solar power renewables climate change

Here’s something that Joel Fitzgibbon, the AWU, the mining division of the CFMEU, and maybe journalists whipping Fitzgibbon’s departure up as a leadership threat to Anthony Albanese, might do well to read — as would Scott Morrison, Angus Taylor and the other climate denialists of the Coalition.

The International Energy Agency — reflecting its history as an OECD think tank for oil — is the perennial laggard when it comes to energy forecasts, routinely overstating fossil fuel production forecasts and significantly underestimating renewables.

But its latest report predicts that renewables will soon become the largest source of electricity generation worldwide, supplying one third of the world’s electricity.

“Total installed wind and solar PV capacity is on course to surpass natural gas in 2023 and coal in 2024. Solar PV alone accounts for 60% of all renewable capacity additions through 2025, and wind provides another 30%,” it says.

Offshore wind — something widely popular in Europe — is also playing a big role. “Driven by further cost declines, annual offshore wind additions are set to surge, accounting for one fifth of the total wind annual market in 2025.”

“Driven by China and the United States, net installed renewable capacity will grow by nearly 4% globally in 2020, reaching almost 200 GW. Higher additions of wind and hydropower are taking global renewable capacity additions to a new record this year, accounting for almost 90% of the increase in total power capacity worldwide.”.

“India is expected to be the largest contributor to the renewables upswing in 2021, with the country’s annual additions almost doubling from 2020.”

At the same time the IEA says fossil fuel capacity will fall due to the economic slump triggered by the pandemic.

Electricity generated by renewables will increase by 7% globally this year, despite a 5% annual drop in global energy demand, the largest since World War II.

“Renewable power is defying the difficulties caused by the pandemic, showing robust growth while others fuels struggle,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director. Policymakers need to support the strong momentum behind renewables growth and if policy uncertainties are addressed, renewable energy capacity additions could reach 271 GW in 2022, the IEA said.

The report also shows investors have voted with their wallets. The IEA says that in the year to October, shares of solar companies worldwide had more than doubled in value from the end of 2019 — quite a contrast with the likes of coal giant Peabody, which is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy for the second time, while other mining multinationals rush to dump and close their thermal coal mines.

As far as investors are concerned, political ructions over climate increasingly look like a weird culture war unrelated to either physics or economics.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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