7 signs the global energy economy is in transition

Nat Keohane

As negotiators from 197 nations are meeting here in Poland this week to discuss ways to stop runaway climate change – amid reports about rapidly rising emissions – there are also significant market and technology trends bringing positive news.

These trends, combined with the actions of responsible governments, can point us in a better direction. Of course, whether we ultimately succeed in dealing with climate change will depend on the action of political leaders, investors, engineers, voters and activists.

Here are the key trends you’ll want to keep an eye on.

1. U.S. coal continues to decline

United States coal consumption is at a  39-year low and this trajectory continues despite the Trump administration’s efforts to promote coal.

2. China’s emissions will peak ahead of goal

The world’s largest emitter of climate pollution, China is likely to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions at least 5 years ahead of its commitment under the 2016 Paris Agreement.

3. Clean energy is outcompeting fossil fuels

Building new renewable energy is now cheaper than running existing coal-fired power plants in many U.S. states. Taking advantage of those trends, utility giant Xcel announced it will cut its carbon pollution 80 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050 across its service territory in eight Western and Midwestern states.

4. Battery storage a game changer

Duke Energy, the second largest utility in the US, will alone invest $500 million in battery storage over the next 15 years, which could help maximize our use of renewable energy on the grid. And solar energy systems with new efficient batteries in Arizona and other states will soon be able to provide electricity at a lower per megawatt-hour cost than new combined cycle natural gas-fired generation.

5. Developing nations drive renewables

Seventy percent of all new electricity generating capacity worldwide in 2017 was renewable, including in developing countries. If these trends continue, renewables will produce half of all electricity by 2030.

6. Energy companies move on methane

Thirteen oil and gas companies – comprising 30 percent of global production – committed to reducing methane emissions, which are driving 25 percent of current warming.

7. Companies like Walmart are taking action

The world’s largest retailer has committed to cutting a gigaton of climate pollution from its global supply chain by 2020. That’s more emissions than the entire German economy produces annually.

We know that global carbon emissions rose in 2017 and are projected to hit record levels this year. By halting this trajectory we can build a better future for the world while taking advantage of the positive market changes already under way.

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