“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.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

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

2018 Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Maria Ressa of the Philippines

This is how the world can get routine vaccinations back on track

Mobile Technology Saving Lives: Changing healthcare systems with simple technological solutions

These four countries are the happiest in the European Union

‘Power is not given, power is taken’, UN chief tells women activists, urging push-back against status quo

Where do Americans stand on immigration? They’re not as divided as you might think

FROM THE FIELD: One teen’s journey from refugee camp to US school principal

UN’s Guterres condemns ongoing airstrikes on Syria’s hospitals, medical workers

Mental health in times of a pandemic: what can each individual do to lessen the burden?

Parliament backs a modernised EU electoral law

A Sting Exclusive: “Paris is indeed our best bet for a secure climate future”, EU Commissioner for Environment Karmenu Vella cries out from Brussels

Making the most of our ‘extra time’ – for ourselves and society

This is the state of the world’s health, in numbers

Privatisation and public health: a question of Human Rights

Germany: A grand coalition may trouble employers and bankers

Sustainable investment is on the rise – here’s how to connect the dots

State aid: Commission approves €6 billion German measure to recapitalise Lufthansa

NASA has released new photos of the Apollo 11 moon landing

The European Parliament wants to stay in one place

Coronavirus could trigger a hunger pandemic – unless urgent action is taken

Where are the world’s nuclear weapons?

The world must pull together to stem the urgent crisis in our ocean

The COP24 Agreement: Yes, it happened at last

Afghanistan: UN ‘unequivocally condemns’ attack in Kabul

From Sweden to India, School climate strikes have gone global

The world has made spectacular progress in every measure of well-being. So why does almost no one know about it?

‘Leaders who sanction hate speech’ encourage citizens to do likewise, UN communications chief tells Holocaust remembrance event

‘Education transforms lives’ says UN chief on first-ever International Day

Lessons from dealing with the collapse of Lehman Brothers

Towards a seamless internal EU market for industrial goods

State aid: Commission approves €133 million Portuguese liquidity support to SATA airline; opens investigation into other public support measures

Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

EU Parliament and Council: Close to agreement on the bank resolution mechanism

The unique frequency of felling the gab on women’s rights by medical students

Taking care in times of social isolation goes beyond washing hands or wearing masks

Venezuelans brave torrential border river, face exploitation, abuse – UN urges greater protection

China dazzles the world with her Silk Road plan to connect, Asia, Europe and Africa

Phone lines open between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and people are calling strangers

3 trends that will transform the energy industry

UN chief ‘deeply saddened’ by Ethiopia plane crash which killed 157, including at least 21 UN workers

Why are so few women buying into Bitcoin?

Germany may prove right rejecting Commission’s bank resolution scheme

UN calls for action to tackle ‘ubiquitous but invisible’ global road safety crisis

Future-proofing the European banking market – removing the obstacles to exit

GSMA Announces First Keynote Speakers for 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

UN launches drive to highlight environmental cost of staying fashionable

The EU Commission vies to screen Chinese investment in Europe

These 11 EU states already meet their 2020 renewable energy targets

In Marrakech, UN chief urges world leaders to ‘breathe life’ into historic global migration pact

UN expert ‘shocked’ by Egyptian reprisals against human rights defenders she met

Decent working conditions for the young health workforce: what are the challenges and can we find solutions?

LGBTQ+: The invisible poor on our healthcare

Commission announces actions to make Europe’s raw materials supply more secure and sustainable

These Asian economies invested in their people – and it paid off

How AI can inspire doctors to be more inventive

Russia won’t let Ukraine drift westwards in one piece

Latin America and Caribbean region deadliest for journalists in 2019

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ford trumpets new in-vehicle system, “fundamentally rethinks” transportation

These countries create most of the world’s CO2 emissions

National parks give a $6 trillion boost to mental health worldwide

More Stings?

Advertising

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