How We Doin' On That Green Energy Thing? Better Than You Might Expect!
Somewhat encouraging news for the prospects of human survival! Over at Vox, David Roberts offers a brief review of data from the "Renewables Global Status Report," an annual report on the world's use of renewable energy from a great big energy think tank, the "Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century." And the story, as he presents it in 12 graphs, is that we hu-mons are not doomed to Global Warm ourselves to death. What's that, you heard an implied "But..." there? What a very perceptive reader you are!
The really impressive news is that when it comes to generating electricity, renewable energy sources are growing faster than any other:
The shift in the electricity sector has effectively become unstoppable. Globally, more renewable energy capacity has been installed than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined, for four years running. Some 181 GW of new renewables capacity was installed in 2018; it now makes up more than one-third of global installed power capacity. These are mainstream power sources, here to stay.
Also, global adoption of electric vehicles is rapidly growing, especially in China, where lots of city bus fleets are now electric. China is leading the world in green energy generally, which is pretty important since it's also got some of the dirtiest energy to move away from. As China adopts more solar photovoltaic generating capacity, the costs of solar panels is also dropping rapidly, and hooray, solar is also creating the most jobs!
Yr Editrix converted her house to solar electricity and that is a very good thing that you should do too, if you can!
Oh, we bet you are waiting on the "but" part! There are several! For one thing, while renewable electricity is growing, electricity is just part of the overall energy picture, and a lot of sectors need far more rapid transformation. We have a hell of a lot more to do!
First, we're still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions aren't falling fast enough. In fact, they aren't falling at all; they were up 1.7 percent in 2018.
Second, we're still pushing in the wrong direction. Globally, subsidies to fossil fuels were up 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year.
And third, the effort to clean up is flagging. Total investment in renewable energy (not including hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018 — less than fossil fuel subsidies and an 11 percent decrease from 2017.
Despite all that, Roberts notes that once we really start moving away from fossil fuel, AND IT NEEDS TO BE FASTER, there will be some structural effects that should help clean our overall energy outlook as the transition continues:
Electric motors are simpler than combustion engines, with fewer moving parts, substantially lower maintenance costs, and much higher efficiency. Electrified heating and transportation sectors can be integrated into electricity grid operations, creating system efficiencies.
In short, economies running on renewable electricity will consume less energy because they will waste less energy.
We're only starting to move in the right direction -- or maybe only starting to move away from the wrong direction. It will need national, collective efforts (although individual efforts help!) But hooray, it can actually be done -- go read Roberts's graphs and dare to be a little hopeful, won't you?
Yr Wonkette is 100 percent supported by reader donations! Please send us money so we can help guide you to the clean energy future through recycled fart jokes!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.