PARIS – Developing countries spent more on renewable power than rich ones for the first time last year, driving the fastest increase in sources of green energy on record, a study said Wednesday. Global investment in renewable power was more than double the amount spent on new coal and natural gas-fired power generation in 2015, the Renewables Global Status report found. Overall spending on green energy rose 5 percent from 2014 to 286 billion, beating the previous record set in 2011. China opened its coffers the widest, accounting for more than a third of total investment worldwide, while India, South Africa, Mexico and Chile also significantly increased spending. In total, some 147 gigawatts of capacity was added during the year -- the largest increase ever and reportedly the equivalent of all of Africa's generating capacity.
At Yamakura Dam, 45 km southeast of Tokyo, construction workers are screwing together a 51,000-piece jigsaw puzzle of floating solar panels. When completed, it will be one of the world's largest floating solar projects. Roughly 30 percent of the work on the project in Chiba Prefecture is complete, and when it comes online in 2018, the 13.7 megawatt facility will provide enough electricity to power almost 5,000 households annually. However, even attention-grabbing projects like this one will produce less than 1 percent of what's needed for Japan to reach its 2015 goal of doubling its renewable energy use to between 22 and 24 percent by 2030 from around 10 percent at present. The growth of renewable energy in Japan risks being smothered by a wave of newly approved coal mines across the country, as the government is expected to lower its optimistic goal of reviving nuclear energy.
Ken Isono has an insatiable appetite for going to different places, learning about them and connecting with local people. It was when he traveled to over 30 countries as a backpacker in his final year of university that he became aware of the gravity of global environmental challenges and started to believe in the potential of renewable energy as a viable solution. Three months after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, Isono set up a venture with his fellow workers at a wind power firm in the hope of promoting renewable energy. Since then, he has witnessed disaster-prone Japan's gradual shift toward green energy. "You can't deny that renewable energy has become a new energy source in Japan.
President-elect Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom with his assertion that global warming is a "hoax" and he has inspired hope among the impoverished coal fields of Appalachia that he will bring the coal industry back by calling off the Environmental Protection Agency's "war on coal." I don't believe the Obama Administration's EPA ever formally declared a "war on coal," but it has acted to accelerate coal's decline, and for perfectly sensible reasons. There is no question that coal takes a greater toll on the environment than other energy sources. In terms of life-cycle greenhouse emissions per power source, coal is by far the worst offender, generating 1,001 in grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour. Natural gas comes in at less than half that.
India may still be using fossil fuels for much of its power needs, but the country is quickly turning to renewable power sources. If you visited Kamuthi, in Tamil Nadu, one year ago, you would find delight and peace in its temples and greenery. But today, everyone is talking about its brand new power plant. Kamuthi, located 90 kilometers outside Madurai, is now home to the world's largest solar power plant at a single location. Spanning a 10-square-kilometer area, the plant has the capacity of 648MW, enough to power about 150,000 homes.