(UN Dispatch) Coal is on the way out. Clean energy is surging.
A recent report by the International Energy Agency revised upward the potential for growth in renewables, and found that sustainable energy capacity now equalled that of coal. In other words, the IEA found that its previous estimates for how fast renewable energy would grow we’re too slow. Countries are bringing sustainable sources of electricity like wind turbines and solar panels online faster than the international agency expected.
That upward revision speaks to the fact that, since the IEA released its initial report, countries around the world have shown a growing appetite for clean energy. For instance, the report found that half a million solar panels were installed around the world every day in 2015. In China, two wind turbines went online every hour. The authors of the paper chalk this momentum up to improvements in technology, more competition among companies, and support from key governments. Not all of these governments were interested solely in dealing with the threat of climate change; in Asia, the transition away from coal and toward cleaner fuels is partially driven by a desire to tackle air pollution and smog.
The IEA’s conclusions were echoed last week in a report from a private sector actor, BP, which also upped its estimate of how much growth we’d see among renewables in the near future.
The bad news is that these reports’ predictions are far from enough to put the world on course for the climate targets the UN is aiming for. First, as Paul McDivitt writes for Ensia , the IEA’s findings, while important, come with key caveats. Though the report found that capacity to generate energy from renewables is now greater than capacity to generate energy from coal, capacity is not the same as generation . Importantly, while coal plants can run 24 hours a day, solar panels and wind turbines are dependent on the sun shining or the wind blowing. At the moment, policymakers continue to see fossil fuel plants as more reliable, and lean on them to produce an energy base load. Improvements in battery technology in […]