These three places are using renewable energy to make a difference. The third one will shock you!
While the Trump administration might not have signed the Paris climate accord, it doesn’t mean America is standing idly by as the world slowly turns into a sizzling sauna death ball. A few weeks back, news broke that Colorado is making significant moves to reap the benefits of renewable energy. One of the defences that is often used to defend fossil fuel is that it is cheap. While historically this might well have been the case when compared to alternatives at the time, solar energy has come a long way since solar panels were first invented.
The Swanson effect (which is the solar equivalent of Moore’s law) forecasts the price for solar per watt over time. By as late as 1977, it cost $76 per watt; today, it can be as low as 30 cents per watt—that’s 253 times more energy efficient in 40 years! But it doesn’t stop there, either—in 2016, Xcel gave its Colorado Energy Proposal, phasing out two coal plants with about 1 GW of wind, 700 MW of solar, and 700 MW of natural gas by 2023.
Critics might point out that storage of renewables can be costly, but Colorado’s setup shows that this is completely false.
According to figures obtained by vox.com, “The median bid for a wind project was $18.10/MWh; the median for wind + storage was $21, just three dollars higher.”
If there was ever a country that needed to move to renewable energy, it would be China. The country is notorious for its high smog count, with some estimates equating Beijing’s air composition to smoking 40 cigarettes daily. Considering Beijing has air pollution so immense that it should come with a warning from the surgeon general, it’s not surprising that many residents don air-pollution masks. The fact that buying bottled air from foreign nations is a viable business model was perhaps the sign that something needed to change—urgently.
In 2017, China invested more than $44 billion in renewable-energy investments, which was an increase of 37.5% over 2016. Still, China is continuing to rely on coal to meet its energy needs, but they will need to sustain their rapid divestment in fossil fuels if they are to help clean up their largest cities. Besides solar, China has invested in wind, bioenergy, hydro, and other clean-energy solutions.
Okay, so those in the know will probably know this already, but it might please some of you to know that Saudi Arabia, the country famous (or, more accurately, infamous) for their rich oil reserves is actually making a serious play at the renewables market, to the tune of $7 billion. Sure, China’s investment is six times more than Saudi Arabia, but China’s gross domestic product is 17 times larger. So, actually, as a proportion of their respective GDPs, Saudi Arabia is, surprisingly, spending a larger percentage of their GDP on clean-energy projects.
But money means nothing without the figures to back it up. There have been tenders issued for eight different Saudi projects in 2018, which are expected to hold a capacity of 4.125 gigawatts. The Saudis don’t plan on resting on their laurels, either; the kingdom intends to scale their systems to allow 9.5 gigawatts of wind and solar capacity by 2023. The Saudis know their oil boom can’t last forever, and they are wisely parlaying their gains in order to ensure they’ll still be in the black once they run out of oil showers.
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