BioEnergy: the Biggest Renewable Energy Story of 2018

Want to Get up to Speed on Renewable Energy in 2018? 

The big news in 2018 is the astonishing growth opportunity for bioenergy.

In 2017 bioenergy produced half of all renewable energy globally — as much as hydropower, wind power and solar power combined — and this energy segment continues to grow rapidly.

But before that, let’s have a quick refresher on renewable energy…

This graphic shows how much energy is available on planet Earth from all known sources — both renewable energy and non-renewable energy

Planetary energy reserves. Image courtesy of Perez and Perez.
Planetary energy reserves. Image courtesy of Perez and Perez.

Here’s how many people are employed in the solar industry compared to the fossil fuel, wind and nuclear electricity generation industries in the U.S (2016)

More Workers in Solar than Fossil Fuel Power GenerationExcerpt from | “Renewable energy has made impressive strides in the U.S. in recent years. According to a new report from the U.S. Department of Energy, solar power employs more people than electricity generation through coal, oil and gas combined. Last year, solar power accounted for 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce while fossil fuels combined employed 22 percent.

The statistic will be welcomed with open arms by those trying to refute Donald Trump’s assertion that renewable energy projects are bad news for the U.S. economy. Around 374,000 people were employed in solar energy, according to the report while generation through fossil fuels had a workforce of just over 187,000. The solar boom can be attributed to construction work associated with expanding generation capacity.

The report states that the employment gap is actually growing with net coal generation decreasing 53 percent over the last 10 years. During the same period of time, electricity generation through gas expanded 33 percent while solar went up by an impressive 5,000 percent.” — Niall McCarthy (

Here’s How Many People Are Employed in Renewable Energy Worldwide (2017)

The renewable energy industry employs 10.3 million people worldwide, according to new data from the International Renewable Energy Agency.
The renewable energy industry employs 10.3 million people worldwide, according to new data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

Excerpt from IRENA | “The industry created more than 500 000 new jobs globally in 2017, with the total number of people employed in renewables (including large hydropower) surpassing 10 million for the first time.

Renewable Energy and Jobs, presents the status of employment, both by technology and in selected countries, over the past year. Jobs in the sector (including large hydropower) increased 5.3% in 2017, for a total of 10.3 million people employed worldwide, according to this fifth edition in the series.

China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Japan have remained the world’s biggest renewable energy employers, representing more than 70% of such jobs. While growing numbers of countries reap socio-economic benefits from renewables, the bulk of manufacturing still takes place in relatively few countries. Four-fifths of all renewable energy jobs in 2017 were in Asia, the report finds.

Among the various technologies based on renewables, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry supports the most jobs. PV jobs increased almost 9% to reach 3.4 million around the world in 2017, reflecting the year’s record 94 gigawatts of PV installation.

Jobs in the global wind power industry contracted slightly to 1.15 million. Europe still accounts for five of the world’s top ten countries for installed wind power capacity.” — IRENA

This graphic shows global subsidies for fossil fuel vs. renewable energy (2018)

Global subsidies for fossil fuels and renewable energy
Fossil fuels contribute both electricity and transportation fuel to the global energy mix, that is why *Oil* and *Gas* used for transportation are listed separately from *Fossil fuel electricity* as these fuels receive differing subsidies depending how it is used. For example: Diesel fuel can be burned to power cars and trucks and some aircraft (transportation fuel) or diesel fuel can be burned to produce electricity (a power plant) or diesel fuel can be burned to produce heat for your home (home heating oil) Each use has a different subsidy regime attached to it.

The Solutions Project: 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

The Solutions Project interactive renewable energy map
Click the image to visit The Solutions Project interactive map to see how your country or major city could benefit from a switch to 100% renewable energy by the year 2050.

Excerpt from | “Right now, everything in our lives could be powered by clean, renewable energy. From our homes and smartphones to the electricity running our local grocery stores, clean energy is not only possible – it’s already happening. Solutions Project accelerates the transition to 100% clean energy by championing a movement that is more inclusive, more collaborative, and more celebratory. Through storytelling, grantmaking, and capacity building, we honor clean energy leaders, invest in promising solutions, and build relationships between unlikely allies.

