For the first time ever, investments in renewable energy are surpassing investments in fossil fuel power plants despite continued concerns over the volatile global economy. The latest data comes from calculations made by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, and indicates a growing shift towards renewable energy even though international agreement on limiting greenhouse gases remains elusive.
A closer look at the numbers reveals that $187 billion of investment dollars poured into wind, solar, tidal, and biomass last year, compared with only $157 billion for natural gas, oil, and coal.
United Nations Environment Program Executive Secretary Achim Steiner said in an interview that â€œthe progress of renewables has been nothing short of remarkable… You have record investment in the midst of an economic and financial crisis.â€
But for many experts, the recent boom in renewable energy comes as little surprise.
After all, renewable technology has improved drastically over the past twenty years and does not show any signs of stopping anytime soon.
Esteemed futurist Ray Kurzweil has predicted that given the current trajectory of technological development, solar power could supply 100% of the worldâ€™s energy in 20 years. Some of the biggest hurdles with solar energy (namely its intermittency) have already been addressed with the successful completion of the 24/7 Gemasolar solar power plant in Spain.
And even the International Energy Agency (long known for its support of the fossil fuel industry) has acknowledged renewable energy as a cost-effective source of electricity.
The only question that is left is whether renewable energy can receive enough political support to become a reality in the near future. For instance, countries such as Germany and China are establishing themselves as leaders on the green energy front, but the US lags behind as vested interests continue to thwart efforts to implement effective climate change policies. Unfortunately, the longer the US waits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the costlier it will be in the future.
Image CC licensed by Alejandro Flores: Solar thermal power plant in Spain