What an odd year. While businesses around the world were making record level investments in renewables and efficiency, a growing number of conservative politicians and members of the American media punditry — lead by the outrageously ignorant “reporting” by Fox News — have been foolishly projecting (even cheering on) the demise of the sector.
Aside from the mind-boggling disparity between the science and politics of climate change, I’ve never seen such a large gap between perception and what’s actually happening on the ground.
Of course, we can’t ignore the enormous challenges — from cheap natural gas to relentless competition in manufacturing — that will lead to the death of many of the companies we know today. That is part of the natural (and sometimes violent) shake-out we can expect to see in years to come.
However, in order to add to our “climate solutions menu” on this site and cut through some of the recent political attacks, we’ve added more stories on the positive trends in clean energy. Here are some of our favorites from the last year (with some of our best clean energy charts of the year):
Even with a severe financial crisis in Europe and the continued malaise in the U.S., renewable energy surpassed fossil fuels for the first time in new power-plant investments in 2011.
This great series of charts shows just how cost-competitive solar photovoltaics have become with new coal and nuclear plants in the U.S.
While RGGI was being implemented, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity claimed the regional cap and trade program would drive rates up 90%. An independent analysis shows that after three years, the program has set a course for $1.2 billion in rate decreases.
This year saw a couple record-setting, private-sector investments in efficiency, proving once again that the biggest companies in the world see enormous value in reducing energy.
The geothermal industry has had its share of troubles financing and building projects in the last couple of years. But a new Google-funded map shows that technically exploitable geothermal resources in the U.S. are equivalent to 10 times our current coal capacity.
Despite what we hear from politicians who call green jobs “progaganda,” a Brookings Institute report released this summer showed “torrid” growth in high-paying, export-heavy green jobs around the U.S.
With over $915 million in clean energy investments to date, Google is emerging was one of the leading players in renewables and efficiency. In order to make a more immediate impact on the market, the tech giant has switched its focus from R&D to deployment.
With a high-profile trade war against the Chinese brewing in the solar market, it’s often forgotten that the U.S. is actually a net exporter of solar products to China and the rest of the world. With 73 cents out of every dollar spent on a solar installation staying within the U.S., this sector is providing immense domestic value.
Opponents of strategic government investments in clean energy seem to forget the past. A report on historic government investments showed that the federal commitment to oil and gas was five times greater than the commitment to renewables during the first 15 years of a subsidy’s life.
Anyone watching the presidential primaries has seen an astonishing reversal from candidates on climate science and support of clean energy. It turns out, that negative rhetoric can actually have negative consequences for candidates.
See any we’ve missed — either on Climate Progress or on other sites? Tell us what your top stories are in the comments section.
CAPAF’s Public Lands Project today released an original video on Think Progress highlighting this year’s top oddest and dirtiest moments in the House Committee on Natural Resources.
From the beginning of the 112th Congress, it was suspected that Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) would lead the committee on an “oil above all” mission, and that proved to be the case — 20 out of 65 oversight hearings were held on how to do more oil and gas drilling, while just four were held on spurring renewable energy development. Hearings weren’t the only way Republicans attempted to prioritize the bottom line of their corporate contributors over the public lands that belong to all Americans — indeed, they went so far as to push extreme measures to mine uranium next to the Grand Canyon and deny the existence of an entire industry of green jobs, both of which are shown in this video.
The House of Representatives in the 112th Congress as a whole has the dubious distinction of being “the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress,” averaging more than one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011. Much of that legislation started in the House Committee on Natural Resources, where CAPAF’s Public Lands Project spent the year highlighting mistruths about oil and gas subsidies, exposing nefarious motivations for mining and drilling our public lands, and standing up for policies that protect the lands that belong to all of us.
In Brazil’s latest power auction earlier this week — a process in which developers bid for contracts with the country’s national electricity agency — more than 80% of contracts were for wind projects. This follows an auction in August that brought in power contracts for wind that were below the bidding price of natural gas plants.
The National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) signed contracts with 42 new power plants worth 1,200 MW — including 39 wind projects totaling more than 976 MW that agreed to an average selling price of US $55 per megawatt-hour, or 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s a 1.2 cent per kWh decrease over the average selling price in the August auction.
A combination of resources and policy have helped grow Brazil’s domestic wind market by more than 50% since 2009. With an import on foreign wind turbines, major manufacturers have set up operations within the country that have helped bring down the cost of developing projects. Brazil’s estimated exploitable wind resources are about 143,000 MW of capacity — far surpassing the roughly 100,000 MW of total installed electricity capacity today.
However, wind still only plays a small role in Brazil’s electricity mix, representing only 0.5% of generation. The country has historically focused on large hydropower projects, which make up roughly 80% of generation.
But things are picking up. After a slow start to Brazil’s wind procurement program, the country has proven itself as a reliable growth market in the last few years. The Global Wind Energy Council projects that an additional 3,300 MW of wind projects will be built in Brazil over the next two years.
Search engine giant Google has put $94m into four solar photovoltaic (PV) projects currently under construction in California.
But this investment, according to Google, represents its first investment in the US in larger scale solar PV power plants that generate energy for the grid–instead of on individual rooftops.
These projects have a total capacity of 88MW, equivalent to the electricity consumed by more than 13,000 homes.
A spokesman said: “We’ve had a busy year at Google, since January we’ve invested more than $880m in clean energy projects.
“We believe the world needs a wide range of solutions–from wind, to transmission, to solar PV and concentrated solar–and we look forward to new opportunities next year to further expand our portfolio of clean energy investments.”
Related Solar Job Opportunities include:
Lord Turner is to step down as chairman of the Committee on Climate Change
From spring 2012 Lord Turner will move to to focus on his role as chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) ending an association with the CCC since it was founded in 2008.
Lord Turner said: “Chairing the CCC for the first four years of its existence has been both a pleasure and an honour.
“The committee has a vital role in ensuring that the UK commits to and sticks to a feasible path towards a low carbon economy, making a fair contribution to reducing global emissions and reducing the dangers of harmful climate change”.
Energy and climate change secretary, Chris Huhne, said:”Lord Turner has brought invaluable economic insight to the climate change debate.
“He will leave the Committee on Climate Change with a strong legacy based on credible, evidence based analysis, which is a great credit to him.
“We have been lucky to have had the benefit of his experience and I am grateful for the work he has done.”
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has begun the process of recruiting a new chairman for the CCC as well as another committee member to replace Professor Michael Grubb who left in April 2011.
Related Job Opportunities include: