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As you’ve probably heard, the planet is warming, and in response, people are trying to switch to cleaner energy sources, heat less, or at least slow down. well how are you
A report released this month examined the issue in considerable detail. The Global State of Renewables Report (GSR), published annually by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21, a think tank), takes an in-depth look at the growth rates of various energy sources, including investments in clean energy. flows and where the world is in the sustainable development goals.
This is a treasure trove of information. Also… really long. 250 pages long. So many words!
To save you, the modern information consumer, precious time, I’ve sifted through this report and pulled out 12 charts and graphs that best illustrate the 2018 clean energy story.
First, we are still going in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions are not falling fast enough. In fact, they did not fall anywhere. In 2018, they increased by 1.7%.
In the wrong direction. Globally, fossil fuel subsidies rose 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year.
Third, cleanup efforts are lagging. This week brought good news for the U.S. – The U.S. produced more electricity from clean sources than coal for the first time in April, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. But the GSR report shows that total investment in renewable energy (excluding hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018, less than fossil fuel subsidies and down 11% from 2017.
All of this is bad news. The public is under the impression that although things are bad, they are eventually accelerating for the better. This is not true. Overall, we have not been able to reverse course. Despite all the progress described below, we are still working on implementing the emergency brake.
First, some good news: Change in the electricity industry is virtually unstoppable. Globally, for the fourth year in a row, renewable energy capacity has surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity. About 181 GW of new renewable energy capacity was added in 2018; it currently accounts for more than a third of global electricity capacity. These are the main sources of energy and will continue to be.
As the graph below shows, wind and bioenergy capacity growth has been fairly stable, while hydropower has declined slightly. The main reason for the increase in renewable energy potential is the increase in solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.
Solar photovoltaics accounted for 55% (about 100 GW) of new renewable energy capacity added in 2018, wind accounted for 28%, and hydroelectricity accounted for 11%. The future of the world depends largely on the continued explosion of the sun.
The table below also shows the rapid growth of solar PV in the US, Japan (due to Fukushima and subsequent nuclear power plant shutdowns), and most recently in India.
When it comes to energy, regardless of category, China is usually the largest and most numerous. It was responsible for 32% of global renewable energy investments in 2018. It is a major investor in hydropower, solar photovoltaic and wind power and is a world leader in installed capacity.
(A few things to note in the chart below: Japan has an unusually high percentage of sunlight, and bioenergy plays a relatively large role in the EU and the US.)
All the growth and investment in renewable electricity is starting to increase. As shown in the table below, renewable energy accounts for more than a third of the world’s installed capacity and more than 26% of global electricity generation.
However, about 16 percent of hydropower accounts for more than half of total renewable energy. Renewable energy, wind and solar, make up only 8% of total energy, as people think. Even when it comes to electricity, renewable energy has a lot to do.
An important aspect of the political economy of renewable energy: Solar PV creates more jobs. Despite being a small fraction of renewable energy potential, it accounts for the majority of renewable energy jobs in the world. Wind power leads solar in generating capacity, but creates fewer jobs. Solar PV is labor intensive.
Other than electricity, good news is harder to come by. While renewables account for 26% of global electricity, they account for less than 10% of heating and cooling (less than 2% of renewable electricity) and 3.3% of transport energy (a total of 0, 3%). ).
Heating and cooling accounts for 51% of global energy use, largely dependent on natural gas and oil. Transportation accounts for 32% of global energy use and is largely dependent on gasoline and diesel.
169 countries have adopted national or provincial/provincial renewable energy targets. Meanwhile, the report says, “only 47 countries have targets for renewable heating and cooling, while the number of countries with regulatory policies in this area has dropped from 21 to 20.” Globally, less than a third of states have mandatory building codes in place, “in 2018, 60% of total energy use in buildings occurred in jurisdictions without energy efficiency policies.” Industrial energy efficiency policies cover only a quarter of industrial energy.
Transport isn’t doing so well either, “by the end of the year, fuel economy policies for light trucks are only in place in 40 countries and are largely offset by vehicle trends.”
Carbon pricing doesn’t help much either. “Carbon pricing is not yet widely implemented,” the report said. “As of the end of 2018, only 44 national governments, 21 provinces/provinces and 7 cities had implemented carbon pricing policies, covering only 13% of global CO2 emissions.”
It’s the story of America and the world: Renewables are starting to gain ground in electricity, but they’re lagging far behind everywhere else.
Although transportation is still dominated by fossil fuels, change is underway. In 2018, the report says, “the number of electric passenger cars worldwide increased by 63 percent compared to 2017” and “a large number of cities are switching to electric bus fleets.”
In this regard, China beats the rest of the world even though its aggressive EV policies shout at the small country of Norway, which is included in the global statistics.
The report includes a feature on the prospects for a clean energy boom in cities around the world. Cities, which account for an average of 65% of global energy demand and are home to more than half of the world’s population, use more renewable electricity than countries. Currently, at least 100 cities in the world use 90%-100% renewable electricity. At least 230 companies have set a 100% renewable energy target in at least one industry.
Every year, the G20 countries come together to criticize and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies. Fossil fuel subsidies have grown each year—up 11 percent to $300 billion in 2017. At least 112 countries and at least 73 countries provided more than $100 million in subsidies in 2017. “
And that’s just a direct subsidy. As my colleague Umair Irfan reports, a recent IMF report estimated that total fossil fuel subsidies—direct taxes and cash transfers, as well as indirect priceless environmental damage—reached $52,000 million in 2017. .
Any climate model that involves humans meeting their carbon goals assumes a rapid decline in “energy intensity,” the amount of energy used to produce a unit of GDP. In theory, reducing energy intensity quickly enough could offset the natural increase in energy consumption (from population and economic growth) and even lead to a reduction in total energy demand.
In theory, anyway. In fact, global energy intensity has decreased by only 2.2% over the past five years. This was not enough to offset the 1.2% increase in global energy demand.
Energy intensity decreases by about 0.4% per year. To achieve global decarbonization goals by mid-century, global energy intensity must be reduced by 4 to 10 percent per year. This means that the world needs to be about 10 times more efficient and electrified.
So what does it all add up to? One (admittedly imperfect) way to record progress in renewable energy is to compare it to Total Final Energy Consumption (TFEC), which calculates all energy consumed globally.
As of 2017, fossil fuels still provide about 80% of human energy, the same as they have for decades. Exclude conventional biomass, with all its problems of logging, monoculture, and competition for land with food, and you’re left with about 13% reasonably climate-friendly energy (different people may want to exclude other sources, but more importantly
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