Displacement in the Energy Industry: Fossil Fuels have “Lost the Race”; Wind Power Growing; Coal Workers Displaced

Analysis presented at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance annual summit in New York on April 14 was titled: Fossil Fuels Just Lost the Race Against Renewables: This is the beginning of the end (April 14). Bloomberg states that the shift occurred in 2013, when the world added 143 gigawatts of renewable electricity capacity, compared with 141 gigawatts in new plants that burn fossil fuels.

More statistics and a forecast are presented in a White Paper, Medium-term outlook for US power: 2015 = deepest decarbonization ever (April 8). And an International Energy Agency (IEA) press release in March states that global emissions of carbon dioxide from the energy sector stalled in 2014, marking the first time in 40 years in which there is a drop in GHG emissions that was not tied to an economic downturn. “Preliminary IEA data point to emissions decoupling from economic growth for the first time in 40 years” (13 March, 2015). The IEA attributes the halt in emissions growth to expanding reliance on renewables in China and energy efficiency improvements in OECD countries. China alone added 23 GW in wind power, almost half the world’s new wind installation capacity in 2014, according to the Global Wind Energy Market Report 2014 by the Global Wind Energy Council. Canada ranked 6th in new wind installations in 2014 and now ranks 7th in cumulative installed capacity in the world. Canada also appears in the report regarding the use of green bonds to finance wind power, illustrated by  the case of Northland Power.
Duke University researchers used input output modelling to measure job loss, gains, and displacement in each sector of the electricity sector in “Employment Trends in the U.S. Electricity Sector, 2008-2012” in the journal Energy Policy in March (access restricted). They report that the U.S. coal industry lost more than 49,000 jobs, while the natural gas, solar and wind industries together created nearly four times that amount.  


Investment in Canadian Clean Energy Mirrors Global Trend to Solar Pre-Eminence

Two new reports on investment in clean energy were released in March/April, both showing a global decline in investment levels, and that investment in solar now exceeds wind investment. A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) shows a 14% decrease in global investment in renewables in 2013, but even so, renewables attracted $192 billion for new capacity and comprised 43.6% of newly installed generation capacity in 2013. The U.S. continues to rank first among developed economies for investment in renewable energy with $33.9 billion in 2013 – although this represents a 10% decrease, largely attributable to the uncertainty over the continuation of the Wind Tax Credit. Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom were the only G-20 countries in which investment increased. Canada ranked 6th amongst the G-20 countries with $6.4 billion investment, largely in wind energy ($3.6 billion) and solar energy ($2.5 billion) in 2013. See “Six Canadian companies shaping the future of clean energy” (March 27) in Globe and Mail Report on Business Magazine at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/six-canadian-clean-energy-companies/article17685931/?page=4. To read the Global survey, see Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014, produced jointly by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) at: http://www.unep.org/newscentre/Default.aspx?DocumentID=2787&ArticleID=10824&l=en.

A related report was issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts, also utilizing Bloomberg data. Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? 2013 Edition contrasts a 16% decline in renewables investment in developed markets of G-20 countries (led by the U.S. and EU) with a growth of 15% in non G-20 countries, led by such countries as Chile and Uruguay. Pew ranks China as the top destination for investors; solar capacity in China increased fourfold in 2013. See Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race? At: http://www.pewenvironment.org/news-room/press-releases/pew-report-finds-that-global-clean-energy-investment-declined-in-2013-85899543052. See also the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s April 2014 Electricity Monthly Update which shows that U.S. solar capactiy also increased by 418% between 2010 and 2014, as described at: http://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/24/us-solar-energy-capacity-grew-an-astounding-418-from-2010-2014/.