“The markets have moved on renewables, policy makers must keep up”, A Sting Exclusive by Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment

Erik Solheim UN Environment 2018_

Mr Erik Solheim is the Executive Director of UN Environment and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. (UN Environment, 2018)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment. The opinions expressed in this article belong to the distinguished writer.

Just in case there was ever any doubt, it’s now crystal clear that clean, renewable energy is the future. The latest data shows a record quantity of new capacity added to the global grid last year, outstripping new fossil fuel plants and bringing the overall investment envelope to a whopping $2.9 trillion since 2004.

For eight consecutive years, global investment in renewables have exceeded $200 billion, with a massive fall in renewables costs — particularly the tumbling price of solar panels – bringing increased bang for the buck. It’s share of the grid has doubled in a decade.

There were plenty of stand-out stories too, all showing that the last-ditch defence of coal in the United States is not the new agenda. South Australia’s energy woes, consisting of black- and brown-outs and high electricity bills, spurred a proof-of-concept from Tesla who installed, in record time, the world’s biggest lithium battery. That has helped put to bed questions on whether solar was ready for the surge demands of a major grid.

In China, the world’s first floating solar farm went on line, situated on a former coal mine – a symbolic placement that coincides with the long-awaited appearance of blue skies over Beijing. The devastating hurricane season in the Caribbean, meanwhile, ripped apart grids, but it has been solar that proved to be the most resilient. This sets the stage for a new kind of thinking in infrastructure development in vulnerable nations, where off-grid and micro-grid solutions are a model to be reckoned with when it comes to spurring the growth of inclusive economies that leapfrog the old-timers.

Wind power in Germany and Denmark also smashed a fresh host of power generation records, with several days of truly remarkable overcapacity. It’s clear that wind and solar has come of age.

Moving into 2018, the outlook is also bullish. The numbers have shown big jumps in renewable energy investments in places like Mexico (up 810%), and a very impressive 29-fold increase in investment in the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia has meanwhile unveiled a planned solar power venture with Japan’s SoftBank – a mind-boggling $200 billion, 200GW scheme that is equivalent to two-thirds of all the existing solar worldwide. Even if a quarter of the panels see the light of day, it’ll transform the region’s energy landscape.

All of this has happened at a pace that few thought possible even just a few years ago. In large part, these big numbers are thanks to China, which last year added 53 gigawatts of solar power, about half the world’s total. This growth has brought economies of scale, which in turn has pushed down prices, enabling other power-hungry nations – notably India – to embark on their own mega projects.

Like the digital revolution, the rise of renewables has been one of those blink-and-you-might-miss-it moments. The train has left the station, the global markets have moved, and no amount of clinging to coal will turn things around. It’s worth pointing this out, as while the numbers show big jumps in the developing world, the developed world looks relatively sluggish and some quarters are still reluctant to make the jump.

Furthermore, we need to recognise that the renewables sector is doing well in many places even without subsidies and on a far-from-level playing field against fossil fuels. It’s also a competitive proposition even without factoring in the so-called “positive externalities” of clean power. Things like fewer children with asthma, a healthier workforce, a better environment and quality of life.

Add to that the data on jobs: we know, for example, that solar can easily create more jobs than fossil fuels per dollar invested. In addition, the jobs are generally better paid, better quality, with wider geographical distribution and better gender balance. There are now over 800,000 Americans who work in renewables, compared to 85,000 in coal.

And finally, we cannot ignore the other benefits of unlimited energy from the wind or sun – greater global energy security and positive climate action that is built on growth, not cuts.

To help make informed choices, the data and the success stories are out there. Still, the fact that renewables, when put together, are still a long way off from providing the majority of global electricity means that we still have a long way to go. The science is also telling us that while we’re moving in the right direction when it comes to getting off our carbon addiction and are at something of a pivotal moment, we need to get a move on.

Happily, the markets have already made the decision, and the numbers show a healthy marketplace exists with or without subsidies. It’s now time for policymakers to ensure they are helping increase this momentum. The externalities need to be factored into the overall cost, as we know that healthcare and job creation do not come cheap. Vigorous innovation and investment must be facilitated and encouraged, not least so we continue to overcome issues like grid integration and storage but all the more so because the missing the boat is not economically viable.

Potential rising costs or fluctuations in financing need to be ironed out. Renewables also deserve the chance to at the very least to compete on a level playing field, and that means bringing the subsidies and tariffs landscape up to date.

