15 Signals of the energy revolution

by Rehana Dada, based on WWF (2016)

A report released by WWF this month states that a global energy transition is evident, as seen in growth of renewables, rise of city-level climate actions, and a slow down in carbon emissions in some companies.

It lists 15 key signals of the energy revolution as follows:
In 2015, renewables accounted for 90 per cent of new electricity generation, compared to 50 per cent in 2014.
The cost of solar technology is dropping, with solar PV having dropped in cost by more than 80 per cent from 2009 to 2015.
Investment in renewables is increasing, with USD 286 billion invested in 2015.  Since 2013 more renewables have been installed annually than fossil and nuclear together.
More countries are reaching almost full power supply through renewables, notably Portugal, Denmark and Costa Rica.  In 2015, Germany produced nearly a third of its gross domestic power consumption from renewables, and in May 2016, nearly 88 per cent.
Employment in renewable energy is increasing, having reached 8.1 million in 2015, with Asia accounting for 60 per cent of these jobs. The top five employers in the renewables sector are China, EU, Brasil, USA and India.
Chinese investment in renewables increased to USD 103 billion in 2014, making it the world leader in renewables.
Africa is the largest market for off grid solar products, with Sub-Saharan Africa buying over 1.3 million units.The African Renewable Energy Initiative aims to build 10 GW of renewables by 2020 and 300 GW by 2030.
Green bonds are growing, having reached USD 118 billion by mid-2016 compared to nearly zero in 2007. In the first quarter of 2016, China had issued USD 8.2 billion in green bonds, accounting for half of new issuances. The report cautions: “The green bond market bears great potential for the future and can help to accelerate the energy transition….but still needs standards to address all major and sustainability challenges”.
As of last month, 176 companies, including energy intensive companies, have committed to set science-based emissions targets in line with keeping warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
It is possible that China’s coal consumption may have reached peak, having declined since 2014 and with a 3.7 per cent drop in 2015.
The coal industry is facing declining prices and higher costs, with two of three planned coal power plants being put on the back burner or completely abandoned since 2010.  Coal production in China dropped by 9.7 per cent in the first half of this year.
The link between the global economy and energy related emissions is weakening, driven by energy efficiency, a decline in the use of coal, and a spur in renewables led by wind.  Global energy related carbon dioxide emissions have stalled for the second year in a row, despite a three per cent economic growth.
Between 2010 and 2012 there was a decline in energy intensity by 1.7 per cent.  However: “…it is still not enough to meet the Sustainable Energy for All goal of 2.6 per cent a year”.
Cities are at the forefront of climate action, with local governments joining forces to launch initiatives and networks to address climate change. Between 2010 and 2015, 1,681 actions were implemented by 600 cities and regions in 62 countries, representing 8 per cent of world population.
The potential of renewables has been significantly underestimated: “Renewables can be seen as disruptive innovations with the potential to completely replace established products in existing markets or even whole sectors of industry”.

The report calls for an acceleration and scaling up of the energy transition through actions such as ending fossil fuel subsidies, supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, and increasing green finance.

15 Signals: evidence the energy transition is underway is available for download at:
http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?277530/15-signals-for-energy-transition-report#