World leaders signed the COP21 Paris climate accord on Friday, Earth Day. Whether it will be meaningful in stopping carbon dioxide emissions and emissions of other dangerous greenhouse gases that are warming our planet remains to be seen. But there is some good news on the emissions front, and new renewable energy installations are key to it.
1. The world’s production of carbon dioxide remained flat at 32.1 billion metric tons per annum for the second year in a row. In the past 25 years it has been rare for emissions not to grow, except in years of severe economic downturn such as 2009. In 2012 and 2013 emissions grew by 4% a year. But in 2014 they grew by only 0.5%, and there was virtually no increase again in 2015. This stabilization of emissions took place even though the world economy continues to grow, demonstrating that the old fears about CO2 reductions being bad for the economy were misplaced. Moreover, it is thought by economists that the main reason for the flattening of emissions is the vast increase in wind, solar and other renewable sources of electricity. Renewables accounted for 90% of new electricity generation last year!…
2. India almost doubled its solar capacity in 2015, from 3.74 gigawatts to 6.75 gigawatts. (A gigawatt is a billion watts, i.e., equivalent to 10 million 100-watt light bulbs). It hopes to nearly triple its current capacity by the end of 2017. Photovoltaic panels have fallen in cost by 80% in the past 5 years….
3. Indian economists now figure that solar energy is cheaper than coal in India. Coal is usually figured to generate electricity at 5 cents a kilowatt hour, though if you took into account the environmental damage it does that would be more like 45 cents a kilowatt hour. New solar bids in some sunny places like Dubai have been let for 6 cents a kilowatt hour, so solar is certainly competitive with coal in places like India. Moreover, a solar farm can be built quickly and relatively inexpensively.