“The march toward a renewable energy future continues, unabated,” reports Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The positive trend line on renewables is decisive, irrefutable and unstoppable in the US — two US states are introducing 100 percent renewable energy legislation, the solar industry is reporting strong job growth and record solar power installations, and battery technology is attracting big investors.
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The clean energy revolution is happening as oil companies like ExxonMobil cut big fossil fuel reserves – especially oil sands – from their books, and coal plants continue shutting down. Renewables have become the fastest growing source of electricity and the decline of coal use is accelerating.
Around the world, countries and regions are ramping up their renewable energy as attempts to stop it flounder. In the US, the state leading in wind power is oil-and-gas-rich Texas. In California, the leader of the state senate has presented a bill to go 100 percent renewable. And in Massachusetts a similar new bill is setting a trajectory that will make the state fossil-fuel free. Meanwhile in North Dakota, a bill for a two-year wind energy moratorium has been defeated.
The US solar market smashed records in 2016, adding more than 14 gigawatts of solar capacity, a 95 percent increase on 2015, and industry groups report that renewable energy supported more than three million jobs last year. In Australia the chief scientific body CSIRO asserts that there are no technical barriers to the country achieving 100 percent renewable energy, as a new report states that solar is now cheaper than fossil fuels in most cities. And then in Germany, the renewable energy boom is making life miserable for fossil fuel producers.
Fossil Fuels Flounder
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The fossil fuel industry isn’t doing so well: Norway has become the first country to dump coal and tar sands companies because of their high risks to climate. And in an historic move, Exxon has wiped 3.3 billion barrels of oil reserves from its books, including a $16 billion investment in the oil sands – the largest cut since Exxon and Mobil merged in 1999.
Conoco Phillips also removed 1.15 billion barrels of oil sands crude from its books as part of a 21 percent cut, pushing the company’s reserves to a 15-year low. Meanwhile, US coal giant, the Southern Company, says its $7.1 billion Kemper CCS project to run a “clean coal” power plant is near completion, but an economic analysis found that lower natural gas prices and higher-than-expected operating costs “negatively impact the economic viability” of the facility. Despite President Trump’s vows to support the coal industry, coal plants keep on closing – in the next four years utilities have plans to close 40 coal units, federal figures show. Six closures have been announced since Trump’s victory in November.
“First, the [oil] industry is seeing more and more competition from alternative sources of energy. Second, many countries formerly dependent on the effective monopoly of oil companies have developed new strategies to protect national interests and to lower their exposure to oil market volatility. Third, the impact of the Paris Agreement on climate change is unfolding as new energy policies work their way through state halls, investment banks, institutional investment firms, and international financial institutions.” – Tom Sanzillo, IEEFA
President Trump’s “Energy Independence Executive Order” to roll back Obama’s climate action legacy is going to face problems at every turn, from legal challenges to the inexorable rise of renewable energy across the U.S., where States have introduced hundreds of clean energy bills this year.
Poll after poll shows public support for climate action, and a new analysis shows nationally, clean energy jobs outnumber all jobs in coal and gas by five to one. California Governor Jerry Brown vowed to continue to fight climate change calling Trump’s plans a “colossal mistake”, environmentalists labelled them as a threat to health, jobs and the economy, and the European Union’s Climate Commissioner pledged that Europe – would take the lead on climate action. Trump has not pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement, but the question now is how he plans to meet US obligations to cut carbon pollution.
Principal Resource: The Tree, Content for Climate Communicators