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Renewable Energy Trends 2018

The renewable energy industry is booming. As the negative impacts of fossil fuels and climate change are becoming more widely understood, businesses and individuals are increasingly making the switch to alternative energy.

Renewable energy sources such as solar are not limited to the environmentally conscious; they also provide huge financial benefits and allow people to regain control over their energy consumption and bills.

The amount of solar installed worldwide grew by 50% between 2016 and 2017, with the total capacity rising to 305GW, compared to 50GW in 2010 and almost nothing at the beginning of the millennium.

This trend doesn’t appear to be slowing down either, as prices continue to drop and technology advances, 2018 is forecast to be another record-breaking year for solar in particular.

Here are some renewable energy trends to watch out for over the next year.

Renewables will create more jobs

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy industry employed 9.8 million people globally last year. This figure has steadily increased since 2012 when just over 7 million people were employed in the industry.

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin suggests that “renewables are directly supporting broader socio-economic objectives, with employment creation increasingly recognised as a central component of the global energy transition. As the scales continue to tip in favour of renewables, we expect that the number of people working in the renewables sector could reach 24 million by 2030, more than offsetting fossil-fuel job losses and becoming a major economic driver around the world.”

Since 2016 solar energy has been leading the way in renewable employment with 3.1 million jobs, mainly in China, the United States and India. In the US, jobs in solar increased 17 times faster than the overall economy, growing 24.5% from the previous year.

Erik Solheim, the head of UN Environment, argues that as well as the increased availability of jobs, renewables will deliver “better quality jobs and better-paid jobs.”

Workers installing solar on roof

Investment in renewables will continue to grow

Last year was the eighth in a row that global investment in renewables exceeded $200 billion; with a large majority of these investments being attributed to the ever-falling price of solar energy.

China is currently leading the way in renewable energy investment, contributing 45% of the total global investment last year. The solar boom in China, in particular, was extraordinary in 2017 with some 53GW installed (more than the whole world market as recently as 2014), and solar investment of $86.5 billion, up 58%.

“The extraordinary surge in solar investment shows how the global energy map is changing and, more importantly, what the economic benefits are of such a shift” Erik Solheim.

Whilst China and other developing nations are continuing to invest heavily in renewables, a trend in more developed countries has shown that investments are beginning to slow down. This has been particularly prominent in areas such as the UK, Germany and Japan.

The price of solar will continue to drop

The low cost of solar is a major driving factor in it’s increased adoption and means the average payback period of a system is only around four years.

The global weighted average levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) of utility-scale solar PV has seen a 73% decrease since 2010, falling to USD 0.10/kWh for new projects commissioned in 2017.

As developing countries such as China and India continue to intensify their renewable energy efforts and become more mainstream, prices are likely to be driven down further due to increased competition, technological advancements and the availability of experienced project developers.

money in a jar

The solar boom is here to stay

Solar power has seen a global boom over recent years, rising to prominence in 2017, as the world installed 98GW of new solar power projects. This massive increase in solar use far outweighed the net additions of coal, gas and nuclear plants put together last year.

Alongside the falling price of solar and the increased level of awareness for environmental issues, the rising cost of electricity has been a large contributor to this boom.

Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) made a statement suggesting that “the era of cheap oil is over.” Most new oil fields are now offshore or smaller than past years, making it harder to extract the oil and meet the rising global demand.

Whilst “oil resources might be plentiful…there can be no guarantee that they will be exploited quickly enough to meet the level of demand,” the IEA report said.

As the world prepares for the price of electricity to soar, solar energy will be the answer for many individuals and businesses to keep running costs down and minimise their carbon footprint.

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