Will Our Children and Grandchildren be Grateful and Think Well of Us??

The title of this blog doesn’t set any time frame. My grandchildren and my students are approximately the same age. However, it strongly indicates that something good is now happening. This good thing is happening as a result of the accumulation of trying times that most of us are experiencing now.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s strong dependence on the Russian gas supply are a strong reminder that an energy shift away from fossil fuels is urgently needed now—not just to mitigate climate change but as a national security step so we don’t find ourselves short of energy because of geopolitical conflicts. Resilience in our energy supply is urgently needed, and the best solution is to shift to sources under our control. Fortunately, the need for resiliency and the shift to non-carbon energy sources have the same solution.

It is not easy to see that the world is adapting to such a solution but strong signals are now emerging that the response to Russia’s disruption in its energy supply may lead us to the promised land of acting to mitigate climate change.

New data from the International Energy Administration (IEA) now show that globally, renewables are now replacing gas, not coal:

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has raised its global forecast for renewables growth in what it calls its “largest ever upward revision” for the sector. The latest revision means the agency now forecasts 76% more growth than it did just two years ago, Carbon Brief analysis shows. This means extra wind, solar and other renewable technologies equivalent to the entire electricity system of India being built by 2026, on top of last year’s projections. The agency says this year’s forecast accounts for a wave of new policies introduced largely in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and soaring fossil fuel prices. The IEA’s latest annual report on the status of renewables notes that the global energy crisis is “pushing the accelerator on renewable energy expansion”, particularly in the EU, US, China and India. It says utility-scale solar and onshore wind power are now the cheapest options for new generation in “a significant majority of countries worldwide”. The influential Paris-based agency now expects renewables to surpass coal as the largest source of electricity generation by “early 2025”, reaching 38% of the power mix by 2027. The installed capacity of solar power alone is set to overtake that of coal in 2027. But, despite this increase in global ambition, the IEA says countries are still not on track to achieve a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050. It highlights how addressing regulatory and financial barriers could “significantly narrow the gap” to achieving this target.

Extra capacity In its 2020 renewables report, the IEA forecast an additional 1,092 gigawatts (GW) of global capacity would be built between 2022 and 2026. It raised this to 1,496GW last year. For the main scenario in its latest report, the agency estimates that an extra 424GW of renewables capacity will now be built over this five-year period, roughly equivalent to the entire power capacity of India. This is a 28% increase on the previous estimate and up 76% from two years ago.


Figure 1Cumulative power capacity, gigawatts (GW), by technology, 2010-2027 (Source: IEA Renewables 2022)

Figure 2 shows an alternative presentation of the same IEA data. Both figures make it clear that globally, renewable energy sources (solar and wind) are on their way to replacing fossil fuels.

Figure 2 – The same data from Figure 1 plotted as a percentage of the power capacity (Source: Renewables Now)

Figure 3 shows that the replacement in Europe is already underway.

Figure 3 – Regionally, the replacement trend (renewables to fossil fuels) is most pronounced in the EU (Source: Ember)

One result of the trend is the relative rise of the stocks of renewable companies following the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February 2022, as seen in Figure 4.

Figure 4 – European stock prices of renewables (Source: Bloomberg)

Replacing carbon-emitting fossil fuels with sustainable energy is not the only way to reduce carbon footprints and thus mitigate climate change. Reducing energy intensity through increased energy efficiency, is another (see the May 31, 2022 blog on Electric Utilities through the Lens of the IPAT identity). I will return to this issue in future blogs, as we accumulate some more data.

About climatechangefork

Micha Tomkiewicz, Ph.D., is a professor of physics in the Department of Physics, Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. He is also a professor of physics and chemistry in the School for Graduate Studies of the City University of New York. In addition, he is the founding-director of the Environmental Studies Program at Brooklyn College as well as director of the Electrochemistry Institute at that same institution.
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7 Responses to Will Our Children and Grandchildren be Grateful and Think Well of Us??

  1. Carina Alessandro says:

    I do wonder if the shift away from replacing coal to more exclusively replacing fossil fuels is more due or that there’s less coal use left to replace, or that coal is cheaper and natural gas pricier.

