How clean have we come in 2015?
2015 marks a year of progress for clean energy. As we step into a new year, let us review the achievements that were made by many in the past one year, here is a list of 8 remarkable ones:
1. Climate accord achieved
As of December, 196 nations reached a landmark accord to address climate change — committing nearly every country to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement achieved at COP21 in Paris aims to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 with an ideal target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5 C.
2. United States has its first clean power plan
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established in August the first national standards to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. The Clean Power Plan announced by Obama not only cuts significant amounts of carbon and other pollutants but also advances clean energy innovation, development and deployment, laying an important part of the policy foundation for the long-term strategy needed to tackle the threat of climate change.
3. Corporations set renewable energy record
Corporations signed roughly 3 GW of power purchase agreements for large-scale, off-site renewable energy in 2015. This more than doubles the amount signed in 2014, and includes corporate giants such as Google, Apple and Walmart.
4. Renewables continues to get cheaper
Wind power is the cheapest electricity to produce in both Germany and the UK even without government subsidies. And in the U.S., the increase in wind and solar have begun to cut into the use of conventional coal and gas power plants, forcing the capacity factor of gas plants to be significantly reduced from 2014 to 2015. The cost of wind and solar are reducing so much that utility-scale solar projects in the US are regularly securing power purchase agreements for 5 cents per kWh or less.
5. Renewables set record contributions
For instance, on a summer day in June, renewable energy supplied 43 percent of the UK’s electricity demand which made a national record. In July, Germany also set a national record when renewable energy met 78 percent of the day’s electricity demand. And in the US, wind power set a record in November with 70 gigawatts of installed generating capacity, enough to power 19 million homes. It is impressive indeed.
6. Cities are aiming for 100-percent renewable
Cities around the US are setting targets to ditch fossil fuels and go 100-percent renewable. 2015 saw commitments from many states. Some cities are already leading the way. Aspen, Colorado, and Burlington, Vermont became 100-percent renewable in 2015, joining the first US 100-percent renewable city — Greensburg, Kansas.
7. Home energy efficiency becomes easier
In August, Obama announced plans to unlock residential property assessed clean energy) financing to make it easier for Americans to invest in energy efficiency and clean energy technologies for their homes. It provides 100 percent funding that is repaid over a period of up to 20 years with an assessment linked to a homeowner’s property tax bill.
8. Electric and autonomous cars on the rise
The first commercial all-electric, long-range, full-size SUV has been unveiled. The 250-mile-range Tesla X actually broke the Consumer Reports rating system. Meanwhile, Google goes full throttle on its electric, fully self-driving vehicle on the streets of Austin and California’s Bay Area to test its software. Google plans to introduce self-driving cars to the public by 2020.