The Renewable Energy Revolution
Renewable Energy Is a Massive Market
Energy, the world’s largest industry, is undergoing a massive shift. We are shifting the way we fuel our lives, from a contaminating fossil fuel system to a clean renewable one.
Not only is the market large, it’s growing fast.
Since the Industrial Revolution, fossil fuels have been our main source of energy. Nowadays, more renewable energy capacity is being installed each year than coal, oil, and natural gas combined.
This shift will continue to accelerate. It is expected that by 2030, more than four times as much renewable energy will be added each year.
In the next 25 years, onshore wind is expected to increase a five-fold, utility-scale solar PV a 24-fold, and off-shore wind a 25-fold. As a result, record investments are being made in this industry, generating millions of jobs and economic prosperity. And in turn, saving our planet from catastrophic climate catastrophes.
Energy has become the backbone of modern economies.
We use energy as an input for nearly all goods and services, and, therefore, plays a major role in job creation and economic growth. It should come as no surprise then, that the energy industry is the world’s largest industry, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. In the past 25 years, energy demand has grown by more than 50%.
As more people enter the middle class, energy demand is expected to grow by 70% in the next 25 years.
Meeting these demands will require a significant energy infrastructure investment. More exactly, approximately $68 trillion will be invested in the energy sector in the next 25 years.
How are we going to meet these demands?
The problem is that since the Industrial Revolution took off in the 18th century, our energy needs have mostly been fueled by dirty fossil fuels.
These fossil fuels are already having significant costly effects on our planet and our communities, including health problems caused by air and water pollution and environmental degradation resulting from global warming.
Globally, an estimated 5.5 million people die each year due to contaminated air, much of it due to fossil fuel combustion (CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use make up about 2/3 of global GHG emissions).
Given that approximately 50 million people die every year, air pollution accounts for 10% of all deaths.
Assets at risk due to a heating planet
Global warming is accelerating the average global sea level rising rate. This poses severe flooding and asset loss threats to coastal and low altitude cities.
This chart shows the cities with the most to lose due to asset exposure caused by rising sea levels.
2 Degrees To Avoid Dangerous Climate Change
According to scientists, if we want to avoid climate catastrophe caused by global warming (more than we already have), the planet’s global surface temperature can’t be allowed to rise more than 2 °C (3.6 °F) above pre-industrial levels.
In order to do this, we have to cut carbon emissions drastically and stop burning fossil fuels to power our lives and our economies.
What better place to do it than the #1 contributor of CO2 emissions of the planet? And guess who that is?
Yes, you guessed it. The energy industry just happens to be the largest contributor of CO2 emissions of the planet and consequently, the biggest climate polluter.
The good news is that today, we have a choice
We can keep on investing in hazardous ways to fuel our economy and burn our planet down in the process, or we can ditch our fossil fuel dependency and switch to a clean and renewable energy system.
A system that will improve the quality of life of millions, make our climate more stable, our energy supply more secure, and our economy more competitive.
Such a shift is possible. In fact, it’s already happening
Shifting our economy’s fuel from fossil based to renewables is an enormous challenge, but the shift is already underway.
Investments in clean energy have grown rapidly in the past few years
Starting in 2013, investments in renewable energy generation worldwide surpassed fossil fuel investments for the first time and the gap has been widening ever since.
And for the first time ever, there were more new solar energy systems installed than new natural gas plants in the U.S. last year.
In the case of wind energy, the installed capacity grew 17% worldwide in 2015, surpassing nuclear energy for the first time.
The projections for the future are even more dramatic
Just in the U.S., the solar industry is expected to grow 119% this year.
And this is despite the fact that fossil fuel consumption is being subsidized over four times the value of subsidies to renewable energy. This isn’t even taking into account the health and environmental costs. If these were accounted for, the cost of fossil fuel subsidies would increase ten times more per year.
These figures show how clean energy investments are soaring throughout the world.
Is this enough to avoid crossing the 2-degree threshold?
The issue is that despite record levels of investments and deployment in the renewable energy sector, it’s growth is still not fast enough to keep global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels in the coming decades
If we want to avoid the worst effects of global warming by not crossing the 2-degree mark, we will need to invest $12.1 trillion in new renewable energy infrastructure over the next 25 years, or about $484 billion per year on average.
Renewables attracted $329 billion of investment last year, so we’re still a little short.
This means that there is a huge opportunity to increase renewable energy investments and fully bridge the gap.
It is up to us to fulfill the growing energy demand in the coming years with clean sources that foster development but not at the expense of our health and our environment.
This is part 1 of a 4 part series explaining why the Renewable Energy Revolution is going on, it’s advantages, and the different ways you can get involved.