World surpasses 1TW in renewable energy, could double that in five years

World surpasses 1TW in renewable energy, could double that in five years

By Luke Vargas   
A fixed tilt solar PV plant in Southern California. Courtesy: First Solar, Inc.
A fixed tilt solar PV plant in Southern California. (Courtesy: First Solar Inc.)

As the cost to manufacture solar panels keeps falling, analysts predict the world could double renewable energy generation by 2023.

UNITED NATIONS — The world hit a major milestone in recent days, producing one terawatt in renewable energy.

“One Terawatt is about the same as all of the installed power generation in the United States, and also roughly equal to all of the coal generation in China. So it’s a lot. It’s a big milestone.”

Albert Cheung is the head of analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Wind accounted for 54 percent of that first Terawatt, compared to 46 percent for solar. And as the cost of making photo-voltaic cells keeps dropping, solar will comprise a larger portion of the next terawatt of renewable energy.

Cheung says the two-terawatt milestone is practically around the corner.

“The first terawatt cost $2.3 trillion to build and took 40 years. The second terawatt, we reckon, will take five years and will cost half as much as the first one. So that’s how quickly this industry is evolving.”

Here in the U.S., energy analysts like John Rogers of the Union of Concerned Scientists worry President Trump’s move to place tariffs on Chinese solar panels could slow the switch to renewables. But as the financial case for renewables strengthens, even the Trump administration is taking note:

“The administration has recently committed to leasing out additional areas off our coasts for offshore wind farms. Even the Trump administration, I think, had a hard time ignoring the potential for not just the carbon-free electricity right off our coasts, but the economic development benefits, the jobs, etc. that will come with ramping up offshore wind.”

From his office in London, Cheung agrees, and says even U.S. fossil fuel subsidies will fail to dent the economic benefits of renewables.

“While we see some short-term policy headwinds in places like the U.S., if you look over the sort of five or ten-year horizon it’s really hard to see a future where wind and solar don’t dominate just purely on a cost basis.”

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