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As you may have heard, the planet is warming, and in response, people are trying to switch to clean energy to warm it a little more, or at least more slowly. So how does that happen?
A report published this month examines this topic in detail. The Renewables Report (GSR), published annually by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21, a think tank), examines the growth rates of different energy sources, clean energy investment flows and global progress . About his sustainability goals.
It is a source of information. It’s also… really long. 250 pages long. So many words!
In an effort to save you, today’s information consumer, I dug through the report and pulled out 12 charts and graphs that tell the story of clean energy in 2018.
First, we are still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions are not falling fast enough. In fact, they do not fall at all; In 2018, there was a growth of 1.7 percent.
In the wrong direction. Globally, fossil fuel subsidies increased by 11 percent between 2016 and 2017 to $300 billion annually.
Third, the cleanup effort fails. More of America’s electricity came from clean energy than coal for the first time in April, bringing good news for America this week, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. But the GSR report found that total investment in renewable energy (excluding hydro) in 2018 was $288.9 billion, less than fossil fuel subsidies and down 11 percent from 2017.
It’s all bad news. There seems to be a sense in society that although things are bad, they are eventually getting better. This is not true. All in all, we haven’t even managed to change direction yet. Despite the progress described below, we still struggle to engage in emergency braking.
To start with good news: change in the electricity industry is truly inexorable. Globally, for four consecutive years, more renewable energy capacity has been installed than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined. In 2018, approximately 181 GW of new renewable energy capacity was installed; It now accounts for a third of the world’s installed capacity. They are the main sources of energy for survival.
As you can see in the chart below, wind and bioenergy capacity growth has been fairly stable; Hydro has gone down a bit. An increase in the number of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels is the main reason for the increase in renewable energy capacity.
Solar PV accounted for 55 percent (about 100 GW) of new renewable energy capacity installed in 2018. Wind power accounted for 28 percent and hydropower for 11 percent a hundred The future of the world depends heavily on whether solar energy succeeds.
The graph below shows the rapid growth of solar PV in the US, Japan (thanks to Fukushima and the shutdown of nuclear power) and more recently in India.
When it comes to energy, China is usually the biggest and the biggest, regardless of the region. In 2018, it accounted for 32 percent of global investment in renewables. It has been a major investor in hydropower, solar PV and installed wind capacity.
(Some things to note in the chart below: Japan’s unusually large share of solar energy and the relatively large share of bioenergy in the EU and US.)
All the growth and investment in renewable electricity is starting to add up. More than a third of the world’s installed capacity is renewable, and more than 26 percent of the world’s electricity generation, as shown in the graph below.
However, at about 16 percent, hydropower accounts for more than half of total renewable energy. Wind and solar make up only 8 percent of what people think of as renewable energy sources. Even in the power sector, renewable energy has a long way to go.
An important aspect of the political economy of renewable energy: solar PV creates more jobs. Despite having the smallest share of renewable energy capacity, it accounts for the majority of the world’s renewable energy jobs. Solar powered wind creates very few jobs. Solar PV is labor intensive.
Outside of electricity, good news is hard to come by. Renewables make up 26 percent of global electricity, less than 10 percent of heating and cooling (less than 2 percent of renewable electricity), and 3.3 percent of transportation energy (only 0.3 percent of renewable electricity).
Heating and cooling is largely fueled by natural gas and oil, accounting for 51% of global energy consumption. Transportation, which consumes 32 percent of the world’s energy consumption, runs primarily on gasoline and diesel.
169 countries have established renewable energy targets at national or state/regional level. At the same time, “only 47 countries have targeted heating and cooling from renewable energy sources, and the number of countries with regulatory policies in this area has decreased from 21 to 20.” “Although 60% of the total energy used in buildings in 2018 came from jurisdictions without energy efficiency policies, less than a third of the world’s countries have mandatory building codes. Business energy efficiency policy covers only a quarter of business energy consumption.
It is not much better in transport, where “by the end of the year fuel efficiency policies for light vehicles were in place in just 40 countries, largely offset by trends towards larger vehicles. “
Carbon pricing doesn’t help much either. “Carbon pricing remains largely ineffective,” the report said. “At the end of 2018, only 44 national governments, 21 states/territories and 7 cities had implemented carbon pricing policies, making up just 13% of global CO2 emissions.
That’s the story in the US and around the world: renewables are starting to accelerate, but everywhere else they’re lagging behind.
Although transportation is still dominated by fossil fuels, change is underway. In 2018, “the number of electric passenger cars worldwide increased by 63% compared to 2017,” the report says, “and more cities are converting to electric bus fleets.”
The aggressive EV policy shown in the global statistics comes from a small country called Norway, but here again China is ahead of the rest of the world.
The report provides a special report on the growing clean energy scene in cities around the world. On average, cities, which account for 65 percent of global energy demand and more than half of the world’s population, use a higher percentage of renewable electricity than countries. At least 100 cities around the world already use 90 to 100 percent renewable electricity. At least 230 have set a 100 percent renewable energy target in at least one sector.
Every year the G20 countries come together to condemn fossil fuel subsidies and pledge to eliminate them. Every year, fossil fuel subsidies rise, rising 11 percent to $300 billion in 2017. At least 40 countries have implemented fossil fuel subsidy reforms since 2015, but fossil fuel subsidies are continue, the report says. In 2017, at least 112 countries, including at least 73 countries, provided subsidies of more than $100 million.
These are only direct subsidies. As my colleague Umair Irfan pointed out, a recent IMF paper estimated that fossil fuel subsidies – direct in the form of taxes and cash transfers, and indirect in terms of environmental damage – reached $5.2 trillion in 2017 .
Every climate model in which humanity meets its carbon targets is associated with a sharp decline in “energy intensity,” the amount of energy used to produce a unit of GDP. In theory, if you can reduce energy intensity fast enough, you can offset the natural increase in energy consumption (from population and economic growth) and reduce overall energy demand.
In principle, at least. In fact, global energy intensity has fallen by just 2.2 percent over the past five years. This was not enough to offset the increase in global energy demand, which increased by 1.2 percent.
Energy intensity is decreasing by about 0.4 percent per year. Achieving mid-century global decarbonisation targets will require a reduction in global energy intensity of 4-10 per cent per year. This means that the world needs to accelerate efficiency and electrification levels by about 10 times.
So what does it all add up to? One (imperfect) way to measure renewable progress is to measure them against final energy consumption (TFEC), which summarizes all the energy used throughout the world
In 2017, fossil fuels still provide 80 percent of humanity’s energy, and have for decades. When you get rid of current biomass, with all the problems like clear-cutting, monocultures, and competition for food for land, you’re left with about 13 percent climate-friendly energy (probably be different people to get rid of other sources too). , but that’s the biggest problem).
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