Renewables — principally wind and solar — accounted for two thirds of all new power installations worldwide in 2016. Solar led the way, growing by 50%, with almost half of new PV installations in China. “What we are witnessing is the birth of a new era in solar PV,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, on October 4. “We expect that solar PV capacity growth will be higher than any other renewable technology through 2022.”
The rapid growth of solar is being driven by a dramatic decrease in the cost of energy from PV panels. Grid-scale solar energy is now under 3 cents per kilowatt-hour in some places around the world, including India, the United Arab Emirates, Chile, and Mexico. Strong government support for solar by China is also a significant contributing factor. “The solar PV story is a Chinese story,” said Paolo Frankl, head of the IEA’s renewable energy division. “China has been for a long time the leader in manufacturing. What’s new is the share in the market. This year, it was equivalent to the total installed capacity of PV in Germany.”
The IEA expects about 1,000 gigawatts of renewables to be installed in the next 5 years. It took coal 80 years to reach that level, according to Bloomberg.
“By 2022, global renewables electricity generation is expected to grow by over one-third to over 8 000 terrawatts per hour, equal to the total power consumption of China, India and Germany combined,” IEA reports. “As a result, the share of renewables in power generation will reach 30% in 2022, up from 24% in 2016.”
Nations at the forefront of solar energy expansion other than China are the US and India. Despite implacable opposition from #FakePresident Trump and his incompetent henchmen, EPA head Scott Pruitt and Energy Department head Rick Perry, the US is expected to be the second largest market for renewables over the next 5 years. That could change if Trump decides to impose heavy tariffs on imported solar cells in the next few weeks.
Of course, solar is only part of the renewable story, with wind energy also growing by leaps and bounds and even becoming the dominant source of energy in some countries.
The IEA also expects biofuels to take play a larger role in the transportation industry, surpassing gains by electric vehicles. “A lot of attention has been given in recent months to electric vehicles, and rightly so. They are increasingly globally, exponentially,” Frankl said. “But I have to say, we should not forget the biofuels, which at the end of 2016 represented 96 percent of total renewable transport.”
Electric vehicles numbers will double by 2022 but biofuels will still make up 93 percent of renewables consumed in the transport industry, according to the IEA. Biofuels could help reduce emissions from heavier vehicles such as tractor trailers and construction equipment as well as airplanes and ships. But biofuel currently costs twice as much as gasoline. The IEA recommends that governments intensify the search for less expensive biofuels made from non-edible plants. Here’s more in video format:
Related: IEA Underreporting Solar & Wind Energy 3–4x Compared To Fossil Fuels
Images by IEA
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