Clean Energy to Go Around

Countries, states, and the private sector took center stage last week with an array of energy announcements from around the world.

When visiting the US at the end of June, Dilma Rousseff, President of Brazil, announced with President Obama that both countries pledged to source 20% of their energy from nonhydro renewables by 2030.  China, when filing its INDC on June 30 with the UNFCCC, kept in line with the joint rousseffannouncement it made last November with the US when pledging to reduce the amount of carbon emitted relative to the size of its economy by 60 to 65% by 2030; it previously had declared that it would reduce it by 40 to 45% by 2029 and is already down 33.8%, so on track to achieve the INDC pledge. Scotland generated 49.8% of its electricity from renewables in 2014, effectively meeting its 2015 target. The country’s next benchmark is 100% renewable by 2020. Scottish wind farms currently produce enough to power some one million U.K. homes for a year and overall renewables make up about 30% of the UK’s total. More than half comes from wind, about a third from hydro, and a much smaller percentage from solar.    A leaked EU Commission paper says that Europe overall is on track to sources 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

At the local government level, New York State announced that its Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) 2030 targets include a 40% cut in GHGs from 1990 levels and a 50% statewide goal for renewables.  The plan also seeks $5 billion over 10 years to support programs like the NY-Sun solar initiative and the New York Green Bank, and an additional $1.5 billion to promote large-scale solar and wind projects. Some friendly competition for California, given its recent announcement?

On the private side, Google will convert an old coal-fired plant in Alabama to a data center powered by renewable energy. About 46% of Google’s data centers are powered by renewable energy, lagging behind Apple, with 100% clean energy fueling its centers.  BMW is still aiming to convert allbmw of its vehicles to an electric drivetrains.  Bloomberg Business reports that solar power will draw $3.7 trillion in investment through 2040, out of a total of $8 trillion invested in clean energy. That’s almost double the $4.1 trillion that will be spent on coal ($1.6), natural gas ($1.2) and nuclear plants ($1.3). Interestingly, large utility-scale solar will dominate in developing countries while smaller-scale solar will comprise most of the investment in developed countries. And oil and real estate billionaire Philip Anschutz plans to turn his Wyoming cattle ranch into the world’s largest onshore wind farm with 1,000 turbines sited in one of the windiest parts of the country. It is estimated that it would produce more than 3,000 megawatts of power, four times the electricity produced by the Hoover Dam and enough to power every home in Los Angeles and San Francisco. It could also cut carbon emissions by as much as 13 million tons a year. Anschutz’s spokesman, Bill Miller, colorfully put this renewable energy project in perspective: “I just look at it as energy, pure and simple. A wind turbine is just an oil well turned upside down.”