We kicked off last year’s inaugural edition of this report with the observation that clean energy had made the leap from “boutique” to “big.” That trend continued in 2014, as the global energy revolution went into high gear. The most remarkable piece of evidence: The International Energy Agency (IEA) found that global growth in greenhouse gas emissions stalled in 2014, even as the economy continued to grow. The agency attributed this to the ramp-up of renewable energy and the payoff of efficiency policies.
Investors moved USD$295 billion into renewable energy-generation projects—an increase of 17 percent over 2013. Further, declining technology costs are giving us more bang for our buck; with declining technology costs each invested dollar now yields more turbines and panels on the ground, and more megawatts, than it did just a few years ago. Meanwhile, the broader clean-energy market, including buildings, vehicles, and more, grew to USD$788 billion—even as the price for oil began its freefall.
The oil price crash may have dominated the headlines as of late 2014, but since oil is primarily a transportation fuel, it didn’t slow the steady rise of renewable electricity. Enough such electricity now moves through power grids to power roughly half of all homes on Earth.
Hydro, solar, and wind have long driven the energy revolution, but wind took a back seat in 2013. That’s no longer the case:Thanks to renewed policy certainty in the United States, in 2014 wind again roared back to full strength.
We also noted the start of construction on the Tesla Motors Gigafactory, which some analysts expect will slash the cost of home, vehicle, and utility batteries, disrupting at least three established business models and reducing fossil-fuel dependence in each case.
The global political landscape is undergoing a tone shift; clean energy is moving out of the “nice to have in the mix” bucket and into the critical column. The United States, Canada’s largest trading partner and the welcome recipient of a great deal of Canadian clean hydroelectricity, signed cooperative climate agreements with China, Mexico, and India—where Prime Minister Modi set the aggressive goal of bringing electricity to every household in the country, powered in part by a huge scale-up in solar, wind, and hydro.
More nations moved to price carbon, and the divestment movement crossed a symbolic threshold when investors moved $50 billion in capital out of fossil stocks while picking up some powerful new allies in houses of worship around the world.
As we count down to the UN Paris Climate talks, we hope this assessment proves useful to clean energy observers, enterprising business leaders with an eye abroad, and to federal and provincial political leaders looking to capitalize on the global clean-energy opportunity.
One final note:
Nobody said this was going to be easy. Many challenges lie ahead, and the scale of change that is taking place has opponents and setbacks. We outline some of these alongside with each milestone and trend we highlight.
Tracking the Energy Revolution is a series of annual publications by Clean Energy Canada that highlight where and how the shift to cleaner energy sources and electrified transportation is unfolding in Canada and around the world.