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THE COST OF RENEWABLE ENERGY VERSUS FOSSIL FUELS

Renewable energy—wind, solar, hydroelectricity and geothermal energy—is growing steadily worldwide. Countries leading the way in renewable energy include:

Iceland
Sweden
Costa Rica
Nicaragua
the U.K
Germany
Uruguay
China

GOING 100 PER CENT RENEWABLE BY 2050

Some countries have set targets and goals to be run by 100 per cent renewable energy in the near future. At a 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference, nearly 50 countries agreed to only use renewable energy by 2050. Countries like the Philippines and Colombia pledged to make their energy production 100 per cent renewable between 2030 and 2050, at the latest. The U.S. and Canada, however, are slowly catching up to the countries with such pledges that are leading the way. In the U.S. last year (2017), about 18 per cent of all electricity was from renewable sources. In Canada, the amount is about the same at 18.9 per cent, according to the Government of Canada.

tall wind turbine in Toronto shapes cityscape traffic long exposure motion blur car harbor water sunset moon skyscraper background

BARRIERS TO RENEWABLE ENERGY

Many agree more renewable energy is indeed worth striving for. But there are barriers stopping more renewable energy from being produced. One of those major barriers is cost. According to a U.S.-based organization, the bulk of renewable energy costs come from building the technology in the first place. A new natural gas plant might have costs around $1,000/kW (kilowatts are a measure of power capacity). While the average cost to install a solar system ranges from $2,000/kW to almost $3,700 for residential systems. Wind costs around $1,200 to $1,700/kW, according to the organization.

Cost is also an issue when it comes to transmission of the electricity—the power lines and infrastructure needed to move electricity from where it’s generated to where it’s consumed. Wind and solar farms aren’t all sited near old non-renewable power plants. This means that new systems need to be set up. Other barriers to renewable energy include market entry and political/government support.

Solar Power Plant in modern city,Sustainable Renewable Energy.

IS RENEWABLE ENERGY CHEAPER IN THE LONG-RUN?

New research shows that, in the long-run, renewable energy is more cost effective than non-renewable energy. Company Lazard considered costs over the lifespan of energy projects and found wind and utility-scale solar can be the least expensive energy generating sources. As of 2017, the cost (before tax credits that would further drop the costs) of wind power was $30-60 per megawatt-hour (a measure of energy). Large-scale solar costs are $43-53/MWh. For comparison: energy from the most efficient type of natural gas plants costs $42-78/MWh. Coal power costs at least $60/MWh.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reports that costs for renewable energy is down. In a recent report, IRENA noted that solar photovoltaic (PV) panels are more than 80 per cent cheaper than in 2009. In addition, electricity costs from solar photovoltaic panels fell by almost three-quarters from 2010-2017. IRENA notes their costs continue to decline.

Depending on the market, wind turbine prices have also fallen by about half over a similar period. These price drops are leading to cheaper wind power globally. By 2020, the renewable power generation technologies now in use will be at the lower end of the fossil-fuel cost range, or even cheaper than fossil fuels.

Although renewable energy is growing, it still needs extra investment up front in comparison to non-renewable energy. Many countries—and individuals—see the benefit of investing now for a more sustainable and greener future.

World’s biggest coal company closes 37 mines as solar power’s influence grows

The largest coal mining company in the world has announced it will close 37 mines because they are no longer economically viable.

Coal India, which produces around 82 per cent of India’s coal, said the mines would be decommissioned by March 2018.

The closures, of around 9 per cent of the state-run firm’s sites, will reportedly save around 8,000,000,000 rupees (£98m).

India’s solar sector has received heavy international investment, and the plummeting price of solar electricity has increased pressure on fossil fuel companies in the country.

The government has announced it will not build any more coal plants after 2022 and predicts renewables will generate 57 per cent of its power by 2027 – a pledge far outstripping its commitment in the Paris climate change agreement.

Plans for nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – about the same as the total amount in the UK – were scrapped in May, signalling a seismic shift in the India’s energy market.

Analyst Tim Buckley said the move away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in the country would have “profound” implications on global energy markets.

“Measures taken by the Indian government to improve energy efficiency coupled with ambitious renewable energy targets and the plummeting cost of solar has had an impact on existing as well as proposed coal fired power plants, rendering an increasing number as financially unviable,” he said.

“India’s solar tariffs have literally been free falling in recent months.”

A report in February by Delhi-based research group, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), found that if the cost of renewable energy continued to fall at the same rate, India could phase out coal completely by 2050.

Renewables cut Europe’s carbon emissions by 10% in 2015, says EEA

A surge in the use of wind and solar energy helped Europe to cut its fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by about 10% in 2015, an authoritative new report has found.

Energy use from renewables rose to 16.7% of Europe’s total, up from 15% in 2013, and accounted for 77% of the continent’s new power capacity.

But the clean energy burst is still not moving fast enough to prevent a “lock-in” of already-commissioned fossil fuel capacity, which will otherwise transform into stranded assets.

It was also unevenly spread across Europe, with renewables expanding to take up 30% of the power load in many Scandinavian countries, but only 5% in Malta.

The UK had Europe’s seventh best record for the intensity of its greenhouse gas emissions, but was a mid-table performer in terms of emissions per capita, according to figures compiled by the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Mihai Tomescu, who authored the EEA study, said Europe’s renewable roll-out was accelerating, but not fast enough to halt global warming at 2C.

“The current level of effort needs to be stepped up and this is not necessarily going to happen without additional focus,” he told the Guardian.

The EEA’s report suggests that the EU is broadly on track to achieve its goals of 20% emissions cuts and 20% renewable energy share by 2020.

But a more challenging target for 2050 – of reducing emissions by at least 80% – will require acceleration after 2030, when tough decisions about phasing out internal combustion engines and oil supplies will have to be taken.

James Watson, the chief executive of SolarPower Europe, which represents Europe’s solar photovoltaic industry, said that today’s figures were in line with a 50GW spike in global solar capacity last year.

“This is a good start and we must be positive about that but if we are truly to meet our obligations under the Paris agreement, we will need to see a much faster growth of renewables and a commensurate, much faster reduction of fossil fuels, and coal power in particular,” he said.

Renewables have replaced 100m tonnes of oil equivalent electricity generation this decade, but will only need to replace 20m tonnes in the 10 years ahead, according to SolarPower Europe’s analysis.

Tomescu noted that Europe’s growth in renewable energy was already coinciding with a drop in fossil fuel consumption. “In broad terms, we are talking about a substitution and this has an impact not only on import dependency but also avoided greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.