Burlington Vermont Now 100% Powered by Renewable

The community of Burlington, Vermont have gotten their power grid to be fully renewable – they are so good at it that they can sell surplus energy to other places. Burlington is known for being a progressive place and they are clearly leading the renewable energy path in the USA. It’s the first city to be 100% powered by renewable energy in the country.

Burlington, Vermont, the state’s largest city, recently became the first in the country to use 100 percent renewable energy for its residents’ electricity needs. In a state known for socially conscious policies, the feat represents a milestone in the growing green energy movement. NewsHour’s William Brangham reports on the implications for the country’s green movement.

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Renewable Energy Use Grows Fastest in Poor Countries

Renewable resources are good for the environment, good for remote areas, and don’t need expensive infrastructure. All of these benefits of renewable power generation have led poorer countries to embrace distributed renewable energy!

The boom in renewables is often made for economic reasons, Ethan Zindler, a Washington-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said in an interview. An island nation like Jamaica, where wholesale power costs about $300 a megawatt-hour, could generate electricity from solar panels for about half as much. Similarly, wind power in Nicaragua may be half as expensive as traditional energy.

“Clean energy is the low-cost option in a lot of these countries,” Zindler said by telephone. “The technologies are cost-competitive right now. Not in the future, but right now.”

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Renewable Energy Capacity Comparable to Nuclear

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The future is looking better and better for renewable energy production and recently the capacity for renewable energy is comparable to nuclear. Nuclear energy saw great progress and governmental support to get it where it is today; without such extensive help renewable energy production is now catching up.

Seeing the success of renewables will hopefully inspire more governments to create policies to support ongoing growth. The logistical issues of storage are still being figured out by utilities and as we’ve recently seen, investors are more interested in this sector than ever before.

Following a rapid rise from its beginnings in the mid-1950s, global nuclear power generating capacity peaked at 375.3 gigawatts (GW) in 2010. Capacity has since declined to 371.8 GW in 2013, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Adverse economics, concern about reactor safety and proliferation, and the unresolved question of what to do with nuclear waste have put the brakes on the industry.

In stark contrast, wind and solar power generating capacities are now on the same soaring trajectory that nuclear power was on in the 1970s and 1980s. Wind capacity of 320 GW in 2013 is equivalent to nuclear capacity in 1990. The 140 GW in solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity is still considerably smaller, but growing rapidly.

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Investors: Good Economics is Taking Action on Climate Change

It’s no secret that carbon trade, carbon caps, and various other policy tools improve economies and diminish negative environmental impacts caused by economic activity. Yet, the myth that having a sustainable economy isn’t possible with a growing economy.

Environmentalists have been arguing for better policy and enforcement for decades, and now global investors are also arguing for the same thing. Hopefully with this announcement and others from the recent UN Summit on Climate Change we will see good movement on improving our economy and planet.

“The international investor community has today made it clear that the status quo on climate policy is not acceptable,” said Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change. “Investors are taking action on climate change, from direct investment in renewables to company engagement and reducing exposure to carbon risk.”

“But to invest in low carbon energy at the scale we need requires stronger policies.”

The world’s total renewable energy capacity grew at its fastest pace ever in 2013, but global investment in renewable energy still only amounted to $254 billion in 2013. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that global investment in renewables much reach $1 trillion every year from now until 2050 if the global temperatures are to be kept from rising more than 2°C — the threshold beyond which scientists think climate change will get truly catastrophic. But the IEA anticipates global investment will instead plateau around $230 billion annually through 2020. Bloomberg New Energy Finance thinks two-thirds of the $7.7 trillion the world will likely invest in power plants between now and 2030 could go to renewables — but that still falls well short of the mark.

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Solar Power Rising in the Gulf

2013 saw great things happen on the Arabian Peninsula in relation to energy production. The region has invested heavily in installing solar power plants and reducing their own reliance on oil (so they can export more). In fact, the UAE is looking to start export in renewable energy!

For the Gulf’s solar industry, 2013 was a year of firsts: In addition to the opening of Abu Dhabi’s Shams 1 plant, Dubai’s first solar power plant became operational, and Kuwait and Oman decided to build their first as well. In Saudi Arabia, one energy analyst found the cost of generating electricity from solar there had become as cheap as generating electricity from oil-fired power plants.

Saudi’s solar goals appear to be the most gung-ho in the region: The kingdom has announced that it plans to throw down $109bn on solar energy and get one-third of its power from the sun by 2032. This target is “too ambitious”, said Hussam Khonkar of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, but added the technology to do so is available.

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