Sunday, June 26, 2016

Renewable Energy Surges to Record Levels Around the World

Renewable Energy Surges to Record Levels Around the World
BBC News, 1 June 2016, by Matt McGrath

This article presents evidence from a recent study, the Renewables Global Status Report, for acceleration toward adoption of green energy worldwide.  According to the article, in 2015 several milestones were reached: (1) new green energy sources were added at the fastest rate ever, (2) investment in green energy was more than double investment in new coal and gas plants, (3) the developing world spent more on green energy than the developed world, and (4) over 8 million people were employed by the green energy sector.  This is attributed mainly to falling costs for wind and solar.

My take: Overall, it’s clear that investment in solar and wind is increasing rapidly, and this is doubtless good news.  However, I find this article to be rather unbalanced.  Biodiesel, fuel ethanol, and hydro appear to be lumped in as “green” or “renewable” even though there are many issues with those energy sources that make them problematic, whereas nuclear is apparently not included (a pet peeve of mine).  Another problem is that China accounts for more than a third of all of the green energy installed in 2015, according to the article – but China's reporting of statistics is known to be extremely inaccurate and biased.  Even if true, the claim that China’s large investment in green energy says something about the developing world as a whole seems misleading.  Furthermore, the article’s claim that “the economic case is now fully there” for solar and wind seems overblown given that they are still heavily subsidized, or even mandated, in many markets.  Finally, the article says nothing about problems posed by this rapid buildout, such as intermittency, pricing issues caused by intermittency, and inadequate grid technology.  I should emphasize again that I think this is a good news overall; I am just providing some skepticism to counter what seems to me to be a strong bias in the article.

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