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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Solar Energy Now Creates More Jobs Than Any Other American Industry

The Trump regime has placed a tariff on solar panels because the regime serves the interests of the fossil fuel industry. Making solar panels less competitive is unjustified assistance to the harmful fossil fuels companies that should be replaced by clean energy such as solar power.

Solar energy isn’t just a tool to reduce emissions and help slow climate change – it’s a job creator.

According to the most recent National Solar Jobs Census published by The Solar Foundation, the industry creates more jobs than any other sector in the US.

According to the census, solar energy adds jobs 17 times faster than the overall economy in the United States.

In 2010, there were only 93,000 jobs in solar. The sector has seen a steep rise and six years later 260,077 people were employed in the field.

This means that in 2016 one in every 50 new jobs was in the solar industry, and analysts expect the trend to continue.

Although the figures presented in the census were originally criticised for underestimating the number of workers operating in the solar industry, The Hill now reports that “the Census is widely recognised as the most authoritative and comprehensive analysis of the US solar workforce.”

The problems from the incredibly regressive tariff imposed by the Trump regime are already being seen. The Trump government is such a cruel joke at this point — if it really cared about providing good jobs, it would (among other measures) create a public works program for solar energy.

President Donald Trump’s decision to impose a 30 percent tariff on all solar technology imports has claimed its first victims in the fast-growing solar energy job market.

The California-based company SunPower announced Friday that as a result of the tariffs, it will hold off on a $20 million plan to expand its operations in the U.S., including hiring hundreds of Americans.

“It’s not hypothetical,” CEO Tom Werner told Reuters. “These were positions that we were recruiting for that we are going to stop.”

Two foreign-owned solar companies, Suniva and SolarWorld, lobbied for the tariffs, arguing that cheap imports from China have caused their panel prices to fall since 2016. But after it was announced earlier this week, Trump’s decision caused concern in the U.S. solar energy industry.

“While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet U.S. demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving, which will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Energy Industry Association.

Germany Had Enough Energy to Essentially Pay People to Use It on Christmas

A clean energy surplus is a hopeful note for the future. Other countries besides should also make these big investments in renewable energy.

People in Germany essentially got paid to use electricity on Christmas.

Electricity prices in the country went negative for many customers – as in, below zero – on Sunday and Monday, because the country’s supply of clean, renewable power actually outstripped demand, according to The New York Times.

The phenomenon is less rare than you may think.

Germany has invested over US$200 billion in renewable power over the last few decades, primarily wind and solar.

During times when electricity demand is low – such as weekends when major factories are closed, or when the weather is unseasonably sunny – the country’s power plants pump more electricity into the grid than consumers actually need.

The disparity arises because wind and solar power are generally inconsistent. When the weather is windy or sunny, the plants generate a lot of electricity, but all that excess power is difficult to store. Battery technology is not quite advanced enough to fully moderate the supply to the grid.

So when the weather is hot, like it was in parts of Germany over the weekend, and most businesses are closed, plants generate an excess supply of power despite unusually low demand. Then it’s a matter of simple economics – prices, in effect, dip below zero.

It’s important to note that Germany’s utilities companies aren’t depositing money directly into consumer’s accounts when this happens. Rather, the periods of negative-pricing lead to lower electricity bills over the course of a year.

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Traditional power grids – which mostly rely on fossil fuels to generate electricity – are designed so that output matches demand. But renewable energy technology hasn’t yet been developed to produce according to demand, since generation is a function of weather.

That’s “one of the key challenges in the whole transition of the energy market to renewable power,” Tobias Kurth, the managing director of Energy Brainpool, told the Times.

As storage technology lags behind the efficiency of renewable power sources, it’s likely that this negative-pricing situation will occur again. In that case, governments might need to provide incentives for people to increase their power usage when prices go negative.

These irregularities need to get figured out sooner rather than later, since renewable energy is growing rapidly, driven by the declining cost of technology and government subsidies. The International Energy Agency predicts that renewable energy will comprise 40 percent of global power generation by 2040.

In the next five years, the share of electricity generated by renewables worldwide is set to grow faster than any other source.

In Britain, renewable energy sources generated over triple the electricity as coal did in 2017, according to The Guardian. In June, during a particularly windy night, power prices actually went negative in Britain for a few hours as well – and it’s likely to happen again.