The growth of renewables will answer to no one

The growth of renewables will answer to no one

Elisa Maria Giannetto
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"Simply more cost-effective," that is how a Guardian roundtable of experts explained the vigorous growth of green energy worldwide

Neither Trump, nor Brexit, and not even rising energy demand in Asia can stop the rise of renewable energy. Shortly before leaving office, Barack Obama described the push toward renewables as "irreversible." A group of representatives of major international organizations were asked the same question at roundtable by the British daily The Guardian, broadcast on the paper’s website, on the future of sustainable energy, and they agreed with the former US President. For them the answer lies entirely in market logic, as technological innovation has driven the costs of wind and solar energy to near grid parity, the lien where a kWh produced by clean energy will cost the as one kWh produced by traditional sources.. According to Gina V. Hall, investment director at the Carbon Trust, "a lot of the talk about bringing back coal jobs will start to fade. The rhetoric will be put aside in the face of the facts." This market logic is exemplified by giants like Apple and Google, companies that are strongly committed to renewable energy and have plans for completely phasing out other sources. Such powerful actors are unlikely to change their plans in response to a new administration in the Whitehouse. But there are two other factors in particular that will foster a green transition in the United States. For one thing, as the panelists pointed out, clean energy has strong bipartisan support, with over half of the renewable capacity installed recently in Republican-run states. Secondly, the job growth potential of wind and solar continues to expand. Considering that Trump’s presidential platform has largely been about creating jobs, he will have a hard time denying the opportunities that green energy presents. Paul Ekins of the University College London summed this up: "The markets will trump Trump." While everyone at the roundtable agreed that Trump will be won over by the economic and political opportunities of renewable energy, the general response on the topic of Brexit was more subdued. One possible post-2020 scenario is a UK that is more isolated even in terms of research. Ekins related, "I’m hearing that European [research] consortia are just not looking for British partners any more. Why would they, when the whole purpose is to build long-term relationships" In the words of Laura Cozzi of the International Energy Agency, "The last thing we need is more barriers." The biggest optimist concerning Brexit in the group was Pierre Tardieu, chief policy officer of WindEurope, who takes comfort from the fact Britain and the EU largely agree on climate and energy policy. "In this area, at least, negotiations might be positive." While Europe seeks new channels of dialogue, the People’s Republic of China has gained the title of world’s biggest solar energy producer, with a total installed capacity of 77.42 GW. The country’s current 125% annual growth in this sector is most likely facilitated by economic forces, but also a growing concern for public health, according to Helena Molin Valdes of the UN Environment Program. Then there are still millions of people with no access to electricity or gas, such as in neighboring India. Here too, the cheapest solution is renewable energy.