According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, or IRENA, 171GW of renewable energy was added to the global system in 2018. That made up two-thirds of the overall new power generation capacity added for the year and one-third of the world’s capacity in whole.
Wind and solar energy contributed 84% of the renewable sources, with solar seeing the largest growth for the year at an increase of 94GW in capacity. Most of these solar facilities were installed in Asia, which also hosted over 40% of new wind energy.
Wind accounted for 564GW in total, joining 1,172GW of energy from hydropower and 480GW of solar to register 2,351GW of renewable energy for the year.
The Price is Right
In part, such innovation can be attributed to record-breaking efficiency in production cost. For the first time, the industry saw renewables running a lower price tag in production than fossil fuels.
According to analysis and data culled from Bloomberg, The Frankfurt School, IRENA, and UN Environment by Kaiserwetter Energy Asset Management, fossil fuels generated energy costs ranging from $49 to $174 per MWh in 2017, while renewables logged rates from $35 to $54 per MWh over a comparable period of time.
Renewable energy programs have been growing for the past five years, bolstered by technological innovations that make wind and solar energy easy to access for both commercial and residential users.
In U.S. cities alone, the Environment America Research and Policy Center reports doubled solar energy capacity in the last six years; Honolulu ranks as the top per-person producer at 646 watts per resident, and Los Angeles took top honors for overall installed capacity.
45 of the country’s 57 largest cities logged substantial numbers, with one-third tallying photovoltaic capacity at quadrupled rates.
Regional leaders for solar capacity per capita include Burlington, Vermont in the Northeast; Washington, D.C. in the South Atlantic; San Antonio, Texas in the South Central region; Indianapolis for North Central; and Las Vegas for the Mountain region.
Honolulu led the Pacific, leading the charge for Hawaii’s goal to transition completely to renewable energy sources by 2045.
In addition to advances in technology, effective public policy and passionate advocacy are credited for the earth-friendly energy surge.
This article was originally published on II Thomas.
University World News GLOBAL : Although young people are driving a global wake-up call on climate change and the need to reduce our carbon footprint, many universities struggling with the concept and agenda of ‘greening’ and their achievements to date have been “scattered and unsystematic”, UN Environment, the leading global environmental authority, warned this week.
In a report published on its website, it says some schools and universities are leading by example and reducing carbon emissions, promoting renewable energy and becoming “hotbeds of activism on the defining issue for a generation”.
But, it says, “while some noteworthy exemplars of university sustainability initiatives exist around the world, there is a need to maximise the potential benefits by encouraging their replication in as many universities as possible globally.”
This article is part of a series on Transformative Leadership published by University World News in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. University World News is solely responsible for the editorial content.
Across the world, UN Environment is working with universities to set up national and regional Green University Networks to enable institutions to incorporate low carbon-climate resilience development strategies and sustainability in education, training and campus operations.
“Decarbonising our economies and lives will be a defining and recurrent element of any profession until the end of this century,” said Niklas Hagelberg, coordinator of the Climate Change Programme at UN Environment. He said going carbon-neutral provides a great opportunity to “demystify carbon neutrality for students” and can give them a practical experience through inclusion in curricula and operations of the school or university.
UN Environment has produced the Greening Universities Toolkit V2.0 to inspire universities to design, develop and implement strategies for green, resource-efficient and low carbon campuses.
The toolkit aims to encourage and promote the contribution of universities to the overall sustainability of the planet and help them become agents of change. Drawing on innovations and best practice in sustainability, it looks at defining sustainability, initiating transformations, indicators, technologies for transformation, policy governance and administration and resources for change.
It includes dozens of case studies from Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America outlining sustainable campus innovations implemented.
In Britain, declaring a climate change emergency, the University of Bristol had already become what is thought to be the world’s first higher education institution to issue its own ‘climate emergency’ declaration, reflecting growing student unease over the slow pace of official action. Two weeks later, parliament, on 5 May made history by declaring a ‘climate change emergency’.
The university has reduced carbon emissions by 27% since 2005 through a combination of technical measures, including heating controls and LED lighting. It has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030 and in March 2018 it announced plans to divest completely from all investments in fossil fuel companies within two years.
“The University of Bristol plays a key role in fighting climate change; it does this through its research, its teaching and how it operates,” said Professor Judith Squires, deputy vice-chancellor and provost.
“Calling a climate emergency highlights the urgency of the task we are engaged in and I hope others join us in increasing their action on this, the biggest challenge we face.”
UN Environment said it is fitting that Bristol University should be a leader in this field: it houses the Cabot Institute for the Environment, home to several of the lead authors on reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including last year’s devastating analysis that the world is running out of time to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Many other positive examples among universities exist to inspire innovation and action.
Achieving carbon neutrality
For example, Bowdoin College in Maine in the United States became carbon neutral in 2018, two years ahead of the schedule it pledged as part of the Presidents’ Climate Leadership Commitments. The private liberal arts college reduced its carbon emissions by 29%, from 16,326 metric tons in 2008 to 11,620 metric tons in 2017.
