New German Energy Record Points to Future

BONN, GERMANY—A week before the start of the latest round of UNFCCC negotiations here, when international attention was fixated on whether or not the United States would remain in the Paris Agreement, the host country set a record that shows the direction energy markets are headed: On the last day of April, 85 percent of the electricity consumed in Germany was generated by renewable sources.

True, it is only one day in one country, but the global trends are impossible to ignore or stop. Just last year, the international community passed a number of milestones on the path to making renewable energy the world’s primary electricity source.

  • Globally, clean power accounted for 55 percent of all new energy generation—the most ever and the second year in a row with renewables comprising the majority of new installations.
  • China announced that it plans to have 27% of its total power generation come from renewable sources with a goal of reaching 80% by 2050.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy also reported that solar power accounted for 43 percent of the country’s Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016. Fossil fuels combined accounted for just 22 percent.

Even if the new US Administration continues to rollback the country’s clean energy plans, strong tailwinds are likely to keep significant momentum behind renewables for some time. Lats year, solar and wind made up the biggest portion of new additional energy capacity for the third year in a row. As more wind and solar installations are built, their costs will continue to fall, and in several regions they are already approaching cost parity with coal and natural gas installations.

This is not to argue that the market alone will solve climate change. It won’t. Governments must do everything they can to accelerate the deployment of renewable energy sources if we hope to avoid the worst impacts of the crisis. But the trends underscore the absurdity of favoring yesterday’s energy when tomorrow’s jobs and environmental health will rest on renewables.