The Age Of The Renewables 

Date of Publish - Monday, 26th February 2018

Human civilization is at a crossroads, as nations are finally able to break free from fossil fuel dependence and invest in a future powered by clean energy. Although it is too early to write an epitaph for the ‘Age of Fossil Fuels’, deescalating costs have propelled the rise of renewable energies.

For the first time, solar was the top source of new power capacity additions in India during the calendar year 2017. Also last year, Britain began generating twice as much electricity from wind than coal, which contributed to 2017 being the greenest year ever for the United Kingdom. In the United States, solar and wind power accounted for nearly 95 percent of all new electricity capacity added last year.

A new report, ‘Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017’, recently published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) predicts that the cost of renewable energy will be on par with, or cheaper than, fossil fuels by 2020.

Fossil fuel generation today costs between $0.05 – $0.17 per kilowatt hour in G20 countries, including the US, the UK, Russia, Japan, India, and Germany. By 2020, renewables are expected to cost $0.03 – $0.10 per kilowatt hour, with the price of onshore wind power and solar photovoltaic (PV) projects expected to be as low as $0.03 per kilowatt hour by 2019.

Even offshore wind projects and solar thermal energy, which are still quite costly, are expected to drop in price.
These cost declines across technologies are unprecedented and representative of the degree to which renewable energy is disrupting the global energy system. It is also enabling developing countries like India to leapfrog the development ladder and jump directly into the so-called ‘Third Industrial Revolution’ age.

Nearly one-sixth of the world’s population lacks access to electricity, mostly in rural areas of the developing world. But that is set to change with the cost of solar panels, batteries, LED lights and appliances getting more affordable all the time. New age entrepreneurs are developing new approaches both to technology and support for rural communities, powered by renewable energy access.

In Africa, besides roof-top solar, other green micro-generation energy technologies like small biogas chambers that make electricity and fuel from cow manure, tiny power plants that make electricity from rice husks and small hydroelectric dams that generate power from local streams has made electricity available to hitherto deprived communities.
IRENA predicts that India will become world’s 4th largest renewables consumer by 2030. India is endowed with huge solar energy potential, ranked 5th among wind power producing countries and estimated to account for 9% of future worldwide renewable capacity.

India has embarked on, arguably, the largest energy transformation project in the world, with an ambitious target of 175 GW of renewable power by 2022 will include 100 GW of Solar power, 60 GW from wind power, 10 GW from biomass power and 5 GW from small hydro power.

The renewables sector is also generating huge employment opportunities. Last year, the renewable energy industry put 9.8 million people worldwide to work and by 2030, the sector could employ more than 24 million people. In the US alone, solar energy is the top employer in the US electric power generation sector, accounting for 43 percent of the total jobs in the field. In 2016, jobs in the United States solar industry increased nearly 17 times faster than the rate of the overall economy.

The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for air, water, and soil pollution, with deadly consequences for human health. Harnessing the power of the sun, wind, and water doesn’t pollute our precious planet. The growth of renewable energy augurs well for a better, safer and healthier world. Switching over to renewables for new power generation is now a smart economic decision and not just a reflection of environmental consciousness. In some parts of the world, the effects of such a paradigm shift are already evident. Renewable energy may not be completely replacing fossil fuels just yet, but it’s undeniable that human society is warming up to the ‘Age of the Renewables’.

Rituraj Phukan


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