Friday, March 25, 2016

With renewable energy, is the glass half-full or half-empty?

Wind and solar are growing at a stunning pace (just not enough to stop climate change)

Updated by Brad Plumer on March 24, 2016, Vox

There's good news and sour news on climate change in this hefty new report on renewable energy from the UN and Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

First, the celebratory stuff. Renewable energy — mainly solar and wind, with a tiny bit of geothermal and biomass tossed in — is growing at a record pace. Last year, the world's nations plunked down $286 billion on renewable energy, twice what they spent on coal and gas. For the first time ever, renewables made up fully half of all new electric capacity installed worldwide, with 118 gigawatts coming online. Next time someone says renewables are a niche market, toss them this PDF.

All in all, renewable energy (excluding large hydropower dams) provided 10.3 percent of the world's electricity in 2015, up from 9.1 percent the year before.

If you include large hydropower, renewables made up roughly 22 percent of the world's electricity in 2015. If you add in nuclear, another key carbon-free source, that goes up to around 33 percent. (The catch is that large hydro and nukes aren't growing as quickly.)

So now comes the sour "yes, but..." This breakneck growth in clean energy isn't nearly fast enough to drive the sort of sharp CO2 reductions needed to address climate change. Not yet.

(Continued here.)


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