Together, we can make renewable energy a reality for everyone – 100% for 100%.” —

Late-Breaking News: International Energy Agency Report Finds Bioenergy Poised For Massive Growth 2018-2023

Click to read the late-breaking IEA Renewable Energy report -- Renewables 2018
Click to read the late-breaking IEA Renewable Energy report executive summaryRenewables 2018

Excerpt from IEA Report 2018 | “Modern bioenergy is the overlooked giant within renewable energy. Modern bioenergy (excluding the traditional use of biomass) was responsible for half of all renewable energy consumed in 2017 – it provided four times the contribution of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind combined. Most modern bioenergy is used in final energy consumption to deliver heat in buildings and for industry.

Bioenergy is the largest source of growth in renewable consumption over the period 2018 to 2023. Bioenergy – as solid, liquid or gaseous fuels – will account for 30% of the growth in renewable consumption in this period. This is a result of the considerable use of bioenergy in heat and transport. Other renewables have less penetration in these two sectors, which account for 80% of total final energy consumption.

In 2023, bioenergy will remain the predominant source of renewable energy, although its share of total renewable energy declines from 50%, in 2017, to 46% as the expansion of both solar PV and wind accelerates in the electricity sector.” — IEA

Late-Breaking Bioenergy Video Produced by the IEA

Written by John Brian Shannon

On the Economics of Wind and Solar Power

Originally published at The Beam | On the economics of wind and solar power — by Lion Hirth

“Many hope that wind and solar power will eventually become economically competitive on large scale, leading the way to a global low-carbon economy. Are these hopes justified?”

November’s COP22 climate summit of Marrakech gave climate policy fresh tailwind, after the blow of Donald Trump’s election. Even without a strong global treaty, national climate policies are multiplying — at least a certain type of policies. While the policy that economists often recommend — putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions — remains patchy, as a recent World Bank report shows, subsidies for renewable energy are booming: no fewer than 145 countries support renewables today. Germany’s Energiewende is a prominent, but not the only example: Obama’s Clean Power Plan features renewables as a centerpiece of climate policy, India’s National Solar Mission includes a 100 GW solar power target. In addition China is said to be considering a 200 GW target, and Morocco has announced the building of the largest solar power facility on the planet. Nearly half of all newly added electricity generation capacity was based on renewables. In ten countries, wind and sun deliver more than 10% of electricity consumed. These includes Denmark (43%), Portugal (24%) and Spain (23%).

Many hope that wind and solar power will eventually become economically competitive on large scale, leading the way to a global low-carbon economy. Are these hopes justified?

On the cost side, the economics of renewables look impressive. The costs of wind power have dropped significantly. On average, wind now generates electricity at $70–80 per Megawatt-hour (MWh) globally, as reported by the two international think tanks IRENA and IEA. Ten years ago, a roof-top solar array for a single family home cost more than $50,000 — today it sells for less than $14,000. (America’s LBNL and Germany’s Fraunhofer ISE provide more data.) Germany, which receives less solar radiation than southern Canada, now generates solar power at $90 per MWh. The United Arab Emirates have tendered a solar power station for $58 per MWh and recent auctions in Chile, Peru and South Africa have resulted in even lower prices.

On the economics of wind and solar power
Join Our List. Click the image to get the best of The Beam delivered to your inbox for free.

In some countries, wind and solar power are now cost-competitive with coal- and natural gas-fired power plants, even when carbon emissions are not priced. However, cost structures are very country-specific, and cost-competitiveness is not universal. Renewables tend to be cheaper where it is windy or sunny, where investors have access to low-cost finance, where fossil fuels are pricey, and where emissions are priced. In many places, however, coal-fired power plants remain the cheapest option for producing electricity, driving the renaissance of coal. Still, for renewables to have caught up with fossil plants in cost terms represents a huge success for wind and solar power.

Costs are, however, only one side of the competitiveness equation. The other is value. Merely comparing electricity generation costs between different plant types is misleading, as it ignores the fact that the economic value of electricity from different power stations is not the same. This is because on wholesale markets the price of electricity fluctuates from hour to hour (or even minute to minute). Some power plants produce electricity disproportionately at times of high prices (so called “peaking” plants), while others produce constantly at low prices (“base load” plants). This little detail has striking consequences for the economics of wind and solar power. Paul Joskow and Michael Grubb observed this a while ago.

On the value side, the outlook for renewables is…

Read the entire article here.

Subscribe to The Beam here.