News Article | March 4, 2016
From CleanTechnica friend and reader Ken Johnson, here’s an excellent repost from National Observer: What if First Ministers meeting in Vancouver this week could simultaneously: stimulate the economy, reduce Canada’s carbon footprint and create well-paying full-time jobs, using a tax tool that is already a proven success south of the border? Here’s a suggestion for Honourable Ministers Trudeau, McKenna, and Morneau: Take a major page out of President Obama’s energy playbook and implement a five-year, 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit for investments in renewable energy projects. Why a renewable energy tax credit? Because it’s elegant, understandable, simple to implement, equitable (no playing favourites), scalable — incentivising home-owner solar to major corporate low-carbon mega-projects — and most importantly, the American example has proven that it works — sending a strong market signal that helps stimulate major investment in renewables, build businesses and create jobs. The 30% Investment Tax Credit for solar and other renewable technologies and the 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour Production Tax Credit for wind power in consort with state incentives have had a huge impact on U.S. wind and solar investment over the last decade. The American Wind Energy Association now credits the Production Tax Credit for spurring an increase in U.S. wind power generation of more than 300 per cent since 2008, from 16.7 to 70 gigawatts. Between 2010 and 2015, cumulative U.S. installed solar jumped from 2 to 27.5 gigawatts — a 1300% increase, while U.S. solar industry employment grew by 115,000 workers to 209,000 — a 123% increase. Experts estimate U.S. solar capacity will expand at least 72 gigawatts to top 100 gigawatts by 2020, meeting energy demand for 30 million homes. Solar employment will nearly double to 420,000 jobs. California solar employers overwhelmingly cite the federal tax credits as substantially contributing to their firms’ success. Investment in wind and solar stalled when the tax credits were due to be phased out. In Canada, wind energy generating capacity increased an average of 23%, per year since 2010 to 11.2 gigawatts, providing about 5% of Canada’s electricity demand and enough to power over three million homes. By contrast, solar installed in Canada 2010–2014 paled at only 1.71 gigawatts, less than one quarter of the 7.3 gigawatts installed in 2015 in California alone. Almost all of Canada’s solar was built in Ontario through its Green Energy Act incentives under McGuinty, which have now been curtailed. Disturbingly, in 2015 clean energy investment in Canada actually dropped 46%. Investment capital is available. In 2013 Canadian corporations were sitting on an estimated $600 billion in cash (32% of GDP), and $60 billion has been sidelined in the tar sands slowdown. Can we afford the tax credit? Experts say the 5 year extension of the investment tax credits in the U.S. will result in billions in tax credits, but create hundreds of billions in renewable energy investment. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates wind investment will be 76% higher and solar investment 43% higher with the extension. The federal government collects fewer taxes from those investing in the renewable revolution, but increases the tax base because of the substantially greater revenues from businesses building and supplying the solar and wind industry. And for every million dollars invested in renewables, an estimated 17 jobs are created in the United States, more than three times the five jobs per million in fossil fuels or nuclear. Many solar and wind workers are well-paid, a further contribution to the tax base. To cover any potential net negative financial impact of the investment tax credits on the federal purse, increase the federal excise tax on gasoline at the pump by 10 or 20 cents while gas prices are very low and volatile. It would have minimal impact on motorists accustomed to paying much higher gas prices, but create a strong dependable stream of additional federal revenue. Bold climate action is urgently needed. Canada’s CO2 emissions are still rising. Over the past 15 years, Canada’s North has warmed 2.8 degrees Celsius (5 degrees Fahrenheit.) In the same period the extent in January of the Arctic ice sheet has shrunk by 1,049,000 square kilometres — the size of Nova Scotia, PEI and British Columbia combined — from the 1979–2000 January average. After decades of deliberate federal foot-dragging on climate change, it is time for bold climate action in Canada — a 30% federal investment tax credit would kickstart it. The Liberals can demonstrate climate change leadership, stimulate the economy without increasing our carbon footprint and increase employment with well-paying, stable jobs. The U.S. has already demonstrated it works; it is time to implement it here. Ken Johnson is an adjunct professor at the School of Epidemiology, Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the University of Ottawa. Get CleanTechnica’s 1st (completely free) electric car report → “Electric Cars: What Early Adopters & First Followers Want.” Come attend CleanTechnica’s 1st “Cleantech Revolution Tour” event → in Berlin, Germany, April 9–10. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
