Renewables approach tipping point


A dramatic surge in solar energy generation amid falling costs – and a sudden Chinese enthusiasm for the sector – means that clean energy investment will be twice that of fossil fuels in 2024, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

“For every dollar going to fossil fuels today, almost two dollars are invested in clean energy,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. The total figures are $1 trillion for fossil fuels versus $2 trillion into clean energy, made up of renewables, nuclear power, electric vehicles, power grids, energy storage, low emissions fuels and energy improvements.

The cost of solar technology has fallen by 30 per cent in the past two years, spurring the rapid construction of solar farms across China and the United States, where almost 8GW of solar energy capacity came onstream in the first four months of 2024, alongside 1.8GW of wind energy generating capacity.

More than 99 per cent of new US generating capacity between January and April this year came from renewable sources, said the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

As costs continue to plummet, we can expect this pattern to intensify. Much as the oil and gas (and coal) industry attempts to influence policymakers and argue that hydrocarbons need to be part of the long term energy mix, the economics of power generation are becoming so lopsided that no government is going to hold out for long. Why would you pay more – often much more – for an energy source that is also killing you?

Global investment in low-carbon electricity is expected to reach $900 billion in 2024, ten times higher than investment in gas and coal power generation. In the United States, renewable energy capacity is expected to overtake that of natural gas by 2027.

Once this happens, citizens will become aware whether they live in a country which clings to fossil fuel generation, costing them money and health, or whether they benefit from a more enlightened administration.

It will be a curious test of Donald Trump’s anti-renewable fixation if he is elected in November and faces a fully-fledged boom in clean energy generation.

The IEA bemoans the fact that investment in fossil fuels remains higher than it would like, with oil and gas companies putting just 4 per cent of their investment budgets into clean energy, while ‘claiming to be part of the solution.’ The agency wants governments to stick to its target of tripling renewable energy generation by 2030.

Of course, there is always more that can be done. But I believe the undeniable, irrepressible and accelerating tide of funds into renewable energy has reached a tipping point.

Soon, it will seem ridiculous to do anything else.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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