Renewable Energy Keeps Growing While Oil Companies Shrink

Solar panels on grass

Without a doubt all business have been negatively impacted by the pandemic with some being hit more than others. The dirty and climate-destroying fossil fuel industry has really been hit hard (unfortunately it’s the workers who have been hurt by this and not the lying executives) and the industry isn’t even benefiting from reduced gas prices at the pump. On the other hand renewable energy companies are doing fine with only a slow down and not an industry-stopping problem. Renewable energy growth is expected this year with more utilities investing in renewable instead of fossil fuel because renewable are still cheaper than carbon-intensive alternatives.

Even the decline in electricity use in recent weeks as businesses halted operations could help renewables, according to analysts at Raymond James & Associates. That’s because utilities, as revenue suffers, will try to get more electricity from wind and solar farms, which cost little to operate, and less from power plants fueled by fossil fuels.

“Renewables are on a growth trajectory today that I think isn’t going to be set back long term,” said Dan Reicher, the founding executive director of the Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University and an assistant energy secretary in the Clinton administration. “This will be a bump in the road.”

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Solar and Wind Outgrow Subsidies

solar
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.

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Wind Power is Now Cheaper than Gas

wind turbine

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.

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Costa Rica to Ban use of Fossil Fuels

forest and river

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.

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Living Off the Grid in a Major City

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.”

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