The Clean Energy Boom Has Arrived

Hydro-Electric Dam

By James Noble

April 23, 2015

A winner in the race to determine whether fossil fuels and renewable energy sources will power the future has been declared: renewable energy, and it won the race back in 2013.

According to a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the tipping point occurred in 2013, when a total of 143 gigawatts of new renewable electricity came online compared to only 141 gigawatts of new fossil fuel power. Driven by rapid expansion in developing countries, renewable energy is now entering the market at a scale and price that is competitive with fossil fuels.

The analysis and the numbers are compelling. While hydropower is still the biggest supplier of renewable energy around the world, wind, biomass and especially solar power have been growing faster than all the rest, generating an estimated 9.1 per cent of the world’s electricity in 2014. Further, these sources made up the majority of new power capacity in Europe.

With technology costs continuing to drop, renewables’ competitiveness will increase. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that by mid-century, solar power could be the single largest source of electricity on the planet, even though it only makes up 1 per cent of today’s energy mix.

These trends have not gone unnoticed, as investors poured $270bn globally in renewable energy investment, a 17 per cent rise from 2013. China led overall with $83bn in clean energy funding.

Canadian investors deployed roughly $8bn, up 8% over 2013, making Canada number six among the top ten countries in the world for investment in renewable energy last year

A clean energy future isn’t just possible – it’s now inevitable. However, one of the next big steps will be removing or redirecting state support for mature and profitable fossil fuels. According to the IEA, fossil fuel subsidiestotaled an estimated $550bn in 2013, more than four times those for renewable energy.

The Canadian federal government has a long tradition of supporting nation-building infrastructure in partnership with its provinces and municipalities. Initiative and leadership from Ottawa could help level the playing field for renewable energy and spur on Canada’s clean energy transition.