Worldwide Clean Energy Investments Hit $333.5 Billion Last Year
That's a 3 percent jump from 2016 and 7 percent short of the $360 billion record set in 2015.
In all, 2017 represented a record 160 commissioned gigawatts of clean energy generating capacity (excluding large hydro) around the world, BNEF estimated. Solar provided 98 gigawatts of that, wind was at 56 gigawatts, biomass and waste-to-energy was 3 gigawatts, small hydro was 2.7 gigawatts, geothermal was 700 megawatts and marine power (energy carried by ocean waves, tides, salinity) was less than 10 megawatts.
"The 2017 total is all the more remarkable when you consider that capital costs for the leading technology—solar—continue to fall sharply," Jon Moore, chief executive of BNEF, commented. "Typical utility-scale PV systems were about 25 percent cheaper per megawatt last year than they were two years earlier."
Solar power dominated half of 2017's total clean energy investments at $160.8 billion, mostly thanks to China's "insatiable appetite" for solar projects, a Bloomberg report noted. China invested $133 billion across all clean energy technologies, with $86.5 billion poured just into solar. The country installed a "runaway" 53 gigawatts of solar capacity last year, BNEF estimated.
Justin Wu, head of Asia-Pacific at BNEF, explained that China's solar boom happened for two main reasons.
"First, despite a growing subsidy burden and worsening power curtailment, China's regulators, under pressure from the industry, were slow to curb build of utility-scale projects outside allocated government quotas. Developers of these projects are assuming they will be allocated subsidy in future years," Wu Said.
"Second, the cost of solar continues to fall in China, and more projects are being deployed on rooftops, in industrial parks or at other distributed locales. These systems are not limited by the government quota. Large energy consumers in China are now installing solar panels to meet their own demand, with a minimal premium subsidy."
But China is not the only country ramping up clean energy investments. The U.S. invested $57 billion—the world's second-biggest backer of renewables despite President Trump's efforts to boost fossil fuels and slash coal regulations.
Large wind and solar project financings pushed Australia up 150 percent to a record $9 billion, and Mexico up 516 percent to $6.2 billion.
Below are the 2017 totals for other countries investing $1 billion-plus in clean energy:
- India $11 billion, down 20 percent compared to 2016
- Brazil $6.2 billion, up 10 percent
- France $5 billion, up 15 percent
- Sweden $4 billion, up 109 percent
- Netherlands $3.5 billion, up 30 percent
- Canada $3.3 billion, up 45 percent
- South Korea $2.9 billion, up 14 percent
- Egypt $2.6 billion, up 495 percent
- Italy $2.5 billion, up 15 percent
- Turkey $2.3 billion, down 8 percent
- United Arab Emirates $2.2 billion, up 23-fold
- Norway $2 billion, down 12 percent
- Argentina $1.8 billion, up 777 percent
- Switzerland $1.7 billion, down 10 percent
- Chile $1.5 billion, up 55 percent
- Austria $1.2 billion, up 4 percent
- Spain $1.1 billion, up 36 percent
- Taiwan $1 billion, down 6 percent
- Indonesia $1 billion, up 71 percent
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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