World Added Much More Solar Power Capacity Than Fossil Fuel Capacity in 2017

It’s somewhat encouraging evidence as the existential threat of climate change has been continually becoming worse in recent years. Some people still fail to view climate change as a serious threat, which is one of the unfortunate aspects about this crazy world.

The world installed a record 98 gigawatts of new solar capacity, far more than the net additions of any other technology — renewable, fossil fuel or nuclear.

Solar power also attracted far more investment, at $160.8 billion, up 18 per cent, than any other technology. It made up 57 per cent of last year’s total for all renewables (excluding large hydro) of $279.8 billion, and it towered above new investment in coal and gas generation capacity, estimated at $103 billion.

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“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift,” said UN Environment head Erik Solheim. “Investments in renewables bring more people into the economy, they deliver more jobs, better quality jobs and better paid jobs. Clean energy also means less pollution, which means healthier, happier development.”

Overall, China was by far the world’s largest investing country in renewables, at a record $126.6 billion, up 31 per cent on 2016.

There were also sharp increases in investment in Australia (up 147 per cent to $8.5 billion), Mexico (up 810 per cent to $6 billion), and in Sweden (up 127 per cent to $3.7 billion).

A record 157 gigawatts of renewable power were commissioned last year, up from 143 gigawatts in 2016 and far out-stripping the net 70 gigawatts of fossil-fuel generating capacity added (after adjusting for the closure of some existing plants) over the same period.

“The world added more solar capacity than coal, gas, and nuclear plants combined,” said Nils Stieglitz, President of Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. “This shows where we are heading, although the fact that renewables altogether are still far from providing the majority of electricity means that we still have a long way to go.”

Some big markets, however, saw declines in investment in renewables. In the United States, investment dropped 6 per cent, coming in at $40.5 billion. In Europe there was a fall of 36 per cent, to $40.9 billion, with big drops in the United Kingdom (down 65 per cent to $7.6 billion) and Germany (down 35 per cent to $10.4 billion). Investment in Japan slipped 28 per cent to $13.4 billion.

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Global investments in renewable energy of $2.7 trillion from 2007 to 2017 (11 years inclusive) have increased the proportion of world electricity generated by wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, marine and small hydro from 5.2 per cent to 12.1 per cent.

The current level of electricity generated by renewables corresponds to about 1.8 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions avoided — roughly equivalent to those produced by the entire U.S. transport system.

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Renewables Set to Strongly Outcompete Fossil Fuels in the Years Ahead

By several important metrics, renewables are already much less costly than fossil fuels. Fossil fuels contribute to an estimated $4.6 trillion in annual pollution costs and another report states that $5 trillion — 6.5 percent of world GDP — is spent on annual fossil fuel subsidies. Also, if the world keeps burning high levels of fossil fuels for decades, there probably won’t be much of a civilization remaining, and that’s the biggest, priciest cost of all.

A new report showing that renewable prices may soon out-compete fossil fuels offers just the latest evidence to bolster demands that oil, gas, and coal to be left “in the ground.”

The cost analysis from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) for delivering electricity was presented Saturday at the opening of the organization’s Eighth Assembly in Abu Dhabi.

Prices are already falling for renewable power generation, the publication notes, and says that wind and solar power will be on par with—or even cheaper than—the cost of fossil fuel-generated electricity by 2020.

Among the “remarkable” price reductions has been for utility-scale solar PV which have dropped 73 percent since 2010, the report says.