January 31, 2017
Why not? It could be very good news indeed depending on which way one looks at this. It is still somewhat too early into 2017 to be able to fully aggregate additional installed capacity numbers for 2016. If first half 2016 numbers in key significant renewable energy embracers are anything to go by, it could go to further underscore the irrepressible rise of renewable energy, no longer on the back of enthusiasts but increasingly compelling economics. EIA data shows that US electricity generation capacity from renewable energy grew in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. Similar trends have been observed in China and India, with perhaps even more impressive growth percentages. So, the potential good news is that for less spending, more capabilities may have been delivered – and all for an outcome that is renewable with no fuel cost and sustainable.
Not surprising given that solar energy cost for example has dropped significantly even when looking at one year (2015) alone with expectations of more to come. R&D, technology development and economy of scale supported by enabling regulations helped to drive down the unit cost not dissimilar to the capability and cost of the much loved mobile phone. In countries like Germany and the UK, the renewable pie has grown to 25%+ of the power generation fuel mix. China’s Xinhua state news agency data suggested that China installed 20GW of solar power capacity in the first half of 2016, far exceeding the level achieved during the same period in 2015. To put this into context, in mere 6 months, China added more solar power capability than the entire generation capacity of Singapore (approx. 13.5GW). Impressive as that may be, 20GW against China’s total pool of installed capacity (over 1250GW) is a drop in the ocean. Never the less, the half-glass-full folks would argue that the growth opportunity for renewable (non-hydro) energy is enormous, potentially delivering further economy of scale cost effects. This could be accelerated by the need for urgent action to address the acute air pollution challenges in parts of the country largely blamed on coal use.
Singapore, despite being a small city-state and resource-constrained, is making some in-roads into solar energy to harness the relatively high solar irradiation to showcase the country as a “Living Lab”. Besides initiatives to support rooftop solar panels installation on high rise public housing and numerous other research capabilities like Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS), it has started a pilot project at Tengeh Reservoir in what could be the largest floating PV system in South East Asia. The potential for mass scale deployment is exciting that could build up renewables as a material contribution towards the country’s energy mix.
It must be said that most of the currently developed renewable energy options suffer from the same Achilles heel of intermittency so for the foreseeable future, a basket of energy options, including the conventional ones are needed. Whether it is in energy storage or renewable energy development, much more is expected from R&D to drive step changes in performance. Adaptability of solar receptors is one such area through film like material and possibly even paint that would open up a new world of “surface” possibilities. Just imagine what it would be like if all external glass and wall surfaces of the buildings around us are solar energy generators. Who is to say that this cannot be extended to all types of surfaces including cars, road, clothing, etc.?
“Bigger bang for the buck” is a reasonable objective for product development through technology innovation. Renewable energy is expected to be no different. Expect good news but could it be even better and faster?
[Updated: Singapore, June 1, 2017]
Good news, very good news indeed!
It was suggested that “the potential good news is that for less spending, more capabilities may have been delivered”. According to Bloomberg, this is now confirmed with the collated 2016 numbers.
- Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity in the world.[i]
- On 30 April 2017, Germany set a new record for renewable energy (wind, solar, biomass, hydropower) providing 85 per cent of the country’s total energy on that day. Electricity prices fell to negative figures for several hours. [ii]
- On 26 May 2017, UK set a record amount of solar power generated (8.7 GW), representing 24.3% of total generation across the country. [iii]
- A wakeup call for those places and projects looking to add new electricity capacity to seriously consider renewables such as solar.
Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance
What could this mean for you and what you would like the electricity you use to look like?