Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal As World’s #1 New Source Of Power

8 months ago by Mark Kane 33

Wind turbines and plug-in hybrid MINI

Wind turbines and plug-in hybrid MINI

The International Energy Agency significantly raised its five-year renewable growth forecast after 2015 new installations data positively surprised.

Nissan switches on solar farm to power UK car production (including LEAF)

Nissan switches on solar farm to power UK car production (including LEAF)

The growing market for renewable energy sources is an important factor also for the electric car market, as it is the main way for plug-ins to achieve near true zero emission transportation.

Both strong policies to install new wind and solar energy projects, as well as sharp cost reductions, enabled renewables to overtake coal as largest source of installed power capacity in the world for 2015.

In 2015 some 153 GW of renewables (including 66 GW wind and 49 GW solar) were added – which was 15% more than in 2014.

Renewables are also to be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation over the next five years, increasing its market share from 23% in 2015 to 28% in 2021.

Some more information on the changing tide of energy sourcing:

“The latest edition of the IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Market Report now sees renewables growing 13% more between 2015 and 2021 than it did in last year’s forecast, due mostly to stronger policy backing in the United States, China, India and Mexico. Over the forecast period, costs are expected to drop by a quarter in solar PV and 15 percent for onshore wind.

Need more proof of renewables taking over? Just check out the windmills that follow the new MINI S E Countryman ALL 4 plug-in hybrid everywhere

Need more proof of renewables taking over? Just check out the windmills that follow the new MINI S E Countryman ALL 4 plug-in hybrid everywhere

Last year marked a turning point for renewables. Led by wind and solar, renewables represented more than half the new power capacity around the world, reaching a record 153 Gigawatt (GW), 15% more than the previous year. Most of these gains were driven by record-level wind additions of 66 GW and solar PV additions of 49 GW.

About half a million solar panels were installed every day around the world last year. In China, which accounted for about half the wind additions and 40% of all renewable capacity increases, two wind turbines were installed every hour in 2015.”

“‌There are many factors behind this remarkable achievement: more competition, enhanced policy support in key markets, and technology improvements. While climate change mitigation is a powerful driver for renewables, it is not the only one. In many countries, cutting deadly air pollution and diversifying energy supplies to improve energy security play an equally strong role in growing low-carbon energy sources, especially in emerging Asia.

Windmills everywhere!

Windmills everywhere!

Over the next five years, renewables will remain the fastest-growing source of electricity generation, with their share growing to 28% in 2021 from 23% in 2015.

Holy Cats! More renweables chasing the MINI plug-in

Holy Cats! More renwables chasing the MINI plug-in

Renewables are expected to cover more than 60% of the increase in world electricity generation over the medium term, rapidly closing the gap with coal. Generation from renewables is expected to exceed 7600 TWh by 2021 — equivalent to the total electricity generation of the United States and the European Union put together today.

But while 2015 was an exceptional year, there are still grounds for caution. Policy uncertainty persists in too many countries, slowing down the pace of investments. Rapid progress in variable renewables such as wind and solar PV is also exacerbating system integration issues in a number of markets; and the cost of financing remains a barrier in many developing countries. And finally, progress in renewable growth in the heat and transport sectors remains slow and needs significantly stronger policy efforts.

The IEA also sees a two-speed world for renewable electricity over the next five years. While Asia takes the lead in renewable growth, this only covers a portion of the region’s fast-paced rise in electricity demand. China alone is responsible for 40% of global renewable power growth, but that represents only half of the country’s electricity demand increase.

Noooo! The windmills do their best "weeping angels" impression following the new MNII plug-in

Noooo! The windmills do their best “weeping angels” impression, stealthfully following the new MINI plug-in around!

This is in sharp contrast with the European Union, Japan and the United States where additional renewable generation will outpace electricity demand growth between 2015 and 2021.

The IEA report identifies a number of policy and market frameworks that would boost renewable capacity growth by almost 30% in the next five years, leading to an annual market of around 200 GW by 2020. This accelerated growth would put the world on a firmer path to meeting long-term climate goals.”

Gah! The horror of the advancing windmill army!

Gah! The horror of the advancing windmill army!

Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director said:

“We are witnessing a transformation of global power markets led by renewables and, as is the case with other fields, the center of gravity for renewable growth is moving to emerging markets,”.

“I am pleased to see that last year was one of records for renewables and that our projections for growth over the next five years are more optimistic. However, even these higher expectations remain modest compared with the huge untapped potential of renewables. The IEA will be working with governments around the world to maximize the deployment of renewables in coming years.”

Renewables (source: International Energy Agency)

Renewables (source: International Energy Agency)

source: International Energy Agency

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33 responses to "Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal As World’s #1 New Source Of Power"

  1. WadeTyhon says:

    Are those considered Windmills? I had always thought that they were called Wind Turbines.

    But even so those photos are funny now that you point them out. The MINI plug in should have been named the MINI QuixotEV.

  2. Mikael says:

    So little done… such a long way to go.

