Solar Rocking the Economy, and it’s Just Beginning

February 8, 2017

Revolutions are not always bloody, but there are usually winners and losers. The current Renewable Energy Revolution, -and the current earth tremors are merely the distant rumbling of its approach – is perhaps the greatest Technological change since the invention of fire

We are watching, in the current crisis, what amounts to a Hail Mary pass by the masters of fossil fuels, corporations and countries, who are sitting on mountains of what would have been riches 50 years ago, but are rapidly becoming useless tracts of land, as the renewable revolution takes off, the writing on the wall is clear.

For Big Energy – technology says you will change, or you will die.  Whether they are able to take democracy and Human Freedom with them as they go down, is what we will decide in the immediate future.

Inside Climate News:

As Donald Trump pushes the United States toward inaction on climate change, he is likely to find an ally in Russia.

Russia is the fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Yet the plan it submitted under the Paris agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 is one of the weakest of any government and actually permits Russia to increase carbon pollution over time. The Paris agreement went into effect last November, but Russia is the only major emitter that has not ratified it. Instead, it has laid out a timetable that would delay ratification for almost three years.

“Russia will not artificially accelerate the process of ratification of the Paris climate agreement,” Russia’s special presidential representative on climate, Alexander Bedritsky, said last September.

A new alignment between Russia and a friendlier United States under Trump could slow climate action even more.  Trump denies global warming more nakedly than Russian President Vladimir Putin, who pivoted from years of downplaying climate change to calling it a grave threat in 2015, but has done little to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. Russia’s sluggishness on climate could bolster the Trump team’s plans to abandon climate action, and vice versa.

The Russian Federation has a history of denial and inaction on the issue. The country is a petro-state: It was the world’s second-largest exporter of oil in 2015, after Saudi Arabia, and biggest exporter of natural gas. Russia’s top politicians and its largest companies have long been reluctant to reduce fossil fuel extraction and use. Recently, some in the government and Russian business have begun taking steps to shift away from fossil fuel dependence. But that progress may slow now that the United States, the world’s second-biggest emitter, is shifting its priorities toward increased fossil fuel production, experts on Russian climate policy said.

The Solar Foundation:

Highlights from Solar Jobs Census 2016:

  • One out of every 50 new jobs added in the United States in 2016 was created by the solar industry, representing 2% percent of all new jobs.
  • Solar jobs in the United States have increased at least 20 percent per year for the past four years, and jobs have nearly tripled since the first Solar Jobs Census was released in 2010.
  • Over the next 12 months, employers surveyed expect to see total solar industry employment increase by 10 percent to 286,335 solar workers.
  • In 2016, the five states with the most solar jobs were California, Massachusetts, Texas, Nevada, and Florida.

Since 2010, the National Solar Jobs Census has defined solar workers as those who spend at least 50 percent of their time on solar-related work. The Solar Foundation has consistently found that approximately 90 percent of these workers spend 100 percent of their time on solar-related work. This year’s Census was part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy and Employment Report data collection effort that included more than 500,000 telephone calls and over 60,000 emails to energy establishments in the U.S. between October and November 2016. This resulted in a total of 3,888 full completions for establishments involved in solar activity in the U.S.


Percentage wise, the industry achieved a growth rate of 25% over 2015. That beats the rate of growth for every other Solar Foundation census going back to the first one in 2010.

Solar Energy Can Surprise You

On a state by state basis, California came in first for highest number of total solar jobs. That’s no surprise given its size and its favorable policies for solar energy and other clean tech.

California is also staking out a leadership position in terms of making solar energy affordable. The new solar seed fund RE-volve, for example, chose the University of California – Santa Barbara as one of three launch sites for a nationwide affordable solar program.

Of the remaining top five job-creating states for solar energy, three may surprise you. Texas, Florida, and Nevada all made the top five despite the outsized influence of Republican party members on energy policy in those states.

The state of Massachusetts is also a bit of a surprise. Unlike the other top five, Massachusetts can hardly claim fame for a warm, sunny, solar-friendly climate. However, this deep blue state shows that favorable policies can counterbalance less than ideal conditions.


On the other hand, Michael Liebreich, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, expects oil demand to peak in 2025. The CFO of Royal Dutch Shell agrees — he said the company expects it to peak within five to 15 years. The World Energy Council predicts peak demand in 2030.

Into this milieu comes a big new study that claims all those previous projections are hopelessly pessimistic.

New study says oil and coal are F’d

Today saw the release of a new study from the Grantham Institute for Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative. It argues that solar photovoltaics (PV) and EVs together will kick fossil fuel’s ass, quickly.

“Falling costs of electric vehicle and solar technology,” they conclude, “could halt growth in global demand for oil and coal from 2020.” That would be a pretty big deal.

The “business as usual” (BAU) scenarios that typically dominate these discussions are outdated, the researchers argue. New baseline scenarios should take into account updated information on PV, EV, and battery costs. (The EIA doesn’t expect inflation-adjusted prices of EVs to fall to $30,000 until 2030, even as multiple automakers say they’ll hit that within a few years.)

And baseline scenarios should take into account the commitments made in the Paris climate agreement, they say.


