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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.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Elliott Negin
On July 8, President Trump hosted a White House event to unabashedly tout his truly abysmal environmental record. The following day, coincidentally, marked the one-year anniversary of Andrew Wheeler at the helm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), first as acting administrator and then as administrator after the Senate confirmed him in late February.
By Tara Lohan
If you're a lover of wilderness, wildlife, the American West and the public lands on which they all depend, then journalist Christopher Ketcham's new book is required — if depressing — reading.
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By Adrienne L. Hollis
Because extreme heat is one of the deadliest weather hazards we currently face, Union of Concerned Scientist's Killer Heat Report for the U.S. is the most important document I have read. It is a veritable wake up call for all of us. It is timely, eye-opening, transparent and factual and it deals with the stark reality of our future if we do not make changes quickly (think yesterday). It is important to ensure that we all understand it. Here are 10 terms that really help drive home the messages in the heat report and help us understand the ramifications of inaction.
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Senate Republican who has been a close ally of Donald Trump, did not mince words last week on the climate crisis and what he thinks the president needs to do about it.
By Marlene Cimons
Kyle Rosenblad was hiking a steep mountain on the island of Maui in the summer of 2015 when he noticed a ruggedly beautiful tree species scattered around the landscape. Curious, and wondering what they were, he took some photographs and showed them to a friend. They were Bermuda cedars, a species native to the island of Bermuda, first planted on Maui in the early 1900s.
By Grace Francese
You may know that many conventional oat cereals contain troubling amounts of the carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate. But another toxic pesticide may be contaminating your kids' breakfast. A new study by the Organic Center shows that almost 60 percent of the non-organic milk sampled contains residues of chlorpyrifos, a pesticide scientists say is unsafe at any concentration.