« Daihatsu to become wholly-owned subsidiary of Toyota Motor; strengthening small car operations | Main | sonnen accelerates US market efforts with solar-plus-storage technology package » To reach the level of investment in new renewable power generation needed to avert dangerous climate change, $12.1 trillion of investment will be needed over the next 25 years—$5.2 trillion above business-as-usual projections—according to a new report by Ceres and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The report, Mapping the Gap: Road from Paris, was announced at the UN Investor Summit on Climate Risk, a gathering of 500 global investors this week organized by Ceres, the United Nations Foundation and the United Nations Office of Partnerships. Achieving the Paris climate agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius will require $12.1 trillion investment in new renewable power globally over the next 25 years. This includes an additional $5.2 trillion of investment in wind, solar, geothermal and other zero-emission power sources, or an extra $208 billion a year, above and beyond the $6.9 trillion under business-as-usual projections. A majority of this $12.1 trillion in new renewable power generation is expected to go to emerging markets in developing countries. The investment surge will require a greatly expanded use of investment vehicles supporting clean energy, including bonds, asset-backed securities and others of which commercial financiers, institutional investors and other capital market players can take advantage. The average new annual global investment opportunity for new renewable energy is about the same amount as US customers borrow annually for car loans. The report highlights the critical role of supportive government policies that will enable more renewables investments, including the Paris climate accord’s “ratchet” mechanism, which will help ensure that every country’s commitments to reduce carbon pollution become more ambitious over time. The report’s findings underscore that clean energy financing will soon no longer be considered alternative and will begin to more fully resemble other, more established infrastructure sectors such as transportation or real estate, from a financial structure perspective. As clean energy moves firmly into the mainstream, it will inevitably account for expanding and significant shares of infrastructure investors’ portfolios.
News Article | September 2, 2016
Special thanks to Bob Wallace and Globi for leading this project/article. There are many questions about renewable energy and electric transport that people who haven’t been following these industries for years or decades often have, and there are also many recurring myths that many of us spend a lot of time addressing. A few commenters have proposed that what is needed is one central resource where people can find information that answers common questions about solar energy, wind energy, and electric vehicles; and that dissolves numerous cleantech myths. There are many topics to cover, and it’s probably best if they are answered by many people. Here’s how we’re thinking it might work: On this page, we’re listing many popular cleantech topics and answers to common myths (grouped under these 4 categories: 1) Solar + Wind + Other Renewables, 2) Solar Energy, 3) Wind Energy, 4) Electric Vehicles). If there are other topics you think we should add (of course there are), then list them in the comments section below. From time to time, we’ll rewrite this page and add new topics based on your proposals. For each topic, we’ll link to either 1) an existing CleanTechnica article that provides detailed answers/responses, or 2) a new document (in Google Docs) where we can crowdwrite (if others are interested) the article. Further down this page, there are all the same topics and links but also short answers for each of them. For any of the topic-specific pages, add any information you have or any suggested corrections in the comments section below this article (in the future, feedback forms will be included on each article). At some point, a new version will be created for many of these topics — a more accurate and complete version based on feedback and new information. If you’ve got other ideas/suggestions of how this system might work, let us know via the comments section below this page. Again, if you want to suggest new topics, please do so in the comments below. On to the content … and note that we don’t just allow you to copy & paste these responses when useful — we encourage you to do so! A healthy free-market democracy is built on correct and useful information being widely distributed. This first section is for one-liners linked to long articles or article drafts. For 1–2 paragraph statements on each matter (still with links to the longer pieces), scroll down further. Wind and solar electricity have become some of our least expensive ways to generate electricity (in several markets around the world). Wind is now the cheapest way to bring new electricity generation to the grid in the US as well as many other countries. Solar PV costs are rapidly dropping and solar is expected to join wind over the next few years. The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) for solar actually beats all other sources of electricity other than wind. Furthermore, low-cost utility-scale solar is already beating out all other sources of electricity in some bidding processes, and home solar power beats the price of retail electricity (on average) in many markets. 