Renewable energy systems used to need subsidies to be competitive with the even more subsidized fossil fuel energy systems. Today, despite the fact that globally USD$5.2 trillion was spent on fossil fuel subsidies in one year, non-subsidized solar and wind are cheaper than fossil fuels. This is really impressive given the relatively small size of renewables being used over the last decade. With more solar and wind installations being built the economics of renewable energy is only getting better.
Perhaps nowhere is the push toward subsidy-free clean energy clearer than on arid expanses of Southern Europe. About 750 megawatts of subsidy-free clean-energy projects are expected to connect to the grid in 2019 alone, across Spain, Italy, Portugal and elsewhere — enough to power about 333,000 households, according to Pietro Radoia, an analyst at BNEF.
“The cheapest way of producing electricity in Spain is the sun,” Jose Dominguez Abascal, the nation’s secretary of state for energy, said last year.
Renewable energy just kept getting cheaper and cheaper despite ongoing subsides for the oil and gas industries. This is really good to see as people who only care about short term economic energy decisions will have to start to advocate for renewable energy. The decrease in cost for renewable wind power can be attributed to bigger blades and better energy grid management. This means that not only is wind power cheaper, the better grid management can lead to other renewable sources getting cheaper too.
In the US, the prices for wind power had risen up until 2009, when power purchase agreements for wind-generated electricity peaked at about $70 per MegaWatt-hour. Since then, there’s been a very steady decline, and 2018 saw the national average fall below $20/MW-hr for the first time. Again, there’s regional variation with the Great Plains seeing the lowest prices, in some cases reaching the mid-teens.
That puts wind in an incredibly competitive position. The report uses an estimate of future natural gas prices that show an extremely gradual rise of about $10/MW-hr out to 2050. But natural gas—on its own, without considering the cost of a plant to burn it for electricity—is already over $20/MW-hr. That means wind sited in the center of the US is already cheaper than fueling a natural gas plant, and wind sited elsewhere is roughly equal.
Back in 2015 Costa Rica ran on only renewable energy for the first quarter of the year, and since then they have improved. The country now regularly runs their power grid using only renewable sources and their new president wants to take that to the next level. The government announced that the long-term goal of Costa Rica is to decarbonize their entire energy consumption. Yes that means cars, boats, and anything else that currently consume fossil fuels.
“Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first,” said Alvarado, a former journalist and political scientist.
At 38, making him Costa Rica’s youngest ever president, Alvarado is keen to lead the way in environmental initiatives as “the world’s decarbonization laboratory,” meeting the demands of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Most people think living off the grid means living the countryside with your own well, reenable energy, and food source. The truth is that style of off the grid requires massive space to work (for example, a well needs a large area to collect water from), so that rural off the grid doesn’t work for everyone.
What is a person living in the city to do to get off the grid though?
Back in the 90s there was a competition throughout Canada to figure that out. One winner is still living in his house that is off the grid in Toronto.
“We promised to make the house self-sufficient and not use any non-renewable fuel,” Paloheimo said.
“Despite the home’s high-tech appearance, most of the products and systems are simple and straightforward,” said Chris Ives, CMHC project manager, said in a Toronto Healthy House report published after the house was built.
“Off-grid houses do not necessarily require hours of labour for upkeep. In fact, everything in the house is easy to maintain and available in today’s marketplace.”
Renewable energy production is growing more every year and 2016 was no exception to that growth. In 2016 capacity of renewables increased by 8.7% and for the first time solar growth outpaced wind energy. Unsurprisingly the majority of the growth occurred in Asia seeing 58% of global growth happening in that one continent. Africa saw their installation of renewable energy sources per year double to 4GW of new capacity. These numbers all come from a report released today by the International Renewable Energy Agency.
This reenable growth is great to see! With the coal plants being shutdown in every major economy (except the USA) we should see this growth in capacity of renewable energy production continue! Cleaner air for all.
“We are witnessing an energy transformation taking hold around the world, and this is reflected in another year of record breaking additions in new renewable energy capacity,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin. “This growth in deployment emphasizes the increasingly strong business case for renewables which also have multiple socio-economic benefits in terms of fueling economic growth, creating jobs and improving human welfare and the environment. But accelerating this momentum will require additional investment in order to move decisively towards decarbonising the energy sector and meet climate objectives. This new data is an encouraging sign that though there is much yet to do, we are on the right path,” Mr. Amin added.