Renewables Update

Do not neglect global progress: It is enjoyable! in Japanese

14 June 2016 Tomas Kåberger, Chair of Executive Board, Renewable Energy Institute
Romain Zissler, Researcher, Renewable Energy Institute

While Japan energy industry seems to debate whether to import uranium or coal to produce electricity, other parts of the world enjoy other solutions. This has been made visible by data published in recent months.

When data for the United States electricity generation in 2015 was made public the comparison with 2010 showed remarkable progress: Fossil fuel based electricity had decreased by more than 150 TWh. Nuclear had also decreased by 10 TWh. The growth sector was renewable electricity that had increased by about 135 TWh in 2015 compared to 2010.

During the first quarter of this year new fossil based capacity was 18 MW while renewable power generating capacity grew by 1,291 MW, more than 70 times as much.

In the United Kingdom, wind power provided more electricity than coal during the first quarter of this year, 2.3 TWh of wind and only 1.8 TWh of coal. Just a few days later, on May 9th, it is reported that Britain could celebrate the first moment since 1882 when there was no coal based electricity at all fed into the British electricity grid. During a week, solar provided more power than coal*.

Portugal was early in deploying wind power, and new wind power is the lowest cost option for producing electricity in the country. In 2015 the renewable energy contributed almost half of electricity consumption. In the beginning of May this year Portugal reported 4 days in a row with 100% of renewable electricity in the country.

There are many examples of how renewable energy is taking over in different countries in the world. The development is made possible by some pioneering countries investing a lot of money in the industry while development needs were expensive. In the US much of the development has been done under military research programs. In China renewable energy spending has been seen as a way of making further economic growth possible. And in Germany it was a way of reducing the risk of expensive nuclear reactor accidents.

The result of these heroic efforts is that renewable energy is now available at competitive prices in most countries in the world. Wind power is the cheapest source of new electricity in many parts of the world since a couple of years. During the last year solar electricity has won in the competition to provide new electricity in several countries.

The most remarkable achievement recently is the Dubai bid of 800 MW of solar electricity at 3 yen per kWh, illustrating that solar power prices have been cut in half in just 18 months. As solar energy is only half as intensive in Japan, costs cannot be as low here. But they need not be more than twice as high.

The opportunities for Japan to deploy domestic sources of renewable energy instead of importing coal and uranium is increasing as the global development continues.

*Update: In May 2016, Solar generated an estimated 1,336 GWh of electricity, 50% more than the 893 GWh output from coal.

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