6 Countries Leading the Way in the Global Renewable Energy Boom
By Jake Schmidt
As President Trump transitioned into office, clean energy continued to overtake fossil fuels as the main source of new energy investments around the world. While the final 2016 numbers aren't yet published, preliminary estimates put the total wind and solar installations at new records. About 70 gigawatts of new solar generation and 59 gigawatts of new wind power came online in 2016. And this amounts to real dollars moving into the clean energy economy, with $287 billion in new clean energy investments in 2016, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
You can see the fruits of these investments in key countries around the world, including India, China, Chile and Mexico.
India heads steadily toward its massive renewable electricity targets.
At the end of 2016, India had installed 11 gigawatts of solar and 29 gigawatts of wind capacity, moving significantly closer to its goals of 100 gigawatts of solar and 75 gigawatts of wind by 2022. In just a few short years, India has installed nearly as much solar capacity as the three top U.S. states—California, New Jersey and Massachusetts—combined, making India the fourth-largest solar power country in the world.
Solar power in India is becoming increasingly cost-effective and rapidly scalable. In 2016, the country commissioned the largest solar plant in the world at 648 megawatts and it was built in a mere eight months—that's much quicker than the three to four years it takes to build a similar-size coal power plant. This month, an even bigger solar plant of 750 megawatts attracted record low bids of about $0.04/kWh, validating the government's decision to cancel four coal power plants and effectively choose solar as the preferred energy source for meeting India's rising energy demands.
Declining solar prices are good news for extending clean energy to more than 300 million people in India who currently lack access to the electric grid. The Natural Resources Defense Council is working with partners to provide clean energy to 40,000 women and their families in the state of Gujarat. So far, about 500 households have transitioned to using solar energy instead of diesel generators, a switch that will lead to improved quality of life and health conditions for these families. In light of President Trump's stance on climate change, the Indian minister in charge of energy, Piyush Goyal, recently reaffirmed his country's leadership by saying, "Clean energy is not something that we are working on because somebody else wants us to do it. It's a matter of faith and the faith of the leadership in India. Nothing on Earth is going to stop us from doing that."
China's renewable energy continues to set records.
China vaulted to the top of the world in solar power capacity in 2016, passing Germany, which had been the long-standing leader. The country added more than 34 gigawatts of solar capacity last year—nearly 1.5 times the amount the U.S. has installed in its entire history. China also installed more than 23 gigawatts of wind power in 2016, almost three times as much as the U.S. added that year. As the world leader in renewable energy investment, China put almost $88 billion into renewables in 2016—one-third more than the U.S.
Underscoring the Chinese focus on clean energy leadership going forward, the deputy head of China's National Energy Administration, Li Yangzhe, said in January that "renewable energy will be the pillar for China's energy structure transition." The country already employs 3.5 million people in the renewable energy industry, a number that is expected to grow to 13 million by 2020. Even as President Trump signals that he wants to take the U.S. backward on clean energy and the employment it provides, China is continuing to compete in the 21st-century market for wind and solar jobs and technology.
Clean energy booms in Latin America as new markets emerge.
Latin America has recently proven itself to be a regional powerhouse in clean energy. Three out of the top five developing countries for clean energy are in this part of the world: Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. In 2016, energy auctions in Chile and Mexico set record-low prices for renewables. Chile's auction set the world's lowest price for solar power at $0.03/kWh—half the price of coal in the same auction. And Mexico's auction resulted in contracts for the addition of five gigawatts of new clean energy. That's equivalent to the current electricity consumption for all of Mexico City.
Jake Schmidt directs the Natural Resources Defense Council's International program with a team of experts and partners working on climate change, clean energy, biogems and sustainable development in India, Latin America, Canada and at the international level.
By Itai Vardi
A recent intensification in protests against Williams Partners' planned Atlantic Sunrise pipeline in Pennsylvania prompted a state senator to propose legislation aimed at limiting demonstrations.
Last month, Pennsylvania Sen. Scott Martin (R-Norman) announced his intention to introduce legislation that would pass the costs of law enforcement responding to protests onto the demonstrators. Martin also helped introduce a different bill that would criminalize protests at natural gas facilities.
The so-called "first and last mile" problem is one of the biggest hurdles with public transportation. How do you encourage more people to take Earth-friendlier commutes when their homes are miles away from the train or bus station?
One solution, as this Estonian electric scooter company proposes, is to simply take your commute with you—literally. Tallinn-based Stigo has developed a compact e-scooter that folds to the size of a rolling suitcase in about two seconds.
[Editor's note: I'm still in shock after hearing the news that Lucia Grenna passed away in her sleep last week. When we first met in April of 2014 at a Copenhagen hotel, I was immediately taken by here powerful presence. We spent the next couple days participating in a Sustainia climate change event where Lucia presented her audacious plans to connect people to the climate issue. I had the chance to partner with Lucia on several other projects throughout the years and work with her incredible Connect4Climate team. I was always in awe of her ability to "make the impossible possible." Her spirit will live on forever. — Stefanie Spear]
It is with a heavy heart that Connect4Climate announces the passing of its founder and leading light, Lucia Grenna. Lucia passed peacefully in her sleep on June 15, well before her time. We remember her for her leadership and extraordinary ability to motivate people to take on some of the greatest challenges of our time, not least climate change.
By Stacy Malkan
Neil deGrasse Tyson has inspired millions of people to care about science and imagine themselves as participants in the scientific process. What a hopeful sign it is to see young girls wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words, "Forget princess, I want to be an astrophysicist."
As Trevor Noah noted during The Daily Show episode last night (starts at 2:25), the real reason Trump has these rallies is to "get back in front of his loyal crowds and feed of their energy." Noah believes that "Trump supporters are so on board with their dude he can say anything and they'll come along for the ride."
By Katie O'Reilly
Two years ago—long before coal became one of the most dominant and controversial symbols of the 2016 presidential election—Bloomberg Philanthropies approached production company RadicalMedia with the idea of creating a documentary exploring the U.S. coal mining industry. Last spring, they brought on Emmy-nominated director Michael Bonfiglio, tasked with forging a compelling story out of the multitudes of facts, statistics and narratives underlying the declining industry.