  3. pjwood1 says:

    What sucks, Mark, and let me say this for the environment, is that name plate “GW” ratings for solar panels over-state output by a factor of 5X. Add that to your false headline “Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal As World’s #1 Source Of Power”, and then witness the rate we retire nuclear and invite explosive natural gas growth, all to support the take-away that renewables rule the earth.

    They don’t. Global electric CO2 is rising, along with the expected >2020 50Gt peaks we have yet to witness in all combined emissions.

    Renewables are better than coal, but sugar like this only perpetuates a much bigger problem. It’s fiction, when we should be trying to solve it.

    1. HeisenberghtNUTS says:

      Yep, the headline annoyed me too…

      Nonetheless it is nice to see that renewables now make up the biggest fraction of newly installed capacity.

      And just to mention it: China seems to push the break on building new coal plants which were already planned, meanwhile they also try to decrease new installations of solar modules (that seems to indicate that total addition of electricity generation was too high).

      In the next months we will see falling prices for solar panels coming from Chinese overcapacity production, those cheap modules will further ppush the installations (at least in those countries that allow import of chinese panels, we poor europeans will be stuck with the govermental defined minimum price of appr. 0.6€per watt) thank you, dear politicans!

  4. DJ says:

    I don’t understand these #’s. I “added” a 6kW pv system this year however it doesn’t generate 6kW all the time. Meanwhile I’m willing to bet that a coal plant is always generating electricity. Is the # added the max capacity or the actual energy added because at the end of the day that is what truly matters.

    1. mike w says:

      many coal plants shut down or power down at nights and weekends when the demand for electricity drops. Especially In the spring and fall when heating and A/C loads are minimum. Not all power plants operate at 100% all the time.

  5. wavelet says:

    The headline is very misleading.
    Generation form renewable sources has NOT passed coal in terms of GWh generated per year.

    What has happened is that renewable facilities’ POTENTIAL CAPACITY has passed coal plant’s potential capacity.
    Not that that’s bad, but is a lot less impressive than one might think:

    1) Modern wind & solar on average generate 30% of “nameplate” capacity given the variable nature of the resource, vs. the typical 80%+ for coal.
    For less-modern wind/solar, it’s only 15%-20%.

    2) The vast majority of renewables generation (70%) is still hydroelectric, and hydro is pretty much exhausted — there are no significant new potential sites.

    1. sven says:

      wavelet said:
      “[H]ydro is pretty much exhausted — there are no significant new potential sites.”

      I don’t think that’s true. There are proposals to flood more of northern Quebec to generate more hydro power. One proposal envisions constructing all of the “original planned dams” of the James Bay Project, and to start a new “James Bay II Project” that would add even more dams and hydro power. Currently, hydro-electricity from Quebec makes its way down here to NYC via a dedicated high-power transmission line.

      The James Bay Project:
      “The project covers an area of the size of the State of New York and is one of the largest hydroelectric systems in the world. It has cost upwards of US$20 billion to build and has an installed generating capacity of 16,527 megawatts. If fully expanded to include all of the original planned dams, as well as the additional “James Bay II” projects, the system would generate a total of 27,000 MW, making it the largest hydroelectric system in the world.”

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Bay_Project

      1. pjwood1 says:

        27GW would beat China’s 23GW Three Gorges Dam. Learn something new every day.

        I still think it would be cool to be up near Bay of Fundy, and own a dock where one could take advantage of its 40+ foot tides. Float a hull at high tide, let gravity spin a gear driven turbine, on the way down. There are so many ways to solve the world’s problems, once people appreciate their scope.

  6. Kevin Z says:

    I wonder how much “nonrenewable” energy was used for the production of these “renewable” devises?

    1. speculawyer says:

      Do you expect them to build them by hand? As more renewables are available, more renewable energy will be used to build new renewable energy systems.

    2. mike w says:

      I wonder how much “nonrenewable” energy is used to produce the nonrenewable energy and nonrenewable plants/devices.

  7. TM says:

    @Mark Kane:

    I think the title of your article should read that the new energy sources added in 2015 exceed new coal generation added in 2015. I seriously doubt that the many gigawatt generators in China plus other parts of the world are eclipsed by total renewable energy.

    “Renewables accounted for more than half of the world’s additional electricity capacity last year. ”

    I can’t find any source saying: today, renewables produce more electricity than coal. Please provide a source if you can find one.

    1. speculawyer says:

      The title is misleading but it does mean more than you give it credit for:
      1) Yes, Renewables made up for the majority of new capacity added to the grid last year. But also . . .
      2) Renewable sources now do have more total generation capacity than coal. However, due to a lower capacity factor, they DO NOT generate as much electricity as coal plants yet.

      Here is a source:
      https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/IEA-Boosts-Renewables-Growth-Forecast-as-Global-Installed-Capacity-Surpasse

  8. Kdawg says:

    The Solar City/Tesla solar roofs should help.

