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 Statista.com | “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 (Statista.com)


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 TheSolutionsProject.org | “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%.” — TheSolutionsProject.org


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


8.1 Mn Renewable Energy Jobs – and Counting!

Renewable Energy Jobs: A lot of people have said that switching from fossil fuels to renewables would hurt the economy. They said it would raise energy prices and cost jobs. So far, those fears have mostly gone unfounded. Of course, there have been job losses in sectors directly related to fossil fuel production. Coal producing regions have been particularly hard hit, though even in those areas, change can mean opportunity.

At the same time, job growth in clean energy has been robust. According to IRENA, 8.1 million people were working in renewable energy jobs (read the full PDF report here) at the end of last year…


Continue reading 8.1 Mn Renewable Energy Jobs – and Counting!

Energy subsidies | Levelling the Subsidy Playing Field

Originally published at JBS News by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

By now, we’re all aware of the threat to the well-being of life on this planet posed by our massive and continued use of fossil fuels and the various ways we might attempt to reduce the rate of CO2 increase in our atmosphere.

Divestment in the fossil fuel industry is one popular method under discussion to lower our massive carbon additions to our atmosphere

The case for divestment generally flows along these lines;
By making investment in fossil fuels seem unethical, investors will gradually move away from fossil fuels into other investments, leaving behind a smaller but hardcore cohort of fossil fuel investors.

Resulting (in theory) in a gradual decline in the total global investment in fossil fuels, thereby lowering consumption and CO2 additions to the atmosphere. So the thinking goes.

It worked well in the case of tobacco, a few decades back. Over time, fewer people wanted their names or fund associated with the tobacco industry — so much so, that the tobacco industry is now a mere shadow of its former self.

Interestingly, Solaris (a hybridized tobacco plant) is being grown and processed into biofuel to power South African Airways (SAA) jets. They expect all flights to be fully powered by tobacco biofuel within a few years, cutting their CO2 emissions in half. Read more about that here.

Another way to curtail carbon emissions is to remove the massive fossil fuel subsidies

In 2014, the total global fossil fuel subsidy amounted to $548 billion dollars according to the IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development) although it was projected to hit $600 billion before the oil price crash began in September. The global fossil fuel subsidy amount totalled $550 billion dollars in 2013. For 2012, it totalled $525 billion dollars. (These aren’t secret numbers, they’re easily viewed at the IEA and major news sites such as Reuters and Bloomberg)

Yes, removing those subsidies would do much to lower our carbon emissions as many oil and gas wells, pipelines, refineries and port facilities would suddenly become hugely uneconomic.

We don’t recognize them for the white elephants they are, because they are obscured by mountains of cash.

And there are powerful lobby groups dedicated to keeping those massive subsidies in place.

Ergo, those subsidies likely aren’t going away, anytime soon.

Reducing our CO2 footprint via a carbon tax scheme

But for all of the talk… not much has happened.

The fossil fuel industry will spin this for decades, trying to get the world to come to contretemps on the *exact dollar amount* of fossil fuel damage to the environment.

Long before any agreement is reached we will be as lobsters in a pot due to global warming.

And know that there are powerful lobby groups dedicated to keeping a carbon tax from ever seeing the light of day.

The Third Option: Levelling the Subsidy Playing Field

  • Continue fossil fuel subsidies at the same level and not institute a carbon tax.
  • Quickly ramp-up renewable energy subsidies to match existing fossil fuel subsidies.

Both divestment in fossil fuels and reducing fossil fuel subsidies attempt to lower our total CO2 emissions by (1) reducing fossil fuel industry revenues while (2) a carbon tax attempts to lower our total CO2 use/emissions by increasing spending for the fossil fuel industry

I prefer (3) a revenue-neutral and spending-neutral solution (from the oil company’s perspective) to lower our CO2 use/emissions.

So far, there are no (known) powerful fossil fuel lobby groups dedicated to preventing renewable energy from receiving the same annual subsidy levels as the fossil fuel industry.

Imagine how hypocritical the fossil fuel industry would look if it attempted to block renewable energy subsidies set to the same level as fossil fuel subsidies.

Renewable energy received 1/4 of the total global subsidy amount enjoyed by fossil fuel (2014)

Global Energy Subsidies (2014, in billions USD). Image courtesy of IISD.
Global Energy Subsidies 2014. (billions USD). Image courtesy of IISD.

Were governments to decide that renewable energy could receive the same global, annual subsidy as the fossil fuel industry, a number of things would begin to happen;

  • Say goodbye to high unemployment.
  • Say goodbye to the dirtiest fossil projects.
  • Immediate lowering of CO2 emissions.
  • Less imported foreign oil.
  • Cleaner air in cities.
  • Sharp decline in healthcare costs.
  • Democratization of energy through all socio-economic groups.

Summary

Even discounting the global externality cost of fossil fuel (which some commentators have placed at up to $2 trillion per year) the global, annual $548 billion fossil fuel subsidy promotes an unfair marketplace advantage.

But instead of punishing the fossil fuel industry for supplying us with reliable energy for decades (by taking away ‘their’ subsidies) or by placing on them the burden of a huge carbon tax (one that reflects the true cost of the fossil fuel externality) I suggest that we simply match the renewable energy subsidy to the fossil subsidy… and let both compete on a level playing field in the international marketplace.

Assuming a level playing field; May the best competitor win!

By matching renewable energy subsidies to fossil fuel subsidies, ‘Energy Darwinism’ will reward the better energy solution

My opinion is that renewable energy will win hands down and that we will exceed our clean air goals over time — and stop global warming in its tracks.

Not only that, but we will create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs and accrue other benefits during the transition to renewable energy. We will also lower healthcare spending, agricultural damage, and lower damage to steel and concrete infrastructure from acid rain.

In the best-case future: ‘Oil & Gas companies’ will simply become known as ‘Energy companies’

Investors will simply migrate from fossil fuel energy stock, to renewable energy stock, within the same energy company or group of energy companies.

At the advent of scheduled airline transportation nearly a century ago, the smart railway companies bought existing airlines (or created their own airlines) and kept their traditional investors and gained new ones.

Likewise, smart oil and gas companies, should now buy existing renewable energy companies (or create their own renewable energy companies) and keep their traditional investors and gain new ones.

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