Quantcast
Popular
A wind farm in the Coquimbo region of Chile. Photo credit: Edsel Querini / iStock

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.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Animals

Dumpster Debacle Distracts From Serious Spike in Whale Deaths

This week, a video of a failed attempt to put a dead, 4,000-pound whale into a tiny dumpster made the rounds on the internet, garnering chuckles and comparisons to Peter Griffin forklifting and impaling a beached sperm whale on Family Guy.

The juvenile minke whale washed up on Jenness Beach in Rye, New Hampshire on Monday morning, NBC 10 Boston reported. It was found with entanglement wounds, so researchers with the Seacoast Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) wanted to move the carcass from the beach to a lab for a necropsy to study its death.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure
Muir Woods, which costs $10 for entry, will have free entry on Sept. 22. m01229 / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Visit Any National Park for Free This Saturday to Celebrate 25th National Public Lands Day

If you're stuck for plans this weekend, we suggest escaping your city or town for the great outdoors.

This Saturday marks the 25th National Public Lands Day, organized by the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF).

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
A glacier flows towards East Antarctica. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / CC BY 2.0

Temperatures Possible This Century Could Melt Parts of East Antarctic Ice Sheet, Raise Sea Levels 10+ Feet

A section of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet that contains three to four meters (approximately 10 to 13 feet) of potential sea level rise could melt if temperatures rise to just two degrees above pre-industrial levels, a study published in Nature Wednesday found.

Researchers at Imperial College London, the University of Queensland, and other institutions in New Zealand, Japan and Spain looked at marine sediments to assess the behavior of the Wilkes Subglacial Basin during warmer periods of the Pleistocene and found evidence of melting when temperatures in Antarctica were at least two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels for periods of 2,500 years or more.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Oil well in North Dakota. Tim Evanson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Pipeline Leaks 63,840 Gallons of Produced Water in North Dakota

A pipeline released 63,840 gallons (1,520 barrels) of produced water that contaminated rangeland in Dunn County, North Dakota, the Bismarck Tribune reported, citing officials with the North Dakota Department of Health.

Produced water is a byproduct of oil and gas extraction, and can contain drilling chemicals if fracking was used.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Residents stand in a long queue to fill water containers on May 27 in Shimla, India. Deepak Sansta / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

World Peace Requires Access to Safe Water

International Peace Day is Sept. 21. Mekela Panditharatne, attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, submitted the following op-ed to EcoWatch in commemoration.

In drought-ravaged East Africa, the cracks in the plains echo the fault lines splitting tribes.

Across the globe, the devastation of deadly brawls is being exacerbated by tensions over access to water. Water crises, often worsened by governance failures, can portend warning signs for instability and conflict. This year, the World Resources Institute cautioned that water stress is growing globally, "with 33 countries projected to face extremely high stress in 2040." The effects of such water stress span the gamut from civil unrest to open warfare.

Keep reading... Show less
Food

How Your Personality Type Could Influence Your Food Choices

By Melissa Kravitz

"You are what you eat" may be one of the oldest sayings ever to be repeated around the dinner table, but can you also eat what you are?

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
A child rides his bicycle in an area affected by the Hurricane Maria passing in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Oct. 5, 2017. RICARDO ARDUENGO / AFP / Getty Images

Hurricane Maria's Legacy: One Year Later

As Puerto Rico marked one year since Hurricane Maria made landfall yesterday, the Miami Herald this week ran extensive reports in English and Spanish on the island's continuing recovery.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
A foldable, biodegradable battery based on paper and bacteria. Seokheun Choi / Binghamton University, CC BY-ND

Could Paper Power the Next Generation of Devices?

By Seokheun Choi

It seems like every few months there's a new cellphone, laptop or tablet that is so exciting people line up around the block to get their hands on it. While the perpetual introduction of new, slightly more advanced electronics has made businesses like Apple hugely successful, the short shelf life of these electronics is bad for the environment.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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