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EGEB: Solar, now cheaper than coal, will be ‘king’ of electricity

  • Solar photovoltaics are now cheaper than plants fired by coal and natural gas in most countries.
  • Green generator company Portable Electric partners with California’s PG&E to help with wildfire outages.
  • China’s net zero by 2060 plan covers all greenhouse gases, says one of its most senior researchers.
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Long live king solar

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released its World Energy Outlook 2020 (WEO), its flagship publication, and the Paris-based agency says solar has a very bright future indeed.

The WEO examines the following decade and explores different scenarios that show how the energy sector could develop. In all four scenarios, which can be read in the report linked above, solar takes center stage and green energy plays a prominent role. In fact, the IEA says renewables will make up 80% of the market for new power generation by 2030.

Hydropower is currently the most widely used green energy source in the world, but solar will surpass it because the cost of PV panels and installation is rapidly dropping.

Solar PV is also now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most countries, and solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen. The IEA rightly points out that there needs to be serious investment in electricity grids in order to support green energy as it grows.

Dr. Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, says:

I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets. Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.

If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our Sustainable Development Scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular — and hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge.

Governments have the capacity and the responsibility to take decisive actions to accelerate clean energy transitions and put the world on a path to reaching our climate goals, including net-zero emissions.

Green generators

Vancouver, BC-based Portable Electric, which manufactures emissions-free mobile power stations — green generators — that run on solar and li-ion batteries, has partnered with the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) to help local communities affected by the devastating 2020 wildfire season in California. PG&E is the energy provider for nearly 16 million people in Northern and Central California.

Several units of Portable Electric’s VOLTstack e-Generators will be delivered to food banks, school cafeterias, and customers with more urgent energy needs by the end of 2020.

Portable Electric originally worked closely with the film production industry, but it’s shifted its focus to medical facilities and other sectors in need as a result of the wildfires in California and the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has previously helped in natural disasters in other states, too: In 2018, Portable Electric sent VOLTstack units and solar panels to the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence. It will continue to ramp up its coordination with areas hit by natural disasters.

Mark Rabin, CEO and founder of Portable Electric, said:

Strategic partnerships like this help us affect real change. We’ve already seen the devastating effects of carbon monoxide poisoning from gas and diesel-powered generators in the aftermath of Hurricane Laura. In addition, we know that these wildfires are a result of climate change. The need to adapt is dire, and we all have a responsibility to instill that change.

China’s net zero by 2060 cont’d

China’s pledge to be net zero by 2060 includes all greenhouses gases, not just carbon dioxide, according to He Jiankun, who chairs the academic committee at the Institute of Climate Change and Sustainable Development at Tsinghua University. The pre-eminent researcher made the clarification at a conference on Monday where China’s plan to reach its goal was outlined.

Further, China’s leading climate think tanks are pushing for cuts to carbon emissions and coal use over the next five years. There was also a call to raise non-fossil-fuel consumption to 25% by 2030.

In a keynote speech, He said:

China should strictly control coal consumption and the expansion of coal-fired power capacity in the next five years, aiming to cap carbon emission from coal sectors by 2025 and even realize negative growth.

China is still expected to see growth of natural gas consumption in 2026-2030, so the growth of carbon emission from gas use should be offset by the reduction from coal sector.

Reuters reports:

The country, which is responsible for about 29% of global carbon dioxide emissions, is expected to endorse ambitious climate-related goals and possibly lower economic growth targets at the upcoming Communist Party conclave, which will determine development blueprints for 2021-2025.

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Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.