Patchy Progress

In the twelve years that I have been writing this blog I have repeatedly argued that the switch to 100% renewables is necessary to combat the climate emergency, and with the right policy incentives it could be achieved relatively quickly and with multiple other benefits. I have consistently made the case that solar power would be the major power source for most of humanity.

The above graph shows how over the last decade solar power, and to a lesser extent wind power, have come to dominate new installations of electricity generation globally. The annual rate of solar installations rose from 32 GigaWatts in 2012 to 182 GW in 2021, more than a fivefold increase. Many commentators are predicting that by 2030 annual additions of solar power will be over 1 TW (ie 1,000 GW), again, more than a five-fold increase within a decade.

Global demand for energy continues to increase, almost totally driven by rising demand in the rapidly developing nations of the global south. Over this last decade we have seen the collapse of coal in Europe and North America, mainly displaced by wind and solar. Over the coming decade we will probably see the global decline of coal, followed by declines in gas and oil. There are many technical developments and changes happening in the world that point the way to a renewably powered future. Over the coming months I intend to write a number of blogs about some of these extraordinary and relatively poorly reported trends.

Progress is usually a very uneven process. Whether it is issues of economic equality and well functioning governance or the roll out of renewable energy technology some countries are making tremendous progress and others are not. Russia and Estonia have similar climates and potential to develop renewables and, until 1991, were part of the same system of governance. The difference between them now is staggering. Russia has one of the worst governments in the world and Estonia one of the best. This is reflected in everything from rates of literacy to life expectancy, from the elimination of poverty to their ability to peacefully co-operate with their neighbours. It is also reflected in their energy policies: Russia has virtually no renewable energy development while Estonia has just increased its’ 2030 target for renewable electricity, from 40% to 100%.

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