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Solar Leads Decade of Investment in Renewable Energy

A record 167 GW of new renewable energy capacity was completed in 2018, up from 160 GW in 2017

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FILE - Workers clean photovoltaic panels at a solar power plant in Gujarat, India, July 2, 2015. VOA

Global investment in new renewable energy capacity this decade — 2010 to 2019 inclusive — is on course to hit $2.6 trillion, with more gigawatts of solar power capacity installed than any other generation technology, new figures published on Thursday said.

According to the Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2019 report, released ahead of the UN Global Climate Action Summit on September 23, this investment is set to have roughly quadrupled renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro of more than 50MW) from 414 GW at the end of 2009 to 1,650 GW when the decade closes at the end of this year.

Solar power will have drawn half — $1.3 trillion — of the $2.6 trillion in renewable energy investments made over the decade.

By this year’s end, solar capacity will have risen to more than 26 times the 2009 level — from 25 GW to an estimated 663 GW, an increase of 638 GW.

The global share of electricity generation accounted for by renewables reached 12.9 per cent in 2018, up from 11.6 per cent in 2017.

This avoided an estimated two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions last year alone — a substantial saving given global power sector emissions of 13.7 billion tonnes in 2018.

Including all generating technologies (fossil and zero-carbon), the decade is set to see a net 2,366 GW of additional power capacity installed, with solar accounting for the largest single share (638 GW), coal second (529 GW), and wind and gas in third and fourth places (487 GW and 438 GW, respectively).

Global, Energy, Climate Change
In the next 30 years, the world will see a dramatic rise in energy demand due to the impact of climate change, say researchers. Pixabay

The cost-competitiveness of renewables has also risen dramatically over the decade.

The levelized cost of electricity (a measure that allows comparison of different methods of electricity generation on a consistent basis) is down 81 per cent for solar photovoltaics since 2009; that for onshore wind is down 46 per cent.

“Investing in renewable energy is investing in a sustainable and profitable future, as the last decade of incredible growth in renewables has shown,” UN Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a statement.

“But we cannot afford to be complacent. Global power sector emissions have risen about 10 per cent over this period. It is clear that we need to rapidly step up the pace of the global switch to renewables if we are to meet international climate and development goals.”

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The report, released annually since 2007, also continued its traditional look at yearly figures, with global investment in renewables capacity hitting $272.9 billion in 2018.

While this was 12 per cent down over the previous year, 2018 was the ninth successive year in which capacity investment exceeded $200 billion and the fifth successive year above $250 billion.

It was also about three times the global investment in coal and gas-fired generation capacity combined.

The 2018 figure was achieved despite continuing falls in the capital cost of solar and wind projects, and despite a policy change that hit investment in China in the second half of the year.

A record 167 GW of new renewable energy capacity was completed in 2018, up from 160 GW in 2017. (IANS)

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Vietnamese Advocates of Solar Power Begin “Million Green Homes” Project

The project is being undertaken by the new Vietnam Coalition for Climate Action, formed in August by a group of leaders from business, academia

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Vietnamese, Advocates, Solar Power
FILE - A solar panel installation is seen near a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province, April 23, 2019. VOA

Vietnamese advocates of solar power have begun a “Million Green Homes” project, aimed at spreading the use of solar power in the country instead of coal and other fossil fuels.

The project is being undertaken by the new Vietnam Coalition for Climate Action, formed in August by a group of leaders from business, academia and public organizations, and is designed to use a combination of public outreach and financial initiatives to get solar power on an additional million buildings.

Despite the “homes” in the project name, it is aimed at any small electricity consumers, especially those that can’t afford the cost of converting to solar power on their own, such as farms, small businesses, offices, and public buildings, such as hospitals and schools.

The project will focus on two types of solar power — panels connected to the national power grid that can supply electricity broadly and panels that generate electricity solely for the buildings to which they are attached.

Vietnamese, Advocates, Solar Power
FILE – A business in Ho Chi Minh City promotes solar panels. VOA

Advocates are also encouraging Vietnamese to use more solar power for uses ranging from stoves to water heaters.

The project is being conducted by the Green Innovation and Development Centre, a Hanoi-based organization that promotes sustainable development in Vietnam and the Mekong region. The project is now examining how to spread awareness and make solar power affordable to under-served communities.

The center will start a pilot project next year for new solar power consumers all across Vietnam, including Hanoi in the north and several provinces, such as Thua Thien-Hue in central Vietnam, Dak Lak in the central highlands, and  An Giang and Hau Giang in the south. The project will identify households and other small consumers eligible for support and help them install solar panels.

Environmentalists are pushing ahead with the effort, even though renewable energy discussions here have largely focused on government policies and corporate issues, and foreign investors want to be paid more for their electricity before they invest in solar power.

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“Climate change poses a real threat to the natural environment that supports all of humanity and the critical habitats that we work to protect,” said Van Ngoc Thinh, Vietnam country director of the World Wide Fund For Nature, one of the members of the coalition.

“I call on all committed leaders from across the private sector, universities, subnational governments, and civil society to join the VCCA to take climate action,” he added.

Coal plans

Another environmental organization in the climate alliance, the Ho Chi Minh City-based Center of Hands-on Actions and Networking for Growth and Environment, or CHANGE,  stressed in an email “the urgency of forming the alliance and the specific actions the alliance can contribute to promoting the use of rooftop solar [photovoltaic cells] and other energy-saving and green solutions.”

Vietnamese, Advocates, Solar Power
FILE – A solar water heater, left, and a solar panel are seen at Entech Hanoi, an international trade fair on energy efficiency and the environment, at the Giang Vo Exhibition Center in Hanoi, Vietnam. VOA

Much of that urgency comes from Vietnam’s increasing use of coal for energy, even while it considers itself one of the countries most at threat from climate change. The World Wide Fund For Nature in Vietnam said the Southeast Asian country plans to increase the number of coal-fired power plants from 20 now to 51 by 2030, which would cause carbon dioxide emissions to increase even more than expected.

Even amid government policies favoring more coal-fired plants, the government has expressed support for new types of energy sources.

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“Vietnam’s government always encourages the development and effective use of renewable energy sources,” Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said at an event this summer. (VOA)