There’s no turning back now
The world just passed a turning point – and for once, that’s a good thing. According to a report presented in New York last week, we’re now adding more capacity for renewable energy each year than coal, natural gas and oil combined.
As Tom Randall reports for Bloomberg Business, the switch actually happened in 2013, when we added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, as opposed to just 141 gigawatts of fossil fuel capacity. And things are only going to get better. The analysis, which was presented at the annual Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) summit, predicted that by 2030, more than four times more renewable electricity capacity will be added than fossil fuel potential, despite current oil prices.
“The electricity system is shifting to clean,” founder of BNEF, Michael Liebreich, said in his keynote address. “Despite the change in oil and gas prices there is going to be a substantial build-out of renewable energy that is likely to be an order of magnitude larger than the build-out of coal and gas.”
The graphs below show the reports’ predictions for energy capacity addition over the coming decades, with solar coming out the clear winner.
Right now, solar only makes up less than 1 percent of the world’s electricity, but that could soon change. Just last month, Australia’s largest solar farm started feeding electricity into the grid, with the capacity to power more than 30,000 homes. The country has also demonstrated that its concentrated solar plants are powerful enough to compete with fossil fuels.
In the United States, a city in Texas is about to switch over to 100 percent renewable energy. As Bec Crew reported for ScienceAlert last month, the decision wasn’t an altruistic one: “Coal is simply getting too expensive, and the desert state is running out of the water needed to extract power from it”.
Costa Rica even managed to power itself entirely with renewable energy for the first 75 days of this year, and China’s wind farms now produce more energy than America’s nuclear power plants. According to a 2014 report by the International Energy Agency, solar could very well become the world’s single biggest source of electricity by 2050.
However, the BNEF report also showed that progress might be a little slower, unless the world increases its investment in renewables. Still, for once it’s a question of when, not if, and that’s a nice change.
This, my friends, is the beginning of the end for fossil fuels.