Bowdoin College installed a cogeneration turbine, which produces electricity as a by-product of generating heat, converted buildings from oil to natural gas, insulated 5,100 feet of underground steam tunnels, replaced thousands of lights with efficient LED bulbs and diverted more than 50% of its waste from landfills.
To account for its remaining emissions, the college is investing in carbon offsets with regional impacts, and in renewable energy credits associated with wind farms. Additionally, Bowdoin is announcing a pioneering renewable energy project partnership that will result in the largest solar array in the state of Maine.
This will involve working with other educational institutions to help fund construction of a 75-megawatt solar project in Farmington. The project is expected to offset nearly half of Bowdoin’s annual electricity consumption.
As part of its carbon neutrality action plan, Bowdoin has held energy reduction contests, trained eco-reps to educate the campus community and employed about 200 students to raise awareness about climate change among their peers.
It has increased its composting of food waste, switched security officers out of vehicles and onto bikes to use less petrol, and has insulated buildings and sealed doors and windows to reduce energy waste.
In Washington DC, American University also reached carbon neutrality two years ahead of schedule. It now uses 21% less energy per square foot than it did in 2005.
American University also has eight green roofs, seven solar panel arrays and nine bioretention basins and rain gardens. All of its shuttle buses run on biodiesel, the campus is also bicycle-friendly and the university has planted more than 1.2 million trees in the city to offset greenhouse gas emissions from commuting.
Half of American University’s power needs come from a solar panel farm it established in North Carolina in partnership with the George Washington University and George Washington University Hospital. The other half comes from renewable energy credits.
Australia’s Charles Sturt University was certified the country’s first carbon neutral university in 2016. As well as procuring carbon offsets, it has introduced electric carts on campuses, commissioned solar photovoltaic systems, established battery recycling centres and beefed up its recycling processes.
In Kenya, Strathmore University set out to become the first climate neutral university in the country and installed a 0.6 MW rooftop solar plant to provide energy and reduce its carbon footprint. The Strathmore Energy Research Centre decided to export the excess energy to the grid and a power purchase agreement was signed in 2015. The solar plant is also used as a live laboratory to train technicians to design and maintain such installations.
UN Environment says it is working with other Kenyan educational institutions through the Kenya Green University Network, which was launched in 2016 in collaboration with the National Environment Management Authority and the Commission for University Education. The aim is to integrate sound environmental practices and knowledge sharing into Kenya’s 70 public and private universities.
Direct personal action
Students across the world in schools and universities have also taken direct, personal action. At West Hollow Middle School in Long Island in the United States, students have taken the UN’s Climate Neutral Now pledge to measure the school’s greenhouse gas emissions, reduce what they can and offset the rest using certified emissions reductions.
UN Environment said such action has effects that ripple out into the community. West Hollow School has produced a full curriculum for teachers to raise awareness among students and encourage both pupils and staff to also work on reducing their carbon footprints at home.
For Bristol University student, Giles Atkinson, who had a key role in organising the petition to declare a climate emergency, universities can take a leading role in responding to climate change.
“This [climate emergency] declaration will help communicate the urgency of the situation and inspire further action. We hope that other universities follow suit,” he said.
The world’s fourth largest cement company pledged on Monday to bring its emission reduction targets in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement, in a first for the industry.
HeidelbergCement, which employs some 58,000 people in 60 countries, committed to slash direct emissions by 15% per tonne of its products by 2030 from 2016 levels.
The construction behemoth also committed to cut indirect emissions, for example from its electricity supply, by 65% a tonne within the same time-frame.
“The commitment, which is part of the company’s wider vision to realise CO2-neutral concrete by 2050 at the latest, is a powerful signal that the built environment is transitioning towards a zero-carbon future,” said Jennifer Gerholdt, corporate engagement director at We Mean Business, a coalition of companies promoting climate action.
“It’s also vital for the decarbonization of entire economies, given concrete is the most widely used man-made substance on earth, one of the hardest to decarbonize and in growing demand due to rising population and urbanization.”
The move comes as the number of new buildings is tipped to grow in the coming years, in particular in Africa and Asia. This rapid expansion will test a 30% energy intensity improvement in buildings by 2030, required to put the industry on track to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, according to the IEA and UN Environment.
CAIRO (Reuters) – Egypt expects the 1.6-gigawatt solar park it is building in the south of the country to be operating at full capacity in 2019, the investment ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The $2 billion project, set to be the world’s largest solar installation, has been partly funded by the World Bank, which invested $653 million through the International Finance Corporation.
Some parts of the park are already operating on a small scale, while other areas are still undergoing testing.
Egypt aims to meet 20 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2022 and up to 40 per cent by 2035. Renewable energy currently covers only about 3 per cent of the country’s needs.
