2020 has been the kind of red-letter year that seems seminal, with life now divided into two distinct portions; pre-covid, and post-covid.
As is the case with many industries, energy supply and demand have been disrupted, and carbon dioxide emissions have fallen as people remained safely ensconced in the comfort of their homes. Even in these trying times, it is imperative that we analyse the global picture with a long-term view to make the right decisions going forward, lest we get rooted in short-term measures.
This is the decade of delivery for achieving the SDGs, and the truth remains that we need a structural shift built on an efficient and renewable-based energy system if we want to successfully decarbonise our economies by 2030, pandemic or not. We live in a world in flux, but public consciousness is on the rise for the greater good, such as renewable energy forms, and the remainder of 2020 could be crucial for the short-term renewable energy pipeline, depending on how the pandemic situation unfolds.
Ember, an independent climate think tank has published a new report showing that wind and solar power accounted for 10 percent of global electricity generation in the first six months of 2020. That represents significant progress to its reference point five years ago, when it accounted for just five percent.
Germany is leading the charge on this front globally, with wind and solar generating an impressive 42 percent of its electricity from January through June of this year. The United Kingdom has also made strides in recent years, clocking in at 33 percent. The world’s strongest economies still have work do with wind and solar generating 12 percent of U.S. electricity, along with 10 percent in China, India and Japan.
Statista highlighted some interesting trends on where wind and solar energy are thriving, and according to new data from climate think tank Ember, global electricity generated from solar and wind is up 19 percent and 11 percent, respectively.
Large countries like China, India, Russia and the U.S. are seeing massive production gains in wind and solar electricity. Russia has been particularly fond of renewable energy, with a 55 percent increase in solar electricity and an astounding 236 percent increase in wind electricity, with coal based energy forms seeing a dip almost across the board.
Countries across the world are noticeably moving away from the fossil fuel, however some analysts expect a plateau of new solar and wind farms to be reached soon. China continues to be the world’s leader in coal production and power but also leads the world in new renewable power installations, hydro dams and nuclear power plants.
As per the Renewables 2020 Global Status Report, installed renewable power capacity grew more than 200 GW in 2019 (mostly solar PV), the largest increase ever. For the fifth year in a row, net additions of renewable power generation capacity clearly outpaced net installations of fossil fuel and nuclear power capacity combined. Globally, 32 countries had at least 10 GW of renewable power capacity in 2019, up from only 19 countries a decade earlier. In most countries, producing electricity from wind and solar PV is now more cost effective than generating it from new coal-fired power plants. These cost declines have led to record-low bids in tendering processes, which became even more common during the year. However, competitive auctions have led to consolidation in some industries and have favoured larger multinational energy companies rather than smaller actors, including community-led groups.
Overall, installed renewable energy capacity was enough to provide an estimated 27.3% of global electricity generation by the end of 2019. Despite these advances, renewable electricity continued to face challenges in achieving a larger share of global electricity generation, due in part to persistent investment in fossil fuel (and nuclear) power capacity.
It’s not all gloom and doom though; India’s demand for renewable energy is expected to grow seven times by 2035, with renewable energy expected to comprise 8% of the country’s fuel mix by 2035. Some believe that solar power tariffs may fall further still, with experts clamoring for commercially viable energy storage solutions, which will help achieve grid stability. Thus, with renewables shining bright, it’s time to make the most of the opportunities before us, pandemic or not.