2. Wind and solar power account for a large portion of new electricity generation capacity. In the US and elsewhere, low-priced and zero-emission solar and wind power plants are accounting for a large portion (sometimes the majority) of new power capacity additions. At the same time, coal power plants are being retired at a rapid rate. 3. Climate action is trillions of dollars cheaper than climate inaction. Investing in a clean energy economy is not cheap. It is projected to cost trillions of dollars. However, sticking with a dirty energy economy will cost society much more — many trillions of dollars more — than investing in a clean energy economy. If you actually care about costs, you should be pushing for us to make the transition quicker rather than slower. 4. We do not need baseload power, and inflexible baseload power is actually problematic. Massive renewable energy adoption and integration will rely on “load following,” not “baseload power.” In a renewable-dominated grid, inflexible baseload power gets in the way. What is actually needed is a varied system of solutions that match electricity demand with electricity supply. This includes demand response solutions, flexible electricity generation sources, a larger and more integrated transmission network, and some energy storage. It does not require an energy storage breakthrough or nuclear power. 5. Integration of renewable energy into the electricity grid is not a problem, and it’s cheaper than sticking with dirty energy sources. We can build a 24/365 reliable grid using either coal, gas, and nuclear; or with wind, solar, and other renewables. The techniques differ somewhat, but the real issue is cost. Renewables win in terms of both direct (generation) costs and external costs. Take a look at how a 100% renewable grid would operate and give us cheaper electricity. 6. There are many ways to get the majority of our electricity from renewable energy sources. According to an NREL study examining high renewable energy integration in the US, 80% of US electricity could be coming from renewables by 2050. Different regions would do best to rely on different resources. A large variety of renewable energy generation technologies combined with a good transmission network seems to be the most practical way to change to a renewable-dominated grid. 7. On the whole, comparing various electricity options based on a wide variety of factors, solar and wind are society’s best choice. Discussions of electrical generation technologies frequently fall into the trap of considering a single factor. One way this occurs is with advocates of a specific legacy technology pointing out a single downside of wind or solar generation as if it’s a gotcha. This is equally true of wind and solar advocates who point at single-factor issues with nuclear or coal, as examples, making the comparison to the more virtuous renewables. However, there is no single technology which will prevail on all grids in the future. There will be multiple generation technologies at any given time, the mix will change over time, and the specific mix will vary for specific geographies. In a multi-factorial assessment, though, solar and wind power come out with the highest score. It is cheaper to save fuel than to buy fuel (efficiency measures & renewables save fuel); renewables drive the development of new technologies, drive local investment, create local jobs, reduce wholesale electricity prices, reduce dependence on price-fluctuating fuels (insurance/hedge against high fuel prices), reduce trade deficits, reduce cash flow into dubious destabilizing/warmongering regimes, reduce pollution (reduce health costs), preserve nature and biodiversity (secure alimentation (more area for food production instead of fossil fuel/uranium mining), grow the tourism industry, etc.). Germany has grown its renewable power share by a factor of 5 and at the same time reached a record export surplus. Besides efficiency measures including electrification of the transportation and heat sectors, renewables are the best and fastest option to reduce CO2 emissions and thus to mitigate climate change. 10. A 70–100% renewable electricity grid is possible and even cost-competitive to build. Several studies examining the question in different ways have concluded that transforming electricity grids to 70–100% renewable energy is practical and could even save society money (without even taking externalities related to health and global warming into account). 11. It wouldn’t take a lot of land to get 40% of our electricity from solar panels. Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) 12. Renewables are being installed not just because of subsidies. Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) 13. Renewables are very easily and quickly scalable. (draft) Renewables can grow fast because they can be installed practically everywhere rapidly and simultaneously. Renewable capacity in the magnitude of 1 TW can in principle be added every year. Germany installed 3 GW of PV in one single month in December 2011. Germany has roughly 1% of the world’s population. So, if the entire world installs only 20% the amount of PV that Germany did 5 years ago, it would be at 720 GW per year. At a single utility-scale-PV plant, 120 MWp per month was installed. If only 10% of all cities worldwide installed utility-scale-solar at this scale at the same time, it would lead to approximately the same number just for utility-scale-solar (the world has 4,412 cities with a population of at least 150,000). In fact, if the world only installs one PV module per person per year, this already leads to 1,850 GW per year. As opposed to nuclear, which uses a scarce element even as fuel, renewables don’t depend on scarce elements. Over 90% of the PV market is silicon based, and silicon-based PV doesn’t depend on scarce elements. In fact, silicon is the second most common element in the earth’s crust. Even the cost of silver has little influence on manufacturing costs and, if necessary, silver can be replaced with more abundant metals such as copper. While some wind turbine manufacturers with direct drive turbines use permanent magnets containing rare earths, they don’t depend on it. For example, Enercon does build direct drive turbines without using any rare earths. According to the largest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas: The contribution of rare earth elements used in the turbine generator magnets, and also in the magnets used in the tower, make a negligible contribution to total resource depletion, contributing below 0.1% of total life cycle impacts. Besides, rare earth metals are neither rare, nor earths, and permanent magnets can be made without using rare earths. 15. Renewable energy doesn’t get more in subsidies than fossil and nuclear sources have gotten, and continue to get. Fossil fuels and nuclear have received and are still receiving far more subsidies than renewables. In addition, they don’t pay for their externalized costs, which are massive forms of subsidy that society provides to fossil fuel and nuclear companies. There are so many useful articles on this topic that we didn’t choose to link just one. Here’s a list of articles to choose from: 16. The ERoEI of wind and solar is actually quite good. Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) 17. We don’t need huge advances in energy storage to switch to renewable energy. The world already has large hydro storage and methane (power-to-gas) storage resources, and the electrification of the hot water, heating, and transportation sectors provides significant demand response flexibility. Besides, heat energy can be stored inexpensively and curtailing renewables is inexpensive and doesn’t even waste brake pads. Even if storage was entirely missing, it wouldn’t be needed until a high renewable electricity share is reached. According to VDE, Germany requires 7 TWh of storage at 80% renewable share. (And a 100% renewable share is only reasonable once the entire heating and hot water sector is electrified). For comparison: Tiny Switzerland already has 8.8 TWh of storage and Norway has even 84 TWh of storage. Germany has been trading electricity with Switzerland since 1958. 1. Solar panels aren’t free or even cheap, but they can still save you a ton of money. The question should not be about how much solar panels cost, but about how much solar power will save you. Many people think solar power is “expensive,” but that’s often only true if you look at half of the equation. In reality, solar power often saves homeowners tens of thousands of dollars. If you go solar with a straight purchase (no loan), you’re going to save the most money … but it will also be a longer period of time before you get your money back and start putting extra cash in your pocket. On the other hand, if you get a good (perhaps $0-down) solar loan, solar lease, or solar PPA, you can start saving money immediately or almost immediately. You just won’t save as much money down the road. Nonetheless, you can often still save tens of thousands of dollars (compared to buying all of your electricity from the grid and not producing any electricity yourself). Solar power prices are already low (see above) and are projected to get much lower in the coming decades simply through incremental improvements. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance solar analysis team projects that the cost of solar panels will fall from 62¢/watt at the end of 2015 to 21¢/watt in 2040 “by incremental improvements in crystalline silicon technology (thinner wafers, better-shaped busbars, better AR coating, more targeted doping, better contact technology).” No other option for electricity is projected to be competitive with solar by that time, and that is without any “breakthroughs” in solar technology. 3. Solar panels definitely don’t take more energy to manufacturer than they produce. Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) 4. Solar works well far beyond deserts and sunny climates. Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) 6. How practical/likely are cars that incorporate solar panels into the vehicle body? Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) While wind turbines can’t produce electricity if the wind isn’t blowing, the electricity they produce is worth exactly as much as the electricity produced by any other type of power plant. When a wind turbine produces a kilowatt-hour of electricity, it’s fundamentally worth as much as a kilowatt-hour of electricity from nuclear power, coal power, solar power, or anything else. There is a slight externality from the variability of wind energy and its “integration costs,” but those are determined to be just 4 tenths of a cent per kWh (not even half a cent per kWh). For sure, this extra cost isn’t even worth mentioning compared to the health and environmental externalities that come from coal and natural gas power plants, or the economic risk that comes with nuclear power plants. Even at very high percentages of wind power (such as seen in Denmark, northern Germany, Scotland, Portugal, and Iowa), wind energy can be integrated into the grid without extra backup energy or costly investments. 2. Wind works well in many, many locations. Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) Article being drafted. (Chime in if you want to help out.) In the meantime, here are some of the articles that will feed into the in-depth piece: Electric cars produce zero emissions themselves, but even if you don’t have solar panels and you get your electricity from the grid, driving an electric car results in fewer emissions than driving a gasmobile or conventional hybrid in almost every case. Electric cars themselves produce zero emissions when driven, but even if you factor in the emissions from electricity produced in your region that is utilized to power your electric car, it’s extremely likely your electric car is cleaner than a Toyota Prius. Furthermore, these emissions are not “local” — they’re likely not occurring in your neighborhood, in your town, or in your city. Of course, if you have solar panels on your roof that produce as much electricity as you use, you are essentially driving on sunshine and producing no emissions from any source when you drive. It’s also important to remember that the grid is getting cleaner every day, so electric cars charged from the grid will just keep getting cleaner and cleaner. 2. How much land would it take to produce enough electricity to power EVs (powering all of them with wind energy)? In actuality, not a lot of land area is needed for the extra electricity generation that would be required if all of our cars were EVs. And that doesn’t even account for the land you would regain from oil/gas-related activities. Norway is a Scandinavian country with more than its fair share of cold weather, yet it is far ahead of any other nation in electric car adoption. 24% of new car registrations were electric car registrations in the first half of 2016 in Norway, while no other country has reached 3% market share. Norway’s electric car market share has been steadily growing for years. Of course, electric cars work fine in Norway’s cold climate and in other cold climates as well. Few grids are dominated by coal electricity at this point, and coal is on the downtrend in markets around the world. Coal has seen a monumental collapse in the USA, and now accounts for only 28% of electricity production. 0% of new electricity capacity in the USA in the first half of 2016 came from coal, while electricity production from the polluting energy source dropped by 15 GWh. In 2015 as well, 0% of new US electricity capacity came from coal. Aside from grid electricity, many electric car drivers decide to go solar. 6. Even with current electric cars, 87% of vehicles on the road today could be replaced by a low-cost electric car even if there is no possibility of recharging it during the day. A study by MIT and the Santa Fe Institute published in the journal Nature Energy on August 15 found that electric car range anxiety is overstated in most cases. The study analyzed the driving habits of drivers on a second-by-second basis. It concluded that 87% of vehicles on the road today could be replaced by a low-cost electric car even if there is no possibility of recharging it during the day. 7. Electric cars often actually save owners a great deal of time. Among current EV drivers, the vast majority of charging is done at home or work. In such places, it takes a few seconds to plug in the car and a few seconds to unplug it. In actuality, it is often easy to leave with a “full tank” (full battery) most of the time. Drivers no longer have to find gas stations on or near their travel routes, don’t have to spend time getting off the road and into the gas station, don’t have to get out and pump gas, don’t have to go inside or pull out their credit card and pay for gasoline, and don’t have to take their cars in for oil changes & smog checks. In the end, this saves them a lot of time, even if you take into account the times when they have to charge in public (during which they can often eat, play, or engage in other useful activities). For climate topics, we highly recommend this Skeptical Science page. However, we are dealing with some of the common claims repeatedly as well and may also create a list for these topics. Drive an electric car? Complete one of our short surveys for our next electric car report. Keep up to date with all the hottest cleantech news by subscribing to our (free) cleantech newsletter, or keep an eye on sector-specific news by getting our (also free) solar energy newsletter, electric vehicle newsletter, or wind energy newsletter.
