Research compiled by credit rating agency Moody’s claims that before the end of 2018, emerging market economies will overtake established industrialised nations in the amount of power they generate through renewable solar and wind. The latest technology in the world of renewables continues to make advances in how competitive solar and wind are in comparison to traditional fossil fuels-based electricity generation, leading to a surge in global capacity over the ten years to 2016. Solar power generation increased 50% over the period and wind power 22%. However, the west is being taken over by emerging economies when it comes to the size of renewable energy markets.
China and India are now the world’s biggest and third biggest producers of solar and wind energy according to BP’s recently published annual review of world energy. The pace at which the two are adding renewable energy capacity, better known for their questionable records on industrial pollution, comes as a silver lining of optimism amid recent news that global climate change targets are being missed. With technology advances meaning renewable sources such as solar and wind are now more efficient than any major forecasts, the governments of industrialised nations lagging behind emerging market economies in their investment in renewables installations will surely now be asked some tough questions by electorates and international bodies overseeing commitments such as the Paris climate agreement.
In 2017 alone, China added solar power generation capacity totalling 50 gigawatts, more than the total combined capacities of Germany and France. India added 9.5 gigawatts. By the end of 2018, the latter’s total capacity will have increased 600% over 3 years to a total of 28 gigawatts. The price of solar modules has fallen by 80% since 2009 as the latest technology in the world of solar cells has become more efficient combines with a supply glut from China manufacturers. The cost of generating electricity from wind turbines has also approximately halved over the period.
While the pace of renewable energy capacity gains in China and India is likely to be slower over coming years than it has recently been, it is also unlikely to reverse with firm political commitment to the process. The ball is now in the court of western governments, which have increasingly pushed back against what is described as Chinese ‘dumping’ of cheap solar panels. However, the policy of using more expensive locally manufactured alternatives is also slowing down adoption rates.
The move towards greater allocation to renewables in the power mix of traditionally industrialised nations needs to find a compromise. Either to absorb the higher costs of buying locally or accept the benefit of reducing installation expenses by opting for cheaper, imported solar panels and wind turbines. Otherwise, the ‘developed’ world is in danger of falling further behind in the move towards renewable technologies.