From fossil fuels to renewable energy

The energy transition

A number of countries have moved forcefully to expedite a transition to a low-carbon and even a zero-carbon economy.

A first and absolutely essential step is to phase out coal.  The Netherlands, United Kingdom, Finland, France, Italy, and Portugal have committed to closing their coal plants in the coming decade.  The movement called Europe Beyond Coal is working hard to facilitate this transition—in association with the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign [1].

In 2016, more countries committed to moving away from or phasing out coal from electricity generation. Including Canada and the US State of Oregon [2].

100 percent clean energy

Across the USA, over 50 cities, five counties and one state have adopted 100% clean energy goals.  Five cites have already met this target: Aspen, Burlington, Greensburg KS, Rock Port MO, and Kodiak Island AK.  These five cities generate 100% of their energy from clean, non-polluting, and renewable energy sources.[3]

Universities and schools are powering up on solar energy. By 2019, the University of Hawaii Maui College will be one of the first campuses in the US to generate all of its energy from on-site photovoltaic electricity coupled with battery storage. The entire university network will be 100 % renewable by 2035 and the State has committed to be 100% on renewables by 2045.

The Ready for 100 association, initiated by the US Sierra Club, has issued guidelines for this transition : climate action plans and energy action plans etc. [4] Another initiative being promoted by the Sierra Club is Mayors for 100% clean energy–190 mayors have signed up to a vision of 100% clean and renewable energy [5].

Then there is RE 100–a collaborative, global initiative uniting more than 120 influential business committed to consuming 100% renewable electricity, and working to increase the demand and delivery of renewable energy.

At the COP22 meeting in Marrakesh in 2016, representatives from 47 of the world’s most disadvantaged nations pledged to generate all their future energy needs from renewable energy. Members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) issued their statement on the last day of the Marrakesh meeting.  Dubbed the Marrakesh Vision, the nations pledged that they will “strive to meet 100% domestic renewable  energy production as rapidly as possible, while working to end energy poverty and protect water and food security..”[6]

In 2018, the Balearic Islands’ government launched a plan to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.  New diesel cars are to be taken off the road in Ibiza, Majorca, Menorca and Formenta from 2025, a year in which all street lights  are to be replaced by LEDs.  Solar panels are to be installed on all buildings with roofs larger than 1000 m2—which includes car parks, hospitals, supermarkets and sports stadiums.  Coal is to be totally eliminated and all car hire fleets on the islands will be electric.[7]

Over the course of 2016, 117 countries submitted their first NDCs under the Paris Agreement, and 55 of these countries featured renewable energy targets [8].

During the same year, the Australian Capital Territory added a new commitment and several other large cities—such as Calgary, Tokyo, Cape Town and New York set significant targets for the transition to renewable energy. [9]  Copenhagen went one step further. As part of the city’s aim to become carbon-neutral by 2025, Copenhagen requires that all flat roofs to be planted with vegetation [10].  Many cities plan to simply ban gasoline and diesel vehicles from the city center.

Fossil fuel subsidies?

Building on international agreement to phase out fossil fuel subsidies—such as the 2009 commitments by the Group of Twenty (G20) and by Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)—by the end of 2016 more than 50 countries had committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies.  Subsidy reforms were instituted in Angola, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Gabon, India, Iran, Kuwait, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Tunisian, Ukraine, Venezuela, and Zambia. However, fossil fuel subsidies are still substantially higher than the subsidies for renewable sources of energy.[11]

So there is a high-profile groundswell of initiatives aimed at reducing countries’ dependence on fossil fuels and transitioning towards a low carbon economy.

But if the temperatures targets set under the Paris Agreement are to be met, the pace of the great transition has to pick up substantially.

 

For more more information , check these out

[1] Sierra club press release: https://www.sierraclub.org/press-release/2017/11/new-coalition-aims-take-europe-beyond-coal

[2] Global Status Report published by REN21.

[3] See : 100% Commitments in cites, counties & States. Sierra Club: https://www.sierrraclub.org/ready-for-100/commitments

[4] Ibid

[5] See: Mayors for clean energy. https://sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/mayors-for-clean-energy

[6] See: World’s poorest countries to aim for 100% green energy, at:  www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-38028130

[7] See: Baleriacs launch pioneering plan to phase out emissions, at : https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/15/baleriacs-launch-pioneering-plan-to-phase-out-emissions.

[8] Renewables 2017 Global Status Report. REN21

[9] Ibid page 26

[10] See: How do you build a healthy city? Copenhagen reveals its secrets. Accessed at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/feb/11/how-build-healthy-city-copenhagen-reveals-its-secrets-happiness

[11] Renewables 2017 Global Status Report. REN21 page 29