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As you’ve probably heard, the planet is warming, and in response, people are trying to switch to cleaner energy to heat it less, or at least more slowly. So what does it look like?
A report released this month discusses this issue in detail. The Global Renewable Energy Regulatory Report (GSR), published annually by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), explores the growth rates of different energy sources, clean energy investment trends and global developments. About its sustainability goals.
That’s a lot of information. It’s also very long. 250 pages long. So many words!
In order to save consumers valuable time with the latest information, I’ve combed through the report and extracted 12 charts and graphs that tell the cleanest energy story of 2018.
First, we are still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon dioxide emissions are not falling quickly. In fact, they didn’t fall at all. In 2018, they grew by 1.7 percent.
In the wrong direction. Globally, fossil fuel subsidies grew by 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year.
And third, the cleanup effort is a flag. This week brought good news for the US – more US electricity. Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that it obtained clean energy from coal for the first time in April. However, the GSR report shows that total investment in renewable energy (excluding hydropower) will reach $288.9 billion in 2018, less than fossil fuel subsidies and 11 percent less than in 2017.
This is all bad news. People are surprised that even when bad things happen, they accelerate for something better. It’s not right. Overall, we still need to go in the opposite direction. Despite the improvements described below, we are still struggling with the implementation of emergency braking.
To start with some good news: changes in the electricity sector have become more efficient without stopping. More renewable energy capacity has been installed worldwide than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined in four years. In 2018, around 181 GW of renewable capacity was installed; It currently produces more than a third of the world’s installed energy capacity. This is the main source of energy to stay here.
As shown in the table below, the addition of wind and bioenergy capacity is relatively stable. Hydropower is slightly reduced. The main reason for the increase in renewable capacity is the increase in solar panels (PV).
55 percent of the new renewable energy capacity installed in 2018 (about 100 GW) was solar. Wind energy accounts for 28 percent and hydropower for 11 percent. The future of the world basically depends on the ever-expanding sun.
The graph below also shows the rapid growth of solar PV in the US, Japan (thanks to Fukushima and the subsequent nuclear shutdown), and most recently India.
When it comes to energy, China is generally the largest and most abundant of its kind. In 2018, it accounted for 32% of global renewable investments. It is the world’s leading and leading investor in hydro, solar, photovoltaic and wind power.
(A few things to note in the graph below: Japan’s unusually high share of solar energy and the relatively large role of bioenergy in the EU and US.)
All the growth and investment in renewables is starting to add up. Renewable energy accounts for more than a third of the world’s installed capacity and, as the graph below shows, produces more than 26% of global electricity.
Despite this, nearly 16 percent of hydropower produces more than half of the total renewable energy. What people think of as renewable energy, wind and solar make up only 8 percent of the total energy. Even in electricity, regeneration is far from over.
Key economic and political implications of renewable energy: Solar energy creates more jobs. It accounts for most of the world’s renewable energy work, albeit a fraction of renewable energy capacity. Solar wind produces less work. A solar panel is labor intensive.
Outside of electricity, it’s hard to bring good news. The renewable space accounts for 26 percent of global electricity production, less than 10 percent (less than 2 percent of renewable energy) is heat and cold, and only 3.3 percent (renewable electricity). only 0.3 percent of transport energy.
Heating and cooling account for 51% of global energy use, mainly with natural gas and oil. Transportation accounts for 32 percent of global energy consumption, mainly gasoline and diesel.
At the national or state/provincial level, 169 countries exceeded their renewable energy targets. “Only 47 countries set targets for renewable heating and cooling, while the number of countries applying regulatory policies in the sector has decreased from 21 to 20,” the report states. Less than a third of all countries in the world have the necessary building codes, “while 60% of all energy use in buildings in 2018 occurred in jurisdictions that do not have an energy efficiency policy.” About a quarter of industrial energy consumption is covered by industrial energy efficiency policies.
It’s better to get around that “light vehicle fuel-saving policies will be available in 40 countries by the end of the year, largely offset by the trend towards larger vehicles”.
Carbon pricing doesn’t help much either. “Carbon pricing is still widely used,” the report said. “By the end of 2018, only 44 national governments, 21 states/territories and seven cities had introduced carbon pricing policies, covering only 13% of global CO2 emissions.”
This is the situation in the United States and around the world: renewable energy is starting to produce electricity, but it is slowing down everywhere.
Although transportation is still dominated by fossil fuels, the transition is underway. In 2018, “the number of electric cars worldwide increased by 63% compared to 2017” and more and more cities are switching to electric buses.
Here too, China outperforms the rest of the world, although it narrows to tiny Norway, whose aggressive electric vehicle policy is reflected in world statistics.
There is a special report – the report on the growing opportunities for clean energy in cities around the world. Representing 65 percent of the world’s energy demand and more than half of the world’s population, cities use a higher percentage of renewable energy on average than countries. At least 100 cities around the world already use 90-100 percent renewable energy. At least 230 people targeted 100 percent renewable energy in at least one sector.
The G20 countries meet every year to reject fossil fuel subsidies and commit to bringing them back. And fossil fuel subsidies increased by 11 percent each year, to $300 billion in 2017. “Although at least 40 countries have reformed some level of fossil fuel subsidies since 2015,” the report says, “fossil fuel subsidies have remained unchanged.” In 2017, 112 countries and at least 73 countries provided more than $100 million in aid.
And that’s just direct sponsorship. As my colleague Umair Irfan reports, a new IMF document estimates the total amount of fossil fuel subsidies – both directly related to taxes and cash transfers, and indirectly related to worthless environmental damage – at 5.2 thousand. Billion dollars in 2017.
Any climate model that involves humans in meeting their carbon targets involves a rapid decline in “energy intensity”, the amount of energy used to produce one unit of GDP. In theory, if you can reduce energy intensity fast enough, you can offset increased energy use (due to population and economic growth) and even reduce overall energy demand.
In theory. In fact, global energy intensity has fallen by just 2.2 percent over the past five years. This was not enough to offset the 1.2 percent increase in global energy demand.
Energy intensity is decreasing by about 0.4 percent per year. To reach the global decarbonization target by the middle of the century, global energy intensity must decrease between 4 and 10 percent per year. This means that the world needs to increase the speed, efficiency and speed of electricity about tenfold.
So what does this all lead to? One (admittedly imperfect) way of developing renewable energy is Total Final Energy Consumption (TFEC), which sums up all the energy used worldwide.
In 2017, fossil fuels still provide about 80% of human energy, which they have provided for decades. Excluding conventional biomass, with all the issues of logging, diversity and food competition for land, about 13 percent of energy waste is climate sensitive (different people may want to exclude other sources). Well, it’s a bigger thing.
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