Author: Dr. Rupak Banerjee
This past year (2017) has been a year of achievements for the renewable energies field, both in India and globally. So, I decided to take the opportunity at the end of the year to summarize what the major achievements have been. With global and national achievements come opportunities, which is what this blog is all about. Opportunities in growing fields, and this year has been big on renewable energy. So, without further delay, let’s jump right in.
We will be looking at the achievements of the six big economies in the world and how renewable energy opportunities and achievements have left their mark in these economies. Let’s get right in.
The largest economy in the world saw a change of direction this year. The administration announced that it would pull out of the Paris Accord of 2015. However, there were significant achievements in the world of technology to counter that announcement.
Google, which is one of the larger consumers of electricity, has managed to offset all of its power consumption through renewable energy projects. Although this purchase happens across three continents, Google is currently purchasing a total of over 3 Gigawatt of energy from renewable sources, primarily wind power. Amazon is close behind as the second largest buyer of renewable energy at just over 1.2 Gigawatts.
For the first time, solar and wind combined to provide 10% of all electricity consumption in the US in 2017, with Iowa leading the charge at 37% of total electricity generation. Add in the electricity generation from other renewable sources and the total renewable electricity contribution reached a new high in 2017. These obviously lead to a growth in jobs in renewable energy worldwide.
The second largest economy in the world is however the largest primary consumer of energy in the world, consuming 23% of the total energy demand. In the past two years, it has also become a leader in the growth, implementation, and R&D in renewable energy. China provided the largest government backed R&D funding for renewable energy research, almost twice as much as the US.
In terms of production, Chinese manufacturers of solar panels have developed a 20% cost advantage compared to US counterparts. They are leveraging their scales of production and domestic demand to generate a cost advantage like no other country has been able to provide as of now. In a big shout out to the gains it has made in solar technology and pricing, China announced at the close of December 2017, that they have just opened a 1 km stretch of solar road. This 1 km stretch will be able to produce 1 million kilowatt hours of energy annually. If successful, this can offset the space requirements of large solar farms as China continues to expand on major infrastructure projects.
With the US government taking a step back in terms of leading renewable energy projects, China has taken on the reins and is showing the world what a world led by China can achieve. It is currently home to the largest capacities for hydroelectric power generation, solar and wind generation. It is adding renewables at a faster rate than any other country in the world and bringing down costs at the same time.
The big Japan story is to come in 2020. Japan has promised to showcase a hydrogen economy at the next Olympics scheduled to be hosted in Japan. It is a large technological giant with a huge appetite for energy consumption, and it plans to hold its own when it comes to renewable energy. While most companies around the world are still banking mostly on batteries for their energy storage, most Japanese companies are keeping Hydrogen as their primary target for portable energy storage solutions.
In 2011, Japan had an installed capacity of 48 GigaWatts of power generation coming from Nuclear power, accounting for a whopping 30% of their total electricity generation. However, after the accidents in 2011, they have given a special impetus on transitioning to renewable sources of energy to maintain a lower carbon footprint and manage their fuel imports. Their key contribution lies in the innovativeness in which they are utilizing existing locations, structures and landscapes to incorporate solar and wind farms. Of note is Toshiba which recently announced that combining all the wind turbines it has produced to date would provide a generation capacity of over 200 GW. Japan has the second largest capacity of solar generation, behind China, with an installed cumulative capacity of 40 GW.
Japan is home to major automakers. Their key contribution to the renewable energy market are the only two hydrogen fuel cell cars currently on sale today, i.e. the Toyota Mirai and the Honda Clarity. Japan and its automakers are taking a slightly different route to electric cars and maybe the bet will pay off in the longer run.
As Europe as a whole continues on its path to lowering its carbon footprint and reliance on imported oil, Germany, the largest economy on mainland Europe is leading from the front. However, this is primarily in terms of technology development and R&D. Some of the smaller countries have an advantage here and Germany does not yet break into the top ten European countries in terms of renewable energy deployment. In that regard, Sweden leads the way with almost 54% reliance on renewable energy.
However, 2017 has been good for the renewable energy field in Germany. It managed to generate 85% of its electricity generation from renewable sources on a single day, a new record for the country. However, it definitely needs more of these days.
2017 also saw Germany signing a contract with Alstom (French train manufacturer) to purchase trains running on hydrogen to displace trains that currently run on diesel. The contract was signed after a successful testing of the train earlier this year. A major mode of transport across the world for both goods and people can now see the path to renewables through this act.
The host of COP 21 where the climate accord was agreed upon, France is the second largest economy of mainland Europe and another stalwart in low carbon economy. In 2017, it only had 3 GW of electricity generation capacity from coal powered plants. Although it has been a big proponent of nuclear energy (73% of its electricity generation came from Nuclear in 2016), it is transitioning rapidly to renewable.
The hydrogen powered train mentioned in the Germany section, was made by Alstom, a French train manufacturer.
France currently has over 17% electricity generation from renewable which is set to grow rapidly as Mr. Macron has given a special focus to climate change research and development.
At the end of 2016, India overtook Britain as the 6th largest economy in the world. So, let’s take a quick look at the achievements and opportunities in India from the past one year focusing on renewables.
For 2017, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy set lofty goals of over 14 GW of new installed capacity from renewables. As of October, it seems to be on track to meet those goals with over 3.7 GW already installed, and still more than 6 months to go.
India also now boasts of being the 6th in global solar generation capacity and 4th in global wind generation capacity. In terms of wind generation capacity addition, the FY ending in March 2017 saw the achievement overshooting the target for new installation, a first for the renewable energy sector. (mnre.gov.in)
Some of the other countries of note include Portugal which generated over 95% of its electricity from renewable sources in March 2017, shattering earlier records. In May, it also managed to run 107 hours continuously on electricity generated from renewable only.
Canada has been constantly punching above its weight in terms of renewable energy power and Hydrogenics a company located in Canada was the source of the fuel cells powering the trains made by Alstom and mentioned in the section on Germany.
The UK managed to go a full day without electricity generated from coal power. Compared to the earlier achievements, this doesn’t seem that big, but it is significant as it is the first day since the start of the Industrial revolution that this has been achieved.
December 2017 also saw the activation of a 100 MW battery in Australia. Manufactured by Tesla, it is a major stepping stone towards increased in incorporation of more renewable as the battery allows for greater integration of intermittent generation such as solar and wind to be utilized even during low generation rates.
In summary, it has been a good year for renewables. Let’s try to keep the momentum going in 2018.