The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Will 2013 Be a Boom or Bust Year for Renewable Energy?
By Sven Teske
For many energy experts around the world, the New Year starts this coming week in Abu Dhabi at the World Future Energy Summit.
This year, the summit is coupled with two political conferences dedicated to renewable energy: the Assembly of the International Renewable Energy Agency and the Abu Dhabi International Renewable Energy Conference (ADIREC).
It is going to be exciting. The ADIREC continues a renowned series of high-level political conferences that started back in 2004 in Germany. While these conferences have been based on voluntary cooperation, pledges and networking, each conference has helped stimulate action and build momentum for the incredible clean energy race, as highlighted in Renewables 2012 Global Status Report, that’s unfolded since 2004. This is what we expect this year too, at a time when strong political and business leadership are needed.
Renewable energy markets are now at the most critical phase. This is especially true for solar photovoltaic (PV) and onshore wind power, which have become mainstream technologies. Prices have fallen dramatically over the last two to three years, and the competition between the solar and wind equipment manufacturers is fierce. Profit margins are minimal and many smaller companies will not survive this price battle.
The wind and solar market in 2012 was half the size of manufacturing capacity because of drastic expansion of capacity in China. But this also had a positive effect. In many countries, the price for solar and wind is now cost competitive with coal, and in some places even competes with gas power plants.
Since 2010, more than half the new power plants have been renewable energy. Increasingly, the fossil fuel industry is feeling the heat of competition with renewables, putting them in the line of fire. While the first half of the “Fossil against Renewable” match went to wind and solar, the second half starts now. The conflict will be about the required infrastructure and new storage technologies—the battle of the grids. “Smart grid,” “Smart meter” or “Smart Cities” are the buzzwords at the center of many energy debates.
Despite all these positive messages for the renewable industry, the fight is not over at all. In 2013, many companies will merge, get taken over or drop out of the market.
The well-known energy players—AREVA, Siemens, GE or ABB—are already starting to dominate the wind and solar industry. But will they prioritize renewables ahead of their on-going interest on conventionals?
And with the “shale gas revolution” in the U.S. almost turning the entire global power-plant market on its head, “cheap,” or more accurately “cross-subsidised” gas, drives not only coal, nuclear but also renewables out of the market.
Renewable energy still needs political support. Not so much in the form of subsidies any more, but in fundamentally different market regulations: increased grid access, modernized power-market design and to some extent a different infrastructure are needed to achieve an energy market that is 100 percent renewable energy. High-level renewable energy conferences, like the ones taking place this week, can help build momentum for good policies and leadership.
Financial institutions have learned a lot about wind and solar. New global investment in renewables rose 17 percent to a record $257 billion in 2011—six times higher than in 2004 and almost twice the total investment in 2007, the last year before the acute phase of the recent global financial crisis. Figures for 2012 are not available yet, but are expected to be on 2011 level. This is not good news.
Fortunately, the first announcements for the crucial year of 2013 are promising. China will step up its solar PV market to 10,000 megawatt in 2013—five times higher than two years ago. Announcements in India might at least double the PV market in 2013.
But what do we need to see to really save our climate and to provide clean, safe and affordable energy for all?
To achieve an Energy [R]evolution (a clean-energy pathway Greenpeace has outlined together with our partners EREC and GWEC) we need to maintain the past decade’s growth of the renewable market for another decade. This is completely possible, but only with long-term political support for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Let’s hope that the coming week in Abu Dhabi will provide an inspiring start for the renewable energy policy debates and decisions this year.
Sven Teske is an expert on renewable energy with Greenpeace International.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.
The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.
"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."