A coming surge in global battery production will drive costs down, a key factor in determining whether electric vehicles will take off. If you build enough batteries, electric cars will come—or so the thinking goes. Turns out, Tesla isn’t alone in this line of thought. Tesla’s Gigafactory is planned to churn out 35 gigawatt-hours of cells every year by 2020. That’s a lot of watt-hours, and something Elon Musk is very proud of. But as Bloomberg points out, Chinese electric carmaker BYD plans to produce 34 gigawatt-hours of cells by the same year. Another Chinese firm, Contemporary Amperex Technology, intends to produce 26 gigawatt-hours by that stage, too. And there will be other manufacturers joining in, as well as refurbished batteries being reused—meaning that there could be upwards of 130 gigawatt-hours of batteries produced per year by 2020. All of a sudden, Tesla’s battery output will look like a slice of a much larger pie—a significant slice, but a slice nonetheless. The volume means that prices should drop big time. In fact, an analysis by Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that prices could fall to $262 per kilowatt-hour by 2020, and as little as $126 per kilowatt-hour by 2030. That’s perhaps bad news for the bottom line of battery makers. In fact, Bloomberg compares it to the fate that solar cell manufacturers have faced, where a flood of the hardware drove down prices by over 60 percent in as little as five years. But it’s incredibly promising for the electric vehicle market more generally. Last year, a team of academics published research suggesting that when battery pricing hits $150 per kilowatt-hour, we could see “a potential paradigm shift in vehicle technology.” If BNEF’s numbers are correct, the 2020s could be the decade in which electric cars hit the big time. Volkswagen seems to be among those in agreement. The automaker has announced that it’s signed an agreement with Chinese car manufacturer Jianghuai Automobile to explore the production of electric vehicles in China. It hopes to sell a million electric vehicles per year by 2025. Of course, Tesla is even more ambitious, and it’s right to be so worried about battery production if it’s to meet its own targets. With around 400,000 pre-orders for its forthcoming Model 3 to satisfy, driving down prices in the next few years is likely to be the only chance it has of making the vehicle a success. Whether Tesla can satisfy those pre-orders remains to be seen. But by ramping up production so fast, the company is at least doing its part to invigorate a manufacturing industry that will help guarantee a future of electric vehicles—whoever happens to make them.
