Why clean energy is now expanding even when fossil fuels are cheap – the washington post z gas cd juarez telefono


In a new analysis, Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that 2015 was a record year for global investment in the clean energy space, with $ 329 billion invested in wind, solar panels, biomass plants and more around the world. (The number does not include investments in large hydroelectric facilities).

When it comes to fossil fuels, “prices have been low, continue to stay low, and yet we continue to see strong growth of wind and solar, and it speaks to the fact that again, these technologies are becoming more cost competitive,” says Ethan Zindler, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

As BNEF notes, the price of oil — which is burned to generate a fair amount of electricity around the world, though this is rare in the U.S. — tanked in 2015. Coal prices and U.S. natural gas prices also got considerably cheaper over the second half of 2014 and the 12 months of 2015. Nonetheless, China and the UK invested in massive multibillion-dollar offshore wind farms, even as other nations, from the U.S. to Brazil, saw near billion-dollar expenditures on new solar farms and biomass plants.

“The technologies have reached an important tipping point in a number of markets in the world,” he says. “They are now, in a growing number of locations, becoming cost competitive.” It doesn’t hurt, of course, that government policy also favors them in many regions, a trend that will surely only continue in the wake of the late 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Overall, the addition of 121 gigawatts of solar and wind globally (also a record) means that roughly half of new electricity generating capacity installed last year was in these two technologies. In the U.S., solar appears to have seen a record year for installed capacity, at over 7 gigawatts.

The solar business is also strong, says Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower, which is one of the largest U.S. based solar companies with a recent market capitalization of $ 3.24 billion — and which is active in both the U.S. and China, where Werner says “we’re seeing very large projects.”

“We’re past the threshold point, now we’re to the point where it’s mainstream, and I think ’16 will be bigger than ’15, globally,” Werner says. He points to three recent developments to back that conclusion — the Paris climate agreement (which gives a market signal in favor of solar), the extension of solar investment tax credits in the U.S., and recent positive developments for solar net metering in California.

At the same time, clean energy jobs are also booming. The Solar Foundation recently released a report finding that the U.S. solar industry added some 35,000 jobs in 2015 alone, for nearly 209,000 overall now in the U.S. That total is expected to approach 240,000 by the end of this year.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced, in his latest state of the state address Wednesday, plans to “eliminate all use of coal in New York State by 2020.” That came one day after President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, suggested plans to “change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” suggesting possible policy moves to limit coal leasing on public lands in the U.S.

In other words, while half of new generating capacity in 2015 was in the clean energy space, in coming years we may see that percentage grow even higher. Granted, there is still a ways to go before wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources are dominant in generating our electricity. Wind and solar provide about 5 percent of U.S. electricity right now, for instance. Here as across much of the world, electricity generation is still largely dominated by fossil fuels.