2022: The Turning Point in Renewables
“A new era of falling fossil emissions means the coal power phase down will happen, and the end of gas power growth is now within sight. Change is coming fast. However, it all depends on the actions taken now by governments, businesses and citizens to put the world on a pathway to clean power by 2040,” according to Małgorzata Wiatros-Motyka, lead author of the new research. The report was published by Ember.
2023: More Growth in Wind & Solar
China is the one big question mark, as they keep building new coal plants in China. The Chinese government needs to embrace wind and solar in their new growth plans.
What are the Renewable Energy Types?
- Solar Energy: Solar energy is the energy generated from sunlight. Solar panels, made up of photovoltaic (PV) cells, convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity, which can be used to power homes, buildings, and even vehicles. The overall cost of solar energy has significantly decreased in recent years and continues to decline, making it an increasingly affordable renewable energy option. However, solar panels require a large amount of space to be installed and may not work as efficiently on cloudy days.
- Wind Energy: Wind energy is generated by the rotation of wind turbines. The kinetic energy from the wind turns the blades of the turbines, which then generate electricity through a generator. The overall cost of wind energy has also decreased in recent years, and it is now one of the most cost-effective renewable energy sources. However, wind turbines can be noisy and require a lot of land to be installed.
- Hydro Energy: Hydro energy is generated from the movement of water, which is used to turn turbines and generate electricity. Hydro energy can be generated from dams, run-of-the-river systems, and tidal energy. The overall cost of hydro energy is moderate, with the cost of installation being the primary expense. However, the construction of dams can have a significant impact on the environment and the ecosystems that rely on water systems.
- Geothermal Energy: Geothermal energy is generated from the heat of the earth's core. The heat is used to generate steam, which turns turbines and generates electricity. The overall cost of geothermal energy is relatively high, but it has the potential to be one of the most reliable renewable energy sources since it is not dependent on weather conditions. However, geothermal energy is only available in certain areas and may require drilling deep into the earth's surface.
- Biomass Energy: Biomass energy is generated from the organic matter in plants and waste materials. This organic matter is burned to produce steam, which turns turbines and generates electricity. The overall cost of biomass energy is moderate, but it is not a sustainable energy source since it involves the burning of materials that release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- Ocean Energy: Ocean energy can be generated from the motion of waves, tides, and currents. This energy is harnessed through different technologies such as buoys, turbines, and oscillating water columns. The overall cost of ocean energy is relatively high, and the technology is still in the early stages of development, making it one of the least commercially viable renewable energy options. Additionally, the installation of ocean energy devices may have environmental impacts on marine life.
Each type of renewable energy has its own unique benefits and limitations. Solar and wind energy are becoming increasingly affordable, while hydro energy remains moderately priced. Geothermal energy is one of the most reliable sources of renewable energy, but it is only available in certain areas. Biomass energy is not sustainable, and ocean energy is still in the early stages of development.
The Problem with Coal Continues
Coal plants emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. They also emit other harmful pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter, which can cause respiratory problems, heart disease, and other health issues.
In addition to air pollution, coal plants also have significant environmental impacts on water and land. Coal-fired power plants consume vast amounts of water for cooling, which can have negative effects on local water resources, aquatic ecosystems, and fish populations. Coal mining, which is required to fuel these plants, can also lead to deforestation, soil erosion, and land degradation.
Furthermore, the construction and operation of coal plants can have negative impacts on nearby communities. Coal-fired power plants can generate noise, produce hazardous waste, and emit pollutants that can harm the health of nearby residents.
The continued construction of new coal plants in China, along with the existing coal-fired power plants, poses a significant challenge for global efforts to address climate change. The burning of coal is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and reducing these emissions is crucial to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The continued construction of new coal plants in China is a significant environmental problem that contributes to global climate change and air pollution, as well as water and land degradation, and health problems for nearby communities.
What will we see in 2024 and Beyond?
- Solar Energy: The cost of solar panels has been steadily declining, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. As a result, we can expect to see continued growth in solar installations globally. In particular, developing countries are expected to be significant contributors to this growth, as they seek to increase access to electricity while also reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.
- Wind Energy: Wind energy is another renewable energy source that is expected to continue growing. As technology improves, wind turbines are becoming more efficient and can generate electricity in lower wind speeds. Additionally, offshore wind farms are becoming increasingly popular, as they can take advantage of stronger and more consistent winds. We can expect to see more offshore wind projects being developed in the coming years, particularly in Europe and Asia.
- Electric Vehicles: The growth of renewable energy is closely tied to the growth of electric vehicles (EVs). As the cost of batteries continues to decline, we can expect to see more affordable EVs being introduced to the market, which will increase demand for renewable energy to power these vehicles. Additionally, as more charging infrastructure is built, consumers will have greater confidence in the reliability of EVs and be more likely to switch to electric transportation.
Looking at the decline of fossil fuels, we can expect to see a continued shift away from these energy sources as countries and companies set more aggressive emissions reduction targets. Here are three examples of what we can expect in the decline of fossil fuels:
- Coal: Coal is expected to continue its decline as countries shift towards cleaner sources of energy. In particular, we can expect to see more countries announcing plans to phase out coal-fired power plants and transition to renewable energy sources. Additionally, financial institutions are increasingly divesting from coal, which will make it more difficult for coal companies to secure financing.
- Oil: The demand for oil is expected to decline in the coming years as more countries adopt policies to reduce carbon emissions and transition towards electric vehicles. However, while the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote work, which reduced the demand for transportation and thus the demand for oil, that trend is disappearing as more and more people are once again commuting to work.
- Natural Gas: While natural gas is often seen as a "bridge fuel" to a cleaner energy system, it is also expected to decline in the coming years. As renewable energy sources become more cost-competitive and battery storage technology improves, the need for natural gas as a backup source of energy will decrease. Additionally, concerns around methane leakage during extraction and transportation are likely to increase scrutiny on the use of natural gas.