Quantcast
Popular
iStock

China Is Showing the World What Renewable Energy Dominance Looks Like

By Ben Jervey

The growth of solar energy continues to outpace forecasts and this growth, according to a report published Wednesday by the International Energy Agency, (IEA) "is a China story."

While China today is far and away the global leader in solar generation, a decade ago, the country had just 100 megawatts of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed. That's nothing. For reference, it's actually less than is currently installed in the city of San Antonio. By the end of 2016, China had increased its solar PV capacity by nearly 800 times, with more than 77 gigawatts currently installed.


China's solar dominance is only going to keep growing, according to the IEA report. As Dr. Paolo Frankl, one of the lead authors on the report, said on a call to reporters, "In one year, China will install the equivalent of the total history of solar development in Germany."

The stunning growth trajectories reflected in the IEA report show how quickly the transition to renewables can be underway when aggressive policies cut through the barriers to growth.

The Renewables 2017 report takes a deep dive into renewable energy deployment across all industries and throughout the world, but the dominance of solar PV stands out. As a whole, renewables represented nearly two-thirds of new electricity capacity additions last year, far outshining coal and natural gas growth. For the very first time, solar PV additions grew faster than any other resource, surpassing coal growth.

Put simply: The world is now building more solar than coal generation, a trend that looks to continue, regardless of any uncertainty in current American energy policy. Most new demand for electricity is being supplied by renewable resources, with solar providing the most.

"The star is really becoming solar PV, which becomes the leader in renewable growth," said Frankl.

The report forecasts out the next five years of renewable energy growth, a short time-frame that is easier to project than some forecasts—like, say, the Energy Information Agency—that are routinely criticized. Over the next five years, the IEA anticipates renewables growing by roughly 1,000 gigawatts. "That is half of the total capacity of coal fired power plants worldwide," said Frankl, "and it has taken 80 years to build all of those."

Did you get that? Over the next half decade, the world will install half as much renewable energy as the current entire global capacity of coal power.

As China is proving, there is a dramatic shift in how emerging economies are powering their development. From the report:

Along with new policies that spur competition in several other countries, this Chinese dynamic has led to record-low announced prices of solar PV and onshore wind, which are now comparable or even lower than new-built fossil fuel alternatives.

Developing countries are now looking to renewables as engines of economic growth. This includes India, which according to this year's forecast, will soon leap ahead of the European Union with the third largest growth in renewable capacity, after China and the U.S. "Soon—and, we hope, very soon—African countries may see the next wave of development supported by cheap renewable power," the IEA report anticipates.

Despite the clear trajectory of global energy supply towards renewables, as reflected in this IEA report, the Trump administration is currently threatening tariffs on cheaper Chinese solar panels and has just proposed a bailout for uneconomical coal plants. "What would the tariff accomplish?" Frankl asked rhetorically. He then answered, "One thing is for sure: they would make U.S. PV much more expensive than it is today." Because Chinese companies account for more than 60 percent of global PV manufacturing—and thus set global PV prices—and American companies produce relatively little to the global market, it's hard to project how the proposed tariff would effectively rescue the American companies. Rather, it would slow PV deployment in the U.S. at precisely the time the rest of the world is pivoting aggressively to solar.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmogBlog.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Denver will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Robert Kash / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Denver to Go 100 Percent Renewable by 2030

Denver became the 73rd city in the U.S. to commit to 100 percent renewable energy when Mayor Michael Hancock announced the goal in his State of the City speech Monday, The Denver Post reported.

The commitment is part of the city's larger 80×50 Climate Action Plan unveiled by Hancock Tuesday, which seeks to reduce Denver's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The Power Shift 2011 rally targeted primarily the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for using its money and influence to stop climate and clean energy legislation. Linh Do, CC BY 2.0

Fossil Fuel Industry Outspent Environmentalists and Renewables by 10:1 on Climate Lobbying, New Study Finds

By Itai Vardi

Industry sectors based on fossil fuels significantly outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies on climate change lobbying, new research has found.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Climatic Change, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle shows that between 2000 and 2016, lobbyists spent more than $2 billion trying to influence climate legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pexels

Is Your Popcorn Laced With Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals?

By Kathryn Alcantar and Jose Bravo / Independent Media Institute

No one should be exposed to toxic chemicals in their food, particularly children. But that's exactly what the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found in tests of microwave popcorn bags sold in Dollar Stores. These stores are frequented by communities of color and millions of poor Americans.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
The Washington Post / Contributor / Getty Images

Climate Change May Stimulate the Chesapeake’s Blue Crab Population

By Amy Mcdermott

Jason McElwain isn't afraid of a pinch. He reached calmly into a basket of live crabs one Friday this June, and kept his cool even when a claw clamped down hard on his finger. "You get used to it after a while," he said, then yanked the crab off and tossed it into a plastic bin.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Pexels

A Brief History of the Feral Blackberry

By Sara Bir

Blackberries are perhaps the best known of all foraged wild fruits. Whether they grow modestly on the perimeters of a ramshackle farm or thrive ruthlessly along the banks of a forgotten creek, there are hundreds of hidden wild blackberry havens waiting for opportunistic berry fanatics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Joshua Tree National Park now has more unsafe ozone days than New York City. atramos / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution in National Parks as Bad as 20 Largest U.S. Cities

A new study shows the importance of clean air regulations to prevent air pollution from reaching national parks.

A study published in Science Advances Wednesday found that, between 1990 and 2014, the ozone concentrations in 33 of the largest and most visited national parks were statistically indistinguishable from the ozone concentrations in the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!