As of last year, renewable energy overtook coal and is now the world’s largest source of power. Renewal capacity hit around 31pc of global power, and at last pipped coal-fired power. The global power markets are transforming in the best and most exciting way. The fact that it’s now lead by renewables is excellent news for the planet, and up until recently was an unthinkable feat. At this stage, it’s the capacity to generate power (rather than the amount of power that is produced) that’s been overtaken. However, it’s fantastic progress and of course a massive step in the right direction.
In 2015, a record-breaking half a million solar panels were installed each day around the world. According to the International Energy Agency, this made solar power production the fastest growing electricity source. Some countries are making incredible progress, for example in Chile so much solar power is being produced they have to give it away. Research found that in the UK, solar power led to ten percent more electricity being produced than coal between April and September 2016. However, due to less sunlight in winter and more demand for power due to heating being needed, coal will overtake again. Scientists have been working on new technology to store energy from the sun in the summer until it is needed in the winter. This would be a complete revelation regarding the world’s power.
Another country that has made excellent progress in renewable energy is China. The country has been dubbed as the undisputed global leader of renewable energy expansion. They install two new wind turbines every hour, and their latest push in both wind and solar energy was a big help in achieving the global milestone of renewables overtaking coal. Worldwide, new onshore wind farms global generation costs fell by around thirty percent between 2010 and 2014. These decreases in the cost of onshore wind power would have been completely unthinkable just five short years ago. The Global Wind Energy Council in Brussels stated that in 2015 wind power reached 432.42 gigawatts of installed capacity. This is compared with 382.55 gigawatts of nuclear energy- the first time for this to ever happen.
The largest renewable source of energy is of course hydroelectricity. But it’s easy to overlook this with the excitement about solar and wind power growing. Hydropower will continue to grow, although it’s thought that it will grow more slowly than before. This is because the industry faces difficult challenges in realizing its future potential. The decision-making process needed for projects to gain the relevant permissions to proceed with both construction and operations can be very unpredictable. It’s big challenge because there are so many different authorities involved.
The International Energy Agency expects that renewables will remain the fastest-growing source of electricity generation. A thousand cities around the world are committed to 100% renewable supply eventually. On top of this, more than sixty giant corporations are committed to a 100% low carbon supply, some even as early as 2020.