Wind turbines, not long ago, were a rare encounter for most people but now sprout everywhere the wind blows. Solar cells, once confined to corporate parks and universities, now cover the roofs of grocery store parking lots and houses the world over. Hydrogen, long the fuel of choice for space rockets and shuttles, now powers planes, trains, automobiles, home heaters, and industrial processes. Happily, today we are living at a time when renewable energy accounts for one-third of the world’s installed power capacity (IRENA), driven by costs that are now below those of fossil fuels.
To celebrate this week’s 49th annual Earth Day (April 22), we have chosen to write a photo essay featuring the countries that are “leading the charge towards clean energy” as highlighted by the World Economic Forum (WEF). When it comes to making a lasting impact, these countries took swift and “decisive action” to decarbonize their energy systems between 2008 and 2017 across five important segments. The rankings are based upon a report entitled, “Energy Revolution: A Global Outlook,” commissioned by Drax Group in cooperation with researchers from Imperial College London and E4tech.
Celebrating Earth Day and the dawn of renewables.
The United Kingdom: Biggest Decrease in Carbon Intensity in Electricity
Cleaner cities across the UK are the result of rapid decarbonization.
“Clean electricity,” the World Economic Forum notes, “underpins almost all efforts to shift towards a decarbonized future.” In this category, the United Kingdom has, according to the Drax report, “decarbonized its power sector much faster than any other country in the world.” Over the past decade, the UK has more than halved the carbon intensity of its electricity through a reduction of more than 250 g/KWh (carbon content per kilowatt hour). The country’s success in decarbonizing the grid is due to several factors, including “rapid phase-out of coal power,” “strong carbon pricing,” and “growth of renewables.” The UK was followed in this effort by Denmark, the United States, and China.
Germany: Biggest Increase in Renewable Capacity
New and old wind technology dot the fields of the German countryside.
The World Economic Forum extolls Germany’s trailblazing efforts in terms of new installed renewable capacity: “In the last decade, an extra 1,125 GW of capacity has been installed worldwide. Germany leads the way, having installed almost 1 kW of renewable capacity per person in the given time period, and ranking 1st and 3rd for solar and wind capacity per person respectively.” The WEF goes on to say, “Germany’s push towards renewables is part of a wider trend within Europe, with eight of the top ten countries coming from the region―only Canada (5th) and Australia (10th) are from outside the region.”
The United Kingdom: Biggest Decrease in Coal Use for Electricity
The UK can celebrate Earth Day twice! It reduced its use of coal in electricity by the highest margin.
“When it comes to the transition from coal-based electricity production,” the World Economic Forum points out, “the pattern follows a similar trend to the change in carbon content; the UK and Denmark are ahead of the field.” Both countries have reduced their share of coal in electricity generation by almost 30% and 23% respectively by switching “one-quarter of their electricity supplies from coal to gas and renewables,” according to the Drax report. In this category, it is encouraging to see that the U.S. and China are also in the top five countries leading the way with sizeable coal decreases by 18% and 14% respectively.
Norway: Share of New Electric Vehicles Sales
In Norway, 47% of all new car sales are electric.
As of 2017, according to the World Economic Forum, “over 4.5 million electric vehicles were on the road, 1.2 million of which were purchased in 2017 alone.” Sales of electric vehicles (EVs) signal the intent of individuals to reduce their carbon footprint along with their cost of fueling. Norway leads the charge here (no pun intended), with EVs accounting for 10% of all new car sales. In the 12-month period to September 2018, Norway captured a “staggering 47% EV share” of new car sales. The WEF attributes their top new sales position as “reaping the rewards of having offered EV incentives since the 1980s.”
China: Total Electric Vehicles on the Roads
China: More EVs and charging stations than anywhere else.
With an installed base of more than 2 million EVs, China doubles the amount of total electric vehicles on the road than the U.S., which ranks second in this category. Together, China and the U.S. account for nearly 75% of the worldwide EV market and half all EV charging stations. Of note is Japan, which ranks third with 250,000 EVs. Japan is leading the market in hydrogen-powered vehicles with two of its giant automakers, Honda and Toyota, having launched hydrogen cars in Japan and the U.S. in recent years.
We still have a long way to go when it comes to the adoption of sustainable energy. However, these trailblazing countries, amongst many others, light a path worth taking. The shift to renewables is now a movement that enables us to have worthy reasons to celebrate. Happy Earth Day world!
As the Hydrogen 2.0 ecosystem gains momentum, we’ll be sharing our views and insights on the new Hydrogen 2.0 Economy. We also update our blog every week with insightful and current knowledge in this growing energy field.