In short, it’s time to truly bank on the sun and the wind.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

the European Sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

European banking stress tests 2014: A more adverse approach for a shorter banking sector

The Japanese idea of ‘chowa’ – and how Asia can thrive in the future

We need to talk about how we define responsibility online – and how we enforce it

Big impact vs big exit: the social side of the start-up game presented at the WSA Global Congress in Vienna

What you need to know about the Sustainable Development Impact Summit

EU and China to do more in common if the global scene gets worse

Why Eurozone’s problems may end in a few months

Modern society has reached its limits. Society 5.0 will liberate us

Artificial Intelligence has a gender problem. Here’s what to do about it

The Commission tries to stop the ‘party’ with the structural funds

EU-Western Balkans summit in Sofia

This new way of understanding disease is changing medicine

7 amazing ways artificial intelligence is used in healthcare

“The Sea is vast as it admits all rivers”, Ambassador Yang Yanyi of the Chinese Mission to EU gives her farewell address in Brussels

Online radio and news broadcasts: Parliament and Council reach deal

Fragile countries risk being ‘stuck in a cycle of conflict and climate disaster,’ Security Council told

US-China trade war: Washington now wants control of the renminbi-yuan

Climate change and health: public health awareness in an international framework

Climate Change : An Already Health Emergency

In Gaza, UN envoy urges Israel, Palestinian factions to step back from brink of a war that ‘everybody will lose’

Will Eurozone be able to repay its debts? Is a bubble forming there?

EU readies for eventual annulment of the Turkish agreement on immigrants-refugees

EU Top Jobs summit ended with no agreement: welcome to Europe’s quicksand!

2016 crisis update: the year of the Red Fire Monkey burns the world’s markets down

2030 development agenda: Major breakthrough for world of work

Youth unemployment: No light at the end of the tunnel

Somalia has ‘once in a generation’ gender equality opportunity – UN Women chief

A Valentine’s Special: we can never overdose on love

EU Leaders’ meeting in Sofia: Completing a trusted Digital Single Market for the benefit of all

Merkel, Mercedes and Volkswagen to abolish European democracy

EU Commission: Banking and energy conglomerates don’t threaten competition!

THE ROAD TO GANESHA

Italy can stand the US rating agencies’ meaningless degrading

Cyprus banks under scrutiny

Fed, ECB take positions to face the next global financial crisis; the Brits uncovered

These charts show where the world’s refugees came from in 2017 – and where they’re heading

EU to spend €6 billion on youth employment and training futile schemes

Eurozone: There is a remedy for regional convergence

To win combat against HIV worldwide, ‘knowledge is power’, says UNAIDS report

Energy Union: EU invests a further €800 million in priority energy infrastructure

Measuring consumer confidence isn’t useful anymore. Here’s what we should do instead

COP21 Breaking News_10 December: UN Climate Chief Calls for Final Push to Meet Adaptation Fund Goal Very Close to Target

While EU Open Days 2013 discuss the 2020 strategy, Microsoft shares a glimpse of EU 2060

How can we build a workforce for our digital future?

Environment Committee MEPs vote to upgrade EU civil protection capacity

A Sting Exclusive: “Junior Enterprises themselves carry out projects focusing on the environment”, JADE President Daniela Runchi highlights from Brussels

Economy on a steady rise in Latin America and Caribbean region ‘despite international turbulence’ – UN report

Dramatic funding shortages a ‘severe catastrophe’ for people of Gaza: UN Coordinator

Frontline workers vaccinated in Uganda over Ebola fears, as top UN officials visit outbreak epicentre in DR Congo

Millions more migrant workers, means countries lose ‘most productive part’ of workforce

Girls groomed for suicide missions fight back against the extremists of Lake Chad

India’s economy is an ‘elephant that is starting to run’, according to the IMF

The right approach to addressing overcapacity problem from a Chinese perspective

Berlin favours economic and social disintegration in certain Eurozone countries

EU Commission spends billions without achieving targets

“Prevention is better than cure”: the main goal of modern medicine

More than 90% of the world’s children are breathing toxic air

Infrastructure around the world is failing. Here’s how to make it more resilient

Commission launches new tool to support digital teaching and learning in schools

Big world banks to pay $ 4.95bn for cheating customers; Is it a punishment or a gentle caress?

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s