More good news for renewable energy
The growth of renewable energy has been one of the great success stories of recent times. There is still a long, long way to go, but the portion of our energy supplied from renewable sources has been increasing hugely year after year, even in the face of the lobbying efforts of oil companies which manufacture climate scepticism for their own benefit.
2016 proved to be no different in this regard, and the most encouraging results come from some of the countries which pollute our planet most enthusiastically.
Solar power was one of the big winners last year, with both the USA and China installing double the amount which they installed in 2015. The new solar capacity across the world totalled more than 76 gigawatts (GW) last year, which represents an increase of more than 50% over the amount installed the year before. The total amount of solar power capacity in the world now tops 300GW, a 600% improvement since 2010 and an almost infinite improvement since the turn of the millennium when there was negligible capacity.
The total amount installed in Europe passed 100GW for the first time in 2016, with Germany, Italy and the UK being home to the greatest number of installations. Another interesting milestone was passed in the UK in 2016, with more power being generated from solar technologies than traditional coal fired power stations for the first time since coal power stations started to be built in the 1880s. This is mostly a symbolic milestone, but it goes to underline the fact that the economic case for coal fired power stations is now essentially non-existent, and we should expect to see coal stations finally being closed across the world over the next decade.
Wind power was another big winner in 2016. Recently released figures show that more than 5.5% of the energy used in the USA in 2016 was provided by the wind. This total increased to as much as 20% in some states, such as Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Kansas and Oklahoma. This is quite remarkable considering how averse the USA is in general to onshore wind farms outside of rural states. The growth of offshore wind has somewhat offset this, and further huge developments are planned off both the East and West coasts in the near future.
The move to renewable energy is inevitable and, as the price continues to fall in the future, it is a certainty that more and more energy companies will convert their operations to become more and more sustainable. The case of Danish Oil and Natural Gas is instructive in this regard. The company has begun to pivot away from fossil fuels completely as the economic benefits have become more apparent. They have already invested £6bn in wind power of the coast of the UK and are set to double this investment by 2020 thanks to the overwhelming success they have encountered.
Europe is relatively far ahead in this regard, but it is clear that the really big energy consuming nations are beginning to take this seriously as well, even in the face of a US President who is so sycophantic towards the fossil fuel industry that it borders on the pathetic.
When countries like India and China appear to be locked in a contest to build the world’s biggest solar farm, constantly one upping each other with bigger and bigger developments, it is clear we are heading in the right direction at last.