6 Responses to “Solar Rocking the Economy, and it’s Just Beginning”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    The Inside Climate News piece is quite disturbing. Looking further into it though the links finds this:

    “Russia’s INDC greenhouse gas emission reduction target lies significantly above emissions that would result from current policies. This target is one of the weakest put forward by any government, anywhere. Russia’s emissions targets are, according to our analysis, “inadequate” under all interpretations of a “fair” approach to hold below the Paris Agreement’s temperature limit and Russia would need to substantially strengthen them to be considered “sufficient.” The Russian Federation is the world’s third largest emitter, and one of the most important fossil fuel producers. As a consequence, Russia has large mitigation potential, and should play a major role in international climate policy”.

    If Trump and Putin drag their feet on dealing with climate change and push for more fossil fuel development, that means the world’s second and third largest emitters of GHG will mot be making much progress—–in spite of whatever “rocking” solar is doing.

  2. Solar PV capacity has doubled every 2 years since at least 1990. As costs have declined so demand has increased, which has led to further costs declines: a classic learning curve. The percentage of world electricity provided by wind power has been doubling every 3 years for at least 20 years. Wind and solar in most countries are half the cost of /new/ coal. Existing coal power stations are often old and fully depreciated, which means they are still “cheap”, but even in Australia, new wind is now cheaper than baseload. The good news about existing coal power stations in developed countries is that they are mostly old. For example, in Australia two thirds will have to close within the next 15 years. They won’t be replaced with new coal, but with renewables, because the cost of renewables is still declining.

    This year, wind and solar together should provide almost 6% of the world’s electricity. By 2020, it should be 10 or 11 percent. Wind, solar PV plus hydro will provide more than 25% of global electricity by 2020. The continued growth in supply from renewables from 2020 or 2021 on will be greater than the increase in electricity demand. The shift will accelerate and by 2030 or 2035 no electricity will be produced from coal and not much from gas either.

    Similar shifts are happening in transport. Globally, EV sales are doubling every 18 months. In December 2016, EVs and plug-in hybrids made up 1.5% of US car sales. GM’s Bolt, a new Nissan Leaf, and of course the Tesla 3, all costing about the same as the average US car, will be on sale. I believe that this is the point of flexion in the classic technology uptake S-curve. And I think that 80% of new car and light truck sales will probably be electric within 10 years. EVs are much cheaper to run and much more fun to drive than ICEs. Once they reach sticker price parity, it’s game over for petrol (gasoline) and diesel.

    Whether these shifts will be enough to stop run away global warming feedbacks (such as methane clathrates melting), I don’t know. It’s not my area of expertise. Maybe somebody here could advise?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      “Whether these shifts will be enough to stop run away global warming feedbacks (such as methane clathrates melting), I don’t know. It’s not my area of expertise. Maybe somebody here could advise?”

      No one knows the answer to “will we get off fossil fuels in time?”, Nick. As far as “expertise”, very few of us know all we need to know to understand the problem. I’ve been studying this a long time, and IMO we are not doing enough fast enough and likely won’t make it—-the only question is the time scale. Here’s an intro to a reading list I posted on Crock a while back—-I would advise you to read as widely as you can so that you can answer the question to your own satisfaction.

      “In this complicated modern world, we all too often fall into what can be called “silo thinking”, which term derives from the vertical storage design of the silo—pile a lot of stuff up on a small base. It is used mainly in business to describe how different parts or departments of a business are too busy looking up at the world from inside the “silos” of their narrow specialties, and not sharing info and ideas that would help the whole business be more successful. IMO, AGW, climate change, and mankind’s efforts to mitigate it (as well as why it happened) are part of a very complicated “web” of interactions that require an understanding of many fields—politics, history, sociology, economics, psychology, neuroscience, all areas of science, and a fair amount of math. Anyone who doesn’t seek understanding in all those fields is going to be looking up out of the silo and not seeing much. Anyone who does study widely is ultimately going to be standing on top of a very broad and tall silo, will be able to see into others, and will be able to make the interconnections necessary to really understand AGW in all its “glory”.

      IMO, the answer lies mainly in the economic area, but I don’t mean the projections you cited for adoption of various “clean” technologies—-rather what the greedy rich capitalists-plutocrats are doing to drive their profits at the expense of everyone else and the planet. Unless they stop their greedy environmental destruction and stop buying our government, we are going nowhere fast. “Dark Money” is a good read if you haven’t done so yet.

    • “Whether these shifts will be enough to stop run away global warming feedbacks (such as methane clathrates melting), I don’t know. It’s not my area of expertise. Maybe somebody here could advise?”

      I’m no expert either. However, my view is that focusing on emissions reductions alone won’t do the job. We have to look at decreasing ghg _concentrations_ if we are to have any real impact on temperature rises and, especially, ocean acidification.

      The problem with this is that there’s very little glamour or fancy chemical or physical innovation required. It’s literally about rocks and dirt. Turn depleted dirt and exposed rocks in destroyed environments into lush, fertile carbon and water rich soils the way they were before fire, the plough and the rampaging sheep, goats, camels and donkeys stripped forests and grasslands bare. Turn CO2 absorbing rocks into gravels, dusts and powders and get them to absorb CO2 at the same, or faster, rate than we are emitting the stuff. There are hundreds of millions of hectares of former forests that need replacing – starting with the Mediterranean-Middle East-North Africa region. There’s an equal area of mixed woodlands and grasslands that need restoring to full functionality.

      This is down to peasants with picks and shovels digging swales and planting trees – and changing the way they manage their lands. And not just poor people. The Belgian blokes organisation “Entrepreneurs Without Borders” has started some good work in the Sahel (along with some Kyoto Protocol and World Bank stuff) – same effect but much faster than the locals performing the same function with stone lines.

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