.

  • The financial services firm Barclays downgraded the entire U.S. electricity sector in 2014, in part because in its view U.S. utilities are generally unprepared for the challenges posed by distributed solar power and battery storage.

  • In January 2013, Warren Buffett gave solar energy a huge financial boost when his MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company announced an investment of up to $2.5 billion in California in what is now known as the Solar Star project. At 580 megawatts, it will become the world’s largest PV project when complete in late 2015. MidAmerican had earlier bought the Topaz solar farm in California, now tied with Desert Sunlight, another California project, as the world’s largest at 550 megawatts. As of its completion in late 2014, Topaz can generate enough electricity to power 180,000 California homes.

  • See more financial sector facts here.

5. Coal use is in decline in the U.S. and will likely fall at the global level far sooner than once thought possible.

  • U.S. coal use is dropping—it fell 21 percent between 2007 and 2014—and more than one-third of the nation’s coal plants have already closed or announced plans for future closure in the last five years.

  • Major U.S. coal producers, such as Peabody Energy and Arch Coal, have seen their market values drop by 61 and 94 percent, respectively, as of September 2014.

  • See more coal facts here.

6. Transportation will move away from oil as electric vehicle fleets expand rapidly and bike- and car-sharing spreads.

  • Bike-sharing programs have sprung up worldwide in recent years. More than 800 cities in 56 countries now have fully operational bike-share programs, with over 1 million bikes. In the U.S., by the end of 2012 some 21 cities had 8,500 bikes in bike-share racks. By the end of 2016, this is expected to climb to over 70 cities with close to 40,000 bikes.

  • The share of carless households increased in 84 out of 100 U.S. urban areas surveyed between 2006 and 2011. And as urbanization increases, this share will only rise.

  • See more transportation facts here.

7. Nuclear is on the rocks thanks to rising costs and widespread safety concerns.

  • For the world as a whole, nuclear power generation peaked in 2006 and dropped by nearly 14 percent by 2014.

  • In the U.S., the country with the most reactors, nuclear generation peaked in 2010 and is now also on the decline.

  • See more nuclear facts here.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

9 Companies Leading the Charge to Green the Internet (And 7 That Aren’t)

This City Plans to Be the ‘Greenest City in the World by 2020′

How Does Your State Rank for Being Bike Friendly?

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Trevor Noah appears on set during a taping of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah" in New York on Nov. 26, 2018. The Daily Show With Trevor Noah / YouTube screenshot

By Lakshmi Magon

This year, three studies showed that humor is useful for engaging the public about climate change. The studies, published in The Journal of Science Communication, Comedy Studies and Science Communication, added to the growing wave of scientists, entertainers and politicians who agree.

Read More Show Less
rhodesj / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Cities around the country are considering following the lead of Berkeley, California, which became the first city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new homes this summer.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Rebecca Burgess came up with the idea of a fibersheds project to develop an eco-friendly, locally sourced wardrobe. Nicolás Boullosa / CC BY 2.0

By Tara Lohan

If I were to open my refrigerator, the origins of most of the food wouldn't be too much of a mystery — the milk, cheese and produce all come from relatively nearby farms. I can tell from the labels on other packaged goods if they're fair trade, non-GMO or organic.

Read More Show Less
A television crew reports on Hurricane Dorian while waves crash against the Banana River sea wall. Paul Hennessy / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard and Kyle Pope

Some good news, for a change, about climate change: When hundreds of newsrooms focus their attention on the climate crisis, all at the same time, the public conversation about the problem gets better: more prominent, more informative, more urgent.

Read More Show Less
U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) met with Bill Gates on Nov. 7 to discuss climate change and ways to address the challenge. Senator Chris Coons

The U.S. Senate's bipartisan climate caucus started with just two members, a Republican from Indiana and a Democrat from Delaware. Now it's up to eight members after two Democrats, one Independent and three more Republicans joined the caucus last week, as The Hill reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
EPA scientists survey aquatic life in Newport, Oregon. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing to significantly limit the use of science in agency rulemaking around public health, the The New York Times reports.

Read More Show Less
A timelapse video shows synthetic material and baby fish collected from a plankton sample from a surface slick taken off Hawaii's coast. Honolulu Star-Advertiser / YouTube screenshot

A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.

Read More Show Less
Two silver-backed chevrotain caught on camera trap. The species has only recently been rediscovered after being last seen in 1990. GWC / Mongabay

By Jeremy Hance

VIETNAM, July 2019 – I'm chasing a ghost, I think not for the first time, as night falls and I gather up my gear in a hotel in a village in southern Vietnam. I pack my camera, a bottle of water, and a poncho; outside the window I can see a light rain.

Read More Show Less