“Egypt’s energy sector reforms have opened a wider door for private sector investments,” World Bank President David Malpass said during his visit to the site alongside Egypt’s Investment Minister Sahar Nasr.
Egypt is on a drive to lure back investors who fled following the 2011 uprising with a slew of economic reforms and incentives the government hopes will draw fresh capital and kickstart growth.
Most of the foreign direct investment Egypt attracts goes toward its energy sector.
Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Nadine Awadalla; Editing by Yousef Saba and Jan Harvey.
A new tide of people power is rising in Africa. On April 2, a nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria succeeded in pressuring Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after 20 years as president. Nine days later, protesters in Sudan were celebrating the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president of 30 years, after a three-month-long uprising against his regime.
The nonviolent overthrows of Bouteflika and Bashir are not aberrations. They reflect a surprising trend across the continent: despite common perceptions of Africa as wracked by violence and conflict, since 2000, most rebellions there have been unarmed and peaceful. Over the past decade, mass uprisings in Africa have accounted for one in three of the nonviolent campaigns aiming to topple dictatorships around the world. Africa has seen 25 new, nonviolent mass movements—almost twice as many as Asia, the next most active region with 16.
The AU said it noted “with deep regret” that the military had not stepped aside and handed power to civilians within a 15-day period set by the AU last month.
The bloc also reiterated “its conviction that a military-led transition in Sudan will be totally unacceptable and contrary to the will and legitimate aspirations, to democratic institutions and processes, as well as respect for human rights and freedoms of the Sudanese people”.
The military assumed power in Sudan after toppling the country’s long-time ruler Omar al-Bashir following months of anti-government protests.
It promised to hold elections within two years but protesters have rejected that and remained on the streets of the capital, Khartoum, demanding immediate civilian rule.
The council, led by General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, has been negotiating with protest leaders on the formation of a new transitional government. But the two sides are divided over the role of the military, which is dominated by al-Bashir appointees.
Recent setbacks in financing for development should therefore focus policymakers’ attention on the need for decisive national strategies so these best intentions might be realized. Harnessing the necessary resources could be achieved through a combination of revenue mobilization, attracting private finance, and supporting financial sector development. Policy makers will need to engage in collective action and practice a new multilateralism in support of global goals.
A new UN study, prepared with significant contributions by the IMF, the World Bank Group, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Development Program and other UN agencies, takes a deep dive into how countries and the international community are faring in mobilizing the needed financing.
The financing needs are not small change—an IMF study earlier this year estimated additional annual spending needs by 2030 would be $2.6 trillion in low-income and emerging markets for the big-ticket SDGs delivering education, health, power, roads, water and sanitation to growing populations. The financing challenge is particularly large in low-income and fragile states given their low starting point, rapid population growth, and often weak growth trajectory accounting for one-fifth of the total financing needs.
While the financing challenges are large, they are not overwhelming for most countries.
The UN report also notes that some recent developments may make mobilizing financing more difficult. Global growth has likely peaked, trade restrictions are intensifying, some emerging markets are experiencing capital flow reversals, and debt risks are rising with about thirty low-income countries at a high risk of debt distress or in debt distress. We are indeed at a delicate moment for the global economy as the IMF Managing Director remarked earlier this month.
Meeting the financing challenge
The Financing for Sustainable Development Report makes over 40 specific recommendations to UN member states to better align financing with investments in the sustainable development goals. Four proposals merit particular attention:
Develop a financing framework. Financing is often the weakest part of national SDG plans: a recent study showed that over three-quarters of 107 national plans do not contain costings or financing details. The report makes concrete recommendations on how to operationalize a financing framework and illustrates how some countries developed plans identifying both public and private flows.
Medium-term revenue strategies. The report recommends building a national consensus for medium-term revenue strategies that can support reforms through the political cycle by highlighting the link between additional revenues and effective and equitable public services. Indonesia provides a good example of an ambitious revenue strategy that aims to raise revenue from 10 to 15 percent of GDP over the medium term (explained in this IMF book ). Revenue strategies may be bolstered by global coordination on international corporate tax reform.
Actions to support debt sustainability. An in-depth discussion of debt risks provides a rich menu of actions to help countries spot vulnerabilities early on, and better manage their debt. The report highlights that all debt crisis situations are different and discusses ongoing efforts and challenges for debt-restructuring in the Gambia, Republic of Congo, and Mozambique.
Prepare for future crises. Even the best laid plans, strategies, and tools may not prepare developing countries adequately for future financial crises and spillovers from advanced economies. The report reiterates the importance of ensuring the adequacy and comprehensiveness of the global financial safety net, including through the ongoing review of IMF financing arrangements.
While the financing challenges are large, they are not overwhelming for most countries. Particularly strong efforts will be needed to move the needle in Africa and parts of the Middle East, with national policies to support SDG investments, and international cooperation to find solutions to new and emerging challenges. The Financing for Sustainable Development Report makes an important contribution to identifying necessary actions.