  9. speculawyer says:

    To nitpick . . . renewables now have more generation CAPACITY than coal plants. However, due to the lower capacity factor (times when wind is not blowing or sun not shining), the coal plants still generate much more electricity.

    But this is still a very important milestone and eventually the renewables will exceed coal in the amount of electricity generated.

    1. TM says:

      OK – then that means the actual capacity is about 4x lower. That’s not a nitpik – that is accuracy.

      1. speculawyer says:

        No, it is not 4x lower. But it is hard to accurately quantify due to varying capacity factors. Coal is around 60%, onshore wind is around 30%, offshore wind is around 40%, and solar PV is around 20%.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capacity_factor

        1. TM says:

          It is not hard to quantify. Just take actual KWh generated and divide by (nameplate capacity times 8760 hours in a year). Don’t forget to include on-land wind.

          1. speculawyer says:

            Yeah but every site has different results and even the same sites have different results depending on the year because of weather patterns and market patterns. So it is a constantly moving target.

            1. pjwood1 says:

              I see Mark Kane isn’t interested in correcting himself, and hasn’t been corrected. That’s too bad.

              Coal plants don’t land on 60% CFs, unless they were broken for part of the year. Otherwise, they are available, like NG and Nukes, ~90% of the time.

              1. Heisenberght says:

                Nowadays coal sometimes lands on 60% or lower due to the fact that coal plants are often not run at. full capacity due to overproduction (that’s at least the situation in germany, we regularily have negative gross market prices) the exact numbers vary and are dependant on the type of coal and the age of the plant.

                I don’t know anything about the coal plants in the usa. China recently stopped the construction of several coal plants (if i remember correctly the amount compared to what some European countries have installed in total… )

                Coal is dying.

                1. pjwood1 says:

                  Yes, but you see the point Mr. Kane fails to. Solar plants are sometimes not run when its dark out. That their CFs are down around 20% disqualifies what he’s saying as liberal water, in the U.S.

                  Heisenberght, we have a problem in the U.S. with people like Mark. There is more political support for policy, than there is awareness of its effects. The American EPA has a goal for 27% coal and 33% natural gas electric generation, in 2030! It isn’t very aggressive, at all, because it is more focused upon making way for natural gas and renewables, than it is upon reducing CO2.
                  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-10-23/pdf/2015-22842.pdf

                  Unwittingly, or not, Insideevs becomes political, by letting gentlemen such as Mr. Kane publish his inaccuracies.

                  Going from its current 32%, to the EPA’s 27%, coal isn’t “dying” any faster than most of us.

              2. pjwood1 says:

                I now see “New” was inserted into the title. Thanks guys. In it together, right?

                1. Jay Cole says:

                  Indeed. It wasn’t anything intentional to deceive, just a mistake in the titling, trust us, (=

                  /far from perfect…but we try to set straight/fix errors whenever possible.

                  Just as a sidenote, if you see something like this you can always shoot us a email and it’ll get attention a lot quicker (especially if I’m not on ‘editing duty’ on a particular thread/day myself)

    2. wavelet says:

      It’s not a nitpick. The headline is majorly misleading, and it’s especially fortunate because the other tech sites I saw report on this got it right.

      1. TM says:

        exactly!

  10. BraveLilToaster says:

    “In China, which accounted for about half the wind additions and 40% of all renewable capacity increases, two wind turbines were installed every hour in 2015.”

    It’s time.

    The next time some asshat rebuts your argument for building renewable power with “But China isn’t reducing their CO2!”, just slap them.

    China is clearly already more serious about renewables than everyone else. Hell, Beijing’s egregious smog problem is likely motivating them to make serious reversals in policy right now.

    1. PHEVfan says:

      Apparently you missed the other line in the story related to China’s growth:

      “China alone is responsible for 40% of global renewable power growth, but that represents only half of the country’s electricity demand increase.”

      In other words, they are adding just as much capacity via CO2 producing generation as they are adding in renewable. They are NOT reducing their CO2 (yet). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, I agree. But they, as well as we, have a long way to go.

  11. John Volt no 4 says:

    Over a million EV and BEV’d has been sold so all these macro economic finance knows it’s just not global warming , the real cost saving is the world only almost fixed amount if lithium its as almost good at being recycled from a cost standpoint vs burning oil and pending tax and personnel wealth from every country in the world was not stainable, like Ben Franklin always said necessity is the mother of envention, and use the oil for more profitable pruducts and lubricant’s , its better for your and mine saving accounts and let countries arround the world use all of our tax dallers for better use for everyone around the world , minus some stupid leaders think they know it all. With greasy energy we learned from history!

  12. Turbofroggy says:

    Didn’t “Giant Douche” say that solar panels don’t work during the second debate? I would love to hook his tiny orange testicles to the 400V coming off my 9.5KW array….

    1. mr. M says:

      But wasn’t it night in USA during the second debate? Normally solar panels don’t work at night, so technically he was right. 😉

  13. Mister G says:

    Coal loving Republicans and strongman Trump are not happy with this news.