The recent explosive rise of solar and wind energy has given optimism to efforts being made worldwide to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate the most harmful effects of climate change.
Together, solar and wind energy barely accounted for 1.7% of the world’s electrical production in 2010. It increased to 8.7 percent by last year, which is much greater than what was initially anticipated by popular energy models.
For instance, the International Energy Agency predicted in 2012 that the production of solar energy would reach 550 terawatt-hours globally in 2030, but that prediction was surpassed in 2018. Although the rise of solar and wind has been exponential, these models frequently presume that it will.
We have more optimism about how quickly renewable energy can scale up in the future to achieve climate targets because we understand the exponential rise of renewable energy in the past. The causes behind the expansion of solar and wind energy are discussed in this article, along with the steps that still need to be taken to advance these technologies.
The greatest driver of the rise in renewable energy has been declining costs. The price of solar photovoltaic electricity has decreased by 85% since 2010, and the price of onshore and offshore wind electricity has decreased by roughly 50%. These two renewable energy sources are equally affordable to fossil-fuel electricity.
Positive feedback loops are to blame for the drastically reduced costs. The more renewable energy technologies are used, the less expensive they get as a result of, among other things, supply chain competition and economies of scale. More deployment is therefore encouraged by these declining costs.
For instance, in the last ten years, the cost of installing solar capacity has decreased by 34% every time the quantity of solar capacity deployed globally has doubled. Since renewable energy technologies are standardized and modular, any cost reductions or technological advancements made anywhere can be quickly replicated.
The implementation of renewable energy also has other components that reinforce one another. It gets simpler to enlist further policy support and financial backing as renewable energy grows more well-liked, increases its political power, and draws more funding.
The cost of funding has fallen as bankers get more insight into the technical and project risks associated with renewable energy. Furthermore, there is evidence that the adoption of renewable energy is socially contagious, meaning that when one home installs rooftop solar, the neighbors who see it and hear about it are more likely to do the same.
In addition, policy support has been crucial for the expansion of renewable energy. Feed-in tariffs, competitive auctions, tax credits, and subsidies for renewable energy have all lowered prices and accelerated adoption. Furthermore, encouraging innovation in renewable energy has required significant government investment in research and development.
Through legislative backing, China, Europe, and the United States have emerged as global leaders in solar and wind energy, and 165 nations around the world have set goals to boost renewable energy. More than 600 cities globally have goals of using only renewable energy. It’s not just about countries though.
If you are interested in more articles like this, here’s one on the advantages of renewable energy.