This story has been updated. The latest evidence that 2015 was a breakout year for clean energy is in, and it’s particularly telling. In a new analysis, Bloomberg New Energy Finance finds that 2015 was a record year for global investment in the clean energy space, with $ 329 billion invested in wind, solar panels, biomass plants and more around the world. (The number does not include investments in large hydroelectric facilities). That’s 3 percent higher than the prior 2011 global investment record of $ 318 billion — and most striking is that it happened in a year in which key fossil fuels — oil, coal and natural gas — were quite cheap. When it comes to fossil fuels, “prices have been low, continue to stay low, and yet we continue to see strong growth of wind and solar, and it speaks to the fact that again, these technologies are becoming more cost competitive,” says Ethan Zindler, an analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance. [Wind, solar power soar in spite of bargain prices for fossil fuels] As BNEF notes, the price of oil — which is burned to generate a fair amount of electricity around the world, though this is rare in the U.S. — tanked in 2015. Coal prices and U.S. natural gas prices also got considerably cheaper over the second half of 2014 and the 12 months of 2015. Nonetheless, China and the UK invested in massive multibillion-dollar offshore wind farms, even as other nations, from the U.S. to Brazil, saw near billion-dollar expenditures on new solar farms and biomass plants. Fully one-third of the 2015 clean energy investment occurred in China — a punchline we’ve come to expect by now. That country saw investments of $ 110.5 billion last year. The United States was second with $ 56 billion. Notably, India — perhaps the most watched energy nation in the world at the moment, due to expectations of major demand growth — invested $ 10.9 billion, a total that Bloomberg New Energy Finance calls “a far cry for the figures needed to implement the Modi government’s ambitious plans” in the clean energy space. India plans to install 175 gigawatts of clean energy generating capacity by 2022. [Why India is about to move to the ‘center stage’ of world energy] Measured in terms of electricity generating capacity, the world saw an additional 64 gigawatts of wind capacity added and 57 gigawatts of solar capacity, BNEF estimates. The most striking figure here is that while 2015 only saw about 4 percent more clean energy investment than 2014 (when $ 316 billion was invested), the growth in renewable energy generating capacity was much higher at 30 percent. This, again, signals declining cost, says Zindler. “The technologies have reached an important tipping point in a number of markets in the world,” he says. “They are now, in a growing number of locations, becoming cost competitive.” It doesn’t hurt, of course, that government policy also favors them in many regions, a trend that will surely only continue in the wake of the late 2015 Paris climate agreement. Overall, the addition of 121 gigawatts of solar and wind globally (also a record) means that roughly half of new electricity generating capacity installed last year was in these two technologies. In the U.S., solar appears to have seen a record year for installed capacity, at over 7 gigawatts. From an industry perspective, too, the clean energy space seems to be thriving in lately. For instance, and as our own Joby Warrick reported recently, leading wind turbine maker Vestas saw its stock price double in 2015. The solar business is also strong, says Tom Werner, the CEO of SunPower, which is one of the largest U.S. based solar companies with a recent market capitalization of $ 3.24 billion — and which is active in both the U.S. and China, where Werner says “we’re seeing very large projects.” “We’re past the threshold point, now we’re to the point where it’s mainstream, and I think ’16 will be bigger than ’15, globally,” Werner says. He points to three recent developments to back that conclusion — the Paris climate agreement (which gives a market signal in favor of solar), the extension of solar investment tax credits in the U.S., and recent positive developments for solar net metering in California. At the same time, clean energy jobs are also booming. The Solar Foundation recently released a report finding that the U.S. solar industry added some 35,000 jobs in 2015 alone, for nearly 209,000 overall now in the U.S. That total is expected to approach 240,000 by the end of this year. Indeed, by all signs, 2016 will see more of the same in the clean energy arena. Already, it has held some pretty bad news for coal. New York governor Andrew Cuomo announced, in his latest state of the state address Wednesday, plans to “eliminate all use of coal in New York State by 2020.” That came one day after President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, suggested plans to “change the way we manage our oil and coal resources so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet,” suggesting possible policy moves to limit coal leasing on public lands in the U.S. Looking out still further, the International Energy Agency said last year that between now and 2020, renewable energy will be the largest area for growth, and predicts 700 gigawatts of added generating capacity. In other words, while half of new generating capacity in 2015 was in the clean energy space, in coming years we may see that percentage grow even higher. Granted, there is still a ways to go before wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources are dominant in generating our electricity. Wind and solar provide about 5 percent of U.S. electricity right now, for instance. Here as across much of the world, electricity generation is still largely dominated by fossil fuels. Adding it all up, the takeaway is that the race to switch off of fossil fuels — before too much carbon accumulates in the atmosphere and the planet warms by more than 2 degrees Celsius — is really starting to, um, heat up. Scientists say human greenhouse gas emissions have canceled the next ice age Here’s how scientific misinformation, such as climate change doubt, spreads through social media The surprising way that huge icebergs slow down climate change For more, you can sign up for our weekly newsletter here, and follow us on Twitter here.