Coal continues to fall hard as renewables surge worldwide (including in China), all despite the Trump administration wanting to go back to the “good old days.”
If Trump does not believe the persistent reports that our world’s energy system is moving towards cleaner alternatives, here is yet more proof the world is going towards renewables. This time from one of the world’s top fossil energy companies.
BP’s recently released Statistical Review of World Energy makes the case stronger that the cleantech train is leaving the station, and may leave the US in the dust. The report said global coal production dropped 231 million tons of oil equivalent (Mtoe) in 2016, the sharpest decline in history. China’s coal production dropped 7.9% (140 Mtoe), also a record drop. US coal production fell by 85 Mtoe, or 19%.
While coal is setting into the sunset, renewable energy continues its high advancement on the global market, with a 14.1% increase in 2016, contributing to 40% of the total increase of world energy power generation last year. That was also the largest incremental gain in the history of the report, with 53 Mtoe worth of renewables added.
Wind and solar were the top renewable energy sources to grow in 2016. Wind power carried more that 50% of the growth, while solar energy had one-third. BP also said that, despite wind taking a majority of the growth seen in renewables, solar energy is catching up fast. “It took around 20 years for the share of countries producing a sizeable amount of wind power to increase from 15% to 75%; solar achieved the same degree of diffusion in less than half that time,” BP Group chief economist Spencer Dale wrote. “In sharp contrast, nuclear energy plateaued at less than half the number of countries.”
Much of this exciting growth seen in world renewable energy markets is thanks to China, of course, as it bolts past the US in the great cleantech race and gives Trump a laughing thanks for the boost or five. China is now the world’s top renewable energy producer. China accounted for 40% of all global growth in renewables in 2016. China’s domination in renewables along with strong growth from India and others has helped to push the Asia-Pacific region past Europe and North America as the globe’s top regional renewable energy producer.
Coal’s decline and an increase of renewables in the energy mix is clearly helping to limit increases in carbon emissions. For the third straight year, advances in carbon emissions basically flatlined, with an increase of 0.1%. The 2014–2016 average, since 1981–1983, was the lowest growth in carbon emissions seen in a 3-year span.
While sluggish GDP growth also played a role in lowering carbon emissions, the increase in renewables and improved energy efficiency were significant factors.
“The fortunes of coal appear to have taken a decisive break from the past. This shift largely reflects structural factors: the increasing availability and competitiveness of natural gas and renewables, combined with government and societal pressure to shift towards cleaner, lower carbon fuels,” said BP Chief Economist Spencer Dale regarding the rapidly changing story currently being told in world energy markets.
It’s no secret or surprise that China has become the prime player in renewables. BP’s report just reiterated and confirmed what has been increasingly obvious in recent years. China’s going full speed into renewables, with a $360 million commitment by 2020. The country’s leaders see this as not only environmental protection but also an economic windfall. According to Think Progress, cleantech jobs now make up the largest viable source of new high-paying jobs, whether you are in the US, Europe, or China. China expects within 3 years to have 13 million jobs in this sector.
With Donald Trump’s budget planning to cut renewable energy funding and the Trump Administration leaving the Paris climate agreement while wanting to reinvent the wheel and somehow support the coal industry, the current US president has left the US boxed in the corner as the rest of the world leaves it in the sunset.
BP’s report only adds a further layer on why renewables are the way to go. If not for concerns to mitigate climate change concerns, then to advance 21st century industrial jobs in rust belt areas that desperately need high paying jobs.
Coal is not coming back. It’s time to move on.