A common refrain from people opposed to renewable energy sources like solar and wind is that they are unreliable because they only generate power when the sun is up or the wind blows.
It is a constant complaint. I’ve been reporting on energy issues for years now, and I remember a utility executive in Florida dismissing solar power because, despite its official nickname, the “Sunshine State,” the place can be partly cloudy at times.
But here’s some good news: These attitudes have not hindered the continued growth of renewable energy, according to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Renewals with new capabilities are now in the future.
A new report by the agency, which helps governments transition away from fossil fuels, shows that renewable energy will dominate new energy production globally. And despite its critics, solar power is leading the way.
In the year By 2021, renewables will account for 81 percent of new electricity capacity (including all new plants and other energy-generating infrastructure), according to the agency’s report. That compares to 79 percent in 2020. Over the same two-year period, renewables increased from more than 38 percent (all infrastructure, new and old) to less than 37 percent.
But: most actual electricity still comes from fossil fuels.
Overall, fossil fuels continue to account for most of the energy we use. And new carbon-intensive plants are being added in places like Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Reducing fossil fuel use and developing more renewables in Africa is expected to be a major focus of COP27, the international climate summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Reason for optimism?
I spoke with Doug Vine, director of energy analysis for the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, a group focused on accelerating the global transition to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, about the report. He said he was encouraged by conservation.
“It’s true that we’re seeing a decline in new coal and natural gas, but there are still a lot of existing coal plants and natural gas plants,” Wynn said. He noted that in some countries like India and China, 70 percent or more of the alloy is still fossil. We must either structurally change the system or retire it.
Part of the appeal of coal and natural gas units is their ability to provide power on demand, regardless of the weather or time of day. In addition, they were among the cheapest sources of electricity in the past.
Solving the security problem.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shown that the economic viability of fossil fuels such as natural gas is losing out to solar and wind power price wars.
The same utility executive in Florida who dismissed solar a decade ago told me privately at the time that electricity was a “holy stream” of cheap, long-lasting storage—a statement everyone in the energy industry still agrees with. with. Better battery technology will further enable the development of solar and wind power and ultimately solve what some believe is a reliability problem.
Solar will lead renewable energy growth with more than half of new capacity, 133 gigawatts of 257 total renewables in 2021. Wind power was second, confirming a long-term trend. Although hydroelectric power provides the largest percentage of renewable electricity capacity, it contributes just over 7 percent of new renewable energy generation.
Still, Vine said renewable energy growth would need to accelerate to three or four times the current annual rate by 2030 to meet global climate goals. Last month, the Solar Energy Industries Association announced that solar power is ready to play its part. According to the association, it will triple from 129 solar power plants today to 336 gigawatts by 2027.
Similarly, renewables are facing strong headwinds from global supply chain shortages, regulatory hurdles and construction delays brought on by Covid-19 in obtaining permits.
And some of the breakthroughs in renewables include the retirement of nuclear power plants around the world—the biggest loss in electricity since the technology’s ability to generate large amounts of power per hour.
“There are a lot of challenges,” Vine said. One of the things we want to see is the world getting back to normal.
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Your opinion: Beware of bears.
Sybil Hecktel of Boulder, Colo., responded to our newsletter about composting.
I liked the article about composting. However, they mention rats and raccoons, but in the West (Colorado, California, etc.) we have a different animal problem: bears! Bears try to open compost containers, and if the city composts, they need bear-compost containers. They also require bear-proof garbage disposals in bear-prone areas. We have a bear that frequents our backyard so I am very careful about what goes into the compost.
Strong advice. If you live in bear country, keep those compost bins sealed. Also, keep an eye on the parcels on your front porch. And bears like those.
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The Biodiversity Crisis; Emperor penguins are listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act because their sea ice habitat is shrinking.
Who blew the pipe? Denmark, Germany and Sweden are investigating sabotage of the Baltic Sea gas pipeline.
How to protect your home: Tips for homeowners and renters to help reduce damage from increasingly frequent weather events.
Outside of The Times
Before you go: When life is built around ice
In the Pacific Northwest, glaciers and two large volcanic glaciers have fed rivers for generations, a seasonal balance that has shaped businesses, communities and cultures. But the reliability of the snow has fallen due to climate change. Some residents see days of despair ahead. Others say that local strictness and adaptive cultures get in the way.
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Manuela Androni, Claire O’Neill and Douglas Alten contributed to Climate Forward. Read past issues of the newsletter here.
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