Renewable Energy Closing In On Natural Gas As Second-Largest Source Of Electricity Worldwide

Renewable energy will soon beat out natural gas as the second-largest source of electricity worldwide, according to projections from the International Energy Agency.

Electricity from solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable sources will increase by 40 percent in the next five years, making up about 25 percent of the world’s energy sources by 2018. Renewables will provide the second-largest amount of global electricity by 2016, topped only by coal, the number one supplier of electricity around the world. Today, hydropower dominates the renewable energy mix, supplying 80 percent of the world’s renewable electricity, but IEA projects non-hydro sources of renewable energy will double over the next five years, comprising about 8 percent of the world’s energy sources by 2018.

Lower costs are a major contributor to the spike in renewable energy — in many developing countries in Africa and Asia (and some developed ones, like Australia) renewables like wind are actually cheaper than coal. These costs are helping drive higher levels of investment in renewable energy from developing countries looking to meet rising energy demands. Reports published earlier this month found developing countries invested a total of $112 billion in renewable energy in 2012, an increase of 19 percent from the year before. China led the way in this area, upping its investment to $67 billion — an increase of nearly a quarter compared to 2011. The total invested by countries in the Middle East and Africa was much smaller — about $12 billion — but compared to 2011, their investment surged upward by 228 percent.

But renewable energy investment isn’t growing everywhere — it’s actually dropping off in developed nations. The IEA notes that despite the renewable sector’s rapid growth, worldwide subsidies for fossil fuels are still six times higher than subsidies for renewables (the U.S.’s spending reflects the world’s average — in 2011, U.S. fossil fuel subsidies were $523 billion, about six times higher than the $88 billion spent on renewable energy). President Obama pledged in his climate speech Tuesday to double the country’s wind and solar energy and to allow enough private renewable energy development on public lands to powqer 6 million homes by 2020. But governments in Europe, meanwhile, are cutting renewable energy subsidies as austerity measures take hold

Obama also addressed coal’s role in the U.S. energy mix on Tuesday, announcing he would be imposing limits on carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants in the U.S., as well as stopping government financing of coal plants overseas. Despite new investments in renewables, coal still dominates the energy market in developing countries like China and India. But its hold on the market may slowly be slipping. In a draft energy strategy statement, the World Bank revealed Thursday that it would be cutting back on the number of coal plants it finances, limiting its support to “rare circumstances where there are no feasible alternatives available to meet basic energy needs and other sources of financing are absent.”

24 Responses to Renewable Energy Closing In On Natural Gas As Second-Largest Source Of Electricity Worldwide

  1. BobbyL says:

    Shouldn’t it say coal is the number one supplier of electricity around the world not the number one supplier of energy? I believe oil is the number one supplier of energy and coal is a close second. Also, shouldn’t the title say “electricity” not “energy.” I find this very confusing.

  2. SecularAnimist says:

    Keep in mind that historically, IEA forecasts have consistently underestimated the growth of renewable energy.

  3. rollin says:

    That is all well and good, increases in renewables that is, but without a comprehensive plan to reduce consumption through efficiency and planning there in no hope of getting fossil fuels into a steep decline.

  4. BobbyL says:

    Thank you for the changes. Much clearer now.

  5. Superman1 says:

    There is one central metric; all non-essential uses of fossil fuel must be eliminated IMMEDIATELY if we are to have any chance of avoiding the cliff.

  6. Bill G says:

    That is true, but such action is not consistent with ‘growth’ since – for one – there is currently no alternative to oil product for transport. My thought is that we need to not worry about economic growth – which is always short-term (a la Keynes – “in the long run we’re all dead”) – and really focus on the physical efficiency of energy use and hopefully approach substantial reduction in fossil fuel use.

  7. SecularAnimist says:

    That’s what you demand of everyone else — but refuse to do yourself, even in cases where it’s easy, inexpensive, and actually beneficial.

    There’s a word for that.

  8. katy says:

    check out the daily show interview of Josh Fox, Gasland Part II, from the other night… Fox told of President Obama meeting with all the energy company heads when working on the energy policy, and said he wishes the prez would meet with the families who are being affected by all the fracking, the burning water and rise of disease…
    oh hell yes!

  9. taxideinae says:

    By far, the cheapest source of energy IS not using it in the first place… ie. Energy Efficiency. We need a world wide effort to eliminate Wasted Energy.
    We can avoid the “Climate Change Cliff” by using less fossil fuels…but we must also Sequester the CO2 from the air into our top soil. Check out Allan Savory’s Ted Talk

  10. gerald says:

    Maybe its time the “Developed” world followed the example of resource poor countries who are forced to innovate in order to survive.Because one day we all will be.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Hopefully approaching’ substantial reduction in fossil fuel use will not cut the mustard at this late stage. We require total decarbonisation as fast as humanly possible, so we need the fossil fuel trillions in ‘assets’ will have to be rendered valueless. Or we, and our children, can just perish. A simple choice, I would have thought.

  12. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Coal is becoming less valuable but far too slowly. Nevertheless, ‘poor’ old Tinkler had to sell his race horses, ME

  13. sandyh says:

    I’ve been noticing a few houses in the neighborhood getting new roofs and also installing solar panels. Conservatives had been telling us that all those companies went out of business. I guess they were wrong about that, too?

  14. Superman1 says:

    You start by eliminating ALL fossil fuel applications that are non-essential TODAY. Then, you make the remaining applications more efficient. The first can be done immediately, the second can take from a modest to a long time, depending on how much R&D is required.

  15. Turboblocke says:

    Keep in mind when people demand “growth” that the economy is a subset of the environment.

  16. taxideinae says:

    GROWTH…ahh…there’s the rub. Some growth is Good and necessary. Gardens and Babies for example.

    Some Growth is NOT GOOD. Urban sprawl and tumors for example.

    Growth is being touted by economists as the Solution to all of our economic problems. This is crazy talk…and not sustainable.IMHO

  17. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Everything neo-liberal ‘economists’ utter is ‘crazy talk’. ‘Rational expectations’, ‘perfect knowledge’, ‘Invisible Hands’, ‘comparative advantage’, ‘the Magic of compound interest (that’s the killer)’ etc. A cult, with ritualistic cultic beliefs and the cult’s intolerance of apostasy.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    That’s a very acute observation Mulga. The economic rationalist school which now appears dominant is indeed a cult. Even a hint of defection is treated very harshly as I learnt recently from a highly respected old academic friend, ME

  19. Brian Smith says:

    ..and yet ecological economics, ala Herman Daly, has been developing in the background for 40 years. Wikipedia:

    “Ecological economics is referred to as both a transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary field of academic research that aims to address the interdependence and coevolution of human economies and natural ecosystems over time and space.”

    Which, being a tool for describing a co-evolving relationship with nature that is totally at odds with the capitalist end game, is kept backstage and off-air. How many Americans even have an inkling that the destruction of nature is leading to the collapse in value of everything they hold dear? That failure to stabilize world ecological systems will cost them a lot more than just their homes and jobs. I don’t know if we have a chance against deep ignorance; not enough is being done about it.

  20. Brian Smith says:

    “..eliminating ALL fossil fuel applications that are non-essential…can be done immediately”.

    Really? How does that actually, not theoretically, happen? Even Superman needs nuts & bolts on occasion, yes?

  21. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Hang in there mate, it isn’t all over yet. Sanity is gaining ground all over the world and when it flips, that’s it. We will see the monsters off, albeit with huge casulties, but we will prevail, ME

  22. Dr.A.Jagadeesh says:

    Yes. Renewables will move much faster than before.
    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India