World Energy Outlook 2016 and global CO2 emissions


Every year in late November, it is the same thing: the very respected International Energy Agency publishes its World Energy Outlook. This year’s edition is interesting in more than one aspect.

Some very interesting findings :

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.

(…) 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.

(…) 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.

In a separate statement, Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, stated that

 “We see clear winners for the next 25 years – natural gas but especially wind and solar – replacing the champion of the previous 25 years, coal”

Between the 1960-70s and 2010, the world installed 40 GW of solar PV capacity. Last year alone, the world installed 49 GW as stated above… And given how solar and wind emits ten to fifty times less carbon dioxide than coal over their life-cycle, we can be confident that we shall cut carbon emissions…

All this takes place as global carbon dioxide emissions are remaining flat for the third year in a row.

This is explained mostly by a decrease in coal consumption in China. As Climate Central explained, quoting the IEA, renewables are expected to grow by about 60 percent in China over the next five years.

In SouthEast Asia and developing nations worldwide, a similar trend is expected as concerns over air pollution and energy costs is observed.  Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that renewable energy

(D)ollar investment globally growing in 2015 to nearly six times its 2004 total, and a new record of one-third of a trillion dollars.

“New markets” run the show. An expanded list of emerging countries committed billions to clean energy last year with record increases, including Mexico ($4.2bn, up 114%), Chile ($3.5bn, up 157%), South Africa ($4.5bn, up 329%) and Morocco ($2bn, up from almost zero in 2014).

The future is bright for cleantech and renewables. Nations gathered at the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, are ready to supercharge them after the success of the Paris Agreements last year.

Image credits: IEA and Flickr, Sander van der Wel.

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