  2. Upcoming generation is looks like advance minds and having sharp thinking.
    maybe upcoming generation is good.

  3. climatechangefork says:

    Micha Tomkiewicz
    Here is my chatGPT question and response:
    In 1500 words – please describe what are the steps that can be taken to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy and overcome the barriers to achieving a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050
    The shift towards renewable energy and achieving a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050 is a complex and multifaceted challenge that requires action on multiple fronts. Some key steps that can be taken to accelerate this transition include:

    Increasing investment in renewable energy research and development: To make renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power more cost-effective and competitive with fossil fuels, governments and private sector organizations must invest in research and development to improve the efficiency and scalability of these technologies.

    Implementing policies to support the deployment of renewable energy: Governments can create a favorable regulatory environment for the deployment of renewable energy by implementing policies such as feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, and tax incentives for the development of renewable energy projects.

    Investing in energy storage technologies: To make renewable energy sources more reliable, governments and private sector organizations must invest in energy storage technologies such as batteries and hydrogen fuel cells. This will allow for the storing of excess renewable energy that can be used during times when renewable energy sources are not available.

    Encouraging the use of electric vehicles: Electric vehicles are a key component of a net-zero emissions energy system, as they can be powered by electricity generated from renewable sources. Governments can encourage the use of electric vehicles by providing incentives for consumers and businesses to purchase them, and by investing in the development of charging infrastructure.

    Promoting energy efficiency: Reducing energy consumption is a crucial step in achieving a net-zero emissions energy system. Governments and businesses can promote energy efficiency by implementing energy-efficient building codes, offering financial incentives for energy-efficient upgrades, and providing education and awareness campaigns to encourage energy conservation.

    Collaboration across sectors and regions: Achieving a net-zero emissions energy system requires collaboration across sectors and regions. Governments, businesses, and other stakeholders must work together to share knowledge, best practices, and to coordinate efforts to accelerate the transition to renewable energy.

    Promote carbon pricing or carbon tax: Carbon pricing or carbon tax is a policy that puts a cost on carbon emissions and provides an economic incentive for businesses and individuals to reduce their emissions. This can be achieved through a carbon tax, cap-and-trade system, or a combination of both.

    Developing a comprehensive energy system integration strategy: Achieving a net-zero emissions energy system will require the integration of various technologies and sources of energy, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal, and bioenergy. A comprehensive energy system integration strategy will be needed to manage the integration of these different sources of energy and ensure a reliable, resilient, and cost-effective energy system.

    Building public support: Achieving a net-zero emissions energy system will require a significant shift in public perceptions and behaviors, and building public support for renewable energy is essential. Governments, businesses, and other stakeholders must engage with the public to raise awareness about the benefits of renewable energy and the urgent need to address climate change.

    Building resilience: Climate change and natural disasters are already affecting the energy sector, and it will be essential to build a resilient energy system that can withstand such impacts. This can be achieved by integrating distributed energy resources, enhancing grid infrastructure and communication, and investing in risk management and emergency response planning.

    Implementing these steps will require significant investment, political will, and cooperation across sectors and regions. However, the benefits of a net-zero emissions energy system are numerous, including improved air quality, reduced dependence on fossil fuels, and a more stable climate. With concerted effort, it is possible to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and achieve a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050.

  4. climatechangefork says:

    Reply to John:
    Great question. I will try to pose the question to https://openai.com/blog/chatgpt/ with a limit of 1500 words. You try to do the same. Depending on what we will get, I will try to post both responses as comments to the blog.

    More to the point – In two days we are starting the Spring semester in my school. I will pose the question as an assignment to my students. again, with a limit of 1500 words but with “small” modifications – replace “what steps can be taken…” what steps I (the student) can take..”

  5. john says:

    The blog post is informative and well-researched, providing a clear argument for the urgent need for a shift towards renewable energy. The author presents data from the International Energy Administration (IEA) to support their argument. My question is, what are the steps that can be taken to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy and overcome the barriers to achieving a net-zero emissions energy system by 2050?

  6. Edward Prince says:

    A cynical part of me wants to think that our kids and grandkids will take the improvements that they have over us for granted at first. Only when they learned the conditions that their parents and grandparents lived in, will they be able to appreciate the world they live in, and potentially try to make it even better.

  7. Edward Prince says:

    I think what our children and grandchildren think of us partially depends on what we do for them to make the future better for them overall. That way, we manage to make on impact on their lives and on their children’s lives, even after death.

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