Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables

The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. And there’s no going back.

The shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels, according to an analysis presented Tuesday at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York. The shift will continue to accelerate, and by 2030 more than four times as much renewable capacity will be added.

“The electricity system is shifting to clean,” Michael Liebreich, founder of BNEF, said in his keynote address. “Despite the change in oil and gas prices there is going to be a substantial buildout of renewable energy that is likely to be an order of magnitude larger than the buildout of coal and gas.”

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The U.S. wind energy boom couldn’t be coming at a better time

Wind energy provides roughly 5 percent of U.S. demand.
Photo by: Ron Antonelli/Bloomberg

The Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, released last week, requires the country to use a lot more renewable energy by the year 2030 — and a lot less coal. And right on time, two new reports published Monday by the Department of Energy find that one key renewable sector — wind — is booming, a development that can only help matters when it comes to reducing carbon emissions.

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This will give you hope: Developing countries are racing to install wind and solar

“Emerging markets can deploy solar, wind  and other renewable technologies without costly grid infrastructure, making it possible for developing countries to leapfrog the 20th-century model of energy service provision and employ the 21st-century solution of distributed service delivery, as they have done successfully in the telecommunications sector,” notes the report.

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Hawaii Votes to Go 100% Renewable

…For Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, which set itself a 2040 deadline for relying solely on renewables, the switch is about rebuilding hope in the future. When I visited Koriyama, Fukushima’s commercial center, last year, the mayor, Masato Shinagawa, described renewable power as a “must-succeed mission” to rebuild a region shattered by the nuclear reactor meltdowns at TEPCO’s Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011. He called the resurgence of solar power in Japannothing less than the “Prometheus of the 21st Century.”

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