In celebration of how we are moving forward

Should we mark the annual Earth Day on 22 April 2024 with grief or joy? Despite the often gloomy news cycle, there are beacons of progress lighting up the path forward. Today, let’s have a look at some of these, and then share them around.

Believe it or not, there are victories to celebrate and to talk about, while on Earth Day we allow ourselves to pause for a moment in our relentless battle against the climate emergency, or rather: against the company executives and government leaders, who either don’t understand or simply don’t care how serious this problem is, and who therefore have made the decision to bring this destruction and danger upon not only us humans, but on all life on our planet.

Human rights ruling
Possibly the biggest victory, certainly the biggest signal of story change in many years, is that it was recently established as an indisputable ruling by Europe’s highest court on human rights that a safe climate is our human right. It has now, finally, been established by a solid authority that our governments actually do have a duty to protect us, the citizens, from climate impacts, a very fundamental duty which an Australian court rejected not so long ago. For a start, the European court ruled that the Swiss government’s inaction on climate change is a violation of human rights, which may not sound of much – however the implications of this will go far.

Another much more visible and tangible victory is the recent surge in solar panels and EV adoption, which signals a seismic shift in the energy industry, steering us away from the smog and toward cleaner, greener pastures.

Around the world, there are now seven countries that generate 100 per cent of their electricity from renewable energy, and there are 47 countries which produce between 50 and 100 per cent clean renewables on the grid.

Electricity costs near nothingness
Renewable energy sources are bringing people almost free electricity – but of course there are powerful vested interests who don’t want you to know about this.

Take Spain, for instance, where the wind in their sails and the sun on their backs are literally powering the future. Electricity costs have plummeted to near nothingness, thanks to the nation’s wind and solar parks working overtime.

Imagine, for a moment, the breeze and sunlight not just caressing your face but also filling up your home with light and energy at virtually no cost. Sounds too good to be true? It is not. It is reality for a growing number of people.

Portugal, too, is riding the renewable wave, with 89 per cent of its electricity needs met by renewables in just the first quarter of this year.

India has launched an initiative to provide ‘free electricity’ to up to ten million homes through streamlined rooftop solar installations, significantly encouraging clean energy adoption.

In California – the fifth largest economy in the world for the seventh consecutive year, with a GDP of nearly $3.9 trillion in 2023 – the Californians have set a benchmark for renewable energy with wind, solar and hydro now providing 100 per cent of the state’s energy demand for a part of 25 out of the last 32 days, and counting. (More about California further down.)

…And then there’s the report from a high school in Arkansas, USA, that transformed what was a significant budget deficit into a substantial surplus, thanks to a large solar installation. Teachers in the district are seeing the tangible benefits of renewable energy in their paychecks.

Once again, a very clear rebuttal to the naysayers who claim renewables can’t power a future worth living in. They are wrong. Utterly wrong. On the contrary, the clean energy technologies only get better and more efficient all the time.

Did you hear about the two European pioneers of wind energy that have been awarded the “Nobel prize of engineering” recently? Something that underlines the significant advancements that are happening in the renewable energy sector, where the application of salt, bricks and air for storing heat has caught the attention of industry experts. Many firms are exploring the use of thermal storage to help transition industrial processes to low emissions.

Last year was the best ever for new wind energy, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. With 117 gigawatts in new capacity, 2023 marked a 50 percent increase from 2022, according to a new report from the council. 117 gigawatts is enough to power up to 87 million homes. In comparison, there are approximately 10 million households in Australia.

Here in Australia, a new report has found that Australian households could save $9.3 billion dollars on energy bills each year by investing in the untapped solar potential of residential rooftops across the nation.

Victoria now has the lowest wholesale power prices in the country. Why? Because renewables are driving down power bills across the state. Whether by building more large scale renewables, or making it easier for Victorians to install a power station on their roof with a Solar Victoria rebate. You can take advantage of this as well, if you haven’t done this already.

AGL is exploring the development of a solar manufacturing facility at its former Liddel coal power precinct, in collaboration with solar innovator SunDrive, and the first turbines have started turning at what is set to be South Australia’s largest wind farm, Goyder South. South Australia has an accelerated net 100% renewables by 2027 emissions target, and the new wind farm helps it get one step closer.

The EV revolution
The electric vehicle revolution is going slow in Australia, and meeting resistance from the car industry – but even so, it is still gaining ground, with the Tesla Model 3 leading the charge.

There are now more than 180,000 EVs on Australian roads, with 98,436 of those bought last year, according to the Australian Electric Vehicle Industry Recap 2023.

Electric vehicles are soon going to crush fossil cars on price – because lithium and battery prices keep falling. New research suggests the decline in EV prices may be happening much faster than thought. Petrol car makers – and petrol car owners – are soon in for a rude shock.

Electric cars passed the five-per-cent tipping point to mass adoption in 31 countries. In Norway the EV market share has passed 80 per cent. In Denmark, 45 per cent. In Sweden, 40 per cent.

We don’t even realise how costly the fact that we keep powering our cars with petrol is. Last year, Australians paid over $60 billion to import petroleum products. On top of that we paid tens of billions of dollars for storage, distribution and sales of these products, often to overseas-owned businesses.

For similar reasons, the active transport alternative to driving a car, which is cycling and walking, is becoming more and more attractive. Plus an extra bonus: our health. Policies to help people walk and cycle – such as low-traffic neighbourhoods – can create public health benefits as much as 100 times greater than the cost of the schemes, a long-term study has concluded, and those benefits continue to grow even higher over time.

In other words, it’s not just about cleaner air or saving dollars.

New laws, new jobs
New laws are sprouting up globally to cement these changes. Tokyo’s recent mandate for solar panels on all new homes post-April 2025 is inspirational. And Oregon’s groundbreaking divestment from coal is testament to the power of legislative action for the planet.

Efficient electrification can dramatically reduce this substantial drain on our economy as well as reduce consumer costs and deliver health benefits. 

Clean energy investment has grown by 40 per cent over the past two years, creating strong demand from leading energy firms to bring on more workers in clean sectors. 

Globally, clean energy now employs more workers than fossil fuels. Clean energy sectors added 4.7 million jobs globally since 2019 and now stand at 35 million people who make their living in the clean energy sector.

We’ll say it again, in case you weren’t listening: Already three years ago, clean energy employment surpassed that of fossil fuels. 

Europe is driving progress
Finland is ahead of the pack, leading the way toward carbon neutrality, and what is interesting for all of us, they show that by doing so, they are creating new jobs and saving forests along the way.

Overall, the Europeans have halved their CO2 emissions since 1990, setting a brisk pace towards a climate-neutral 2050.

The EU power sector reported that in 2023 pollution went down with 24 per cent.

A record number of heat pumps sold in Europe, avoiding 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and helping to decrease reliance on natural gas.

The EU Parliament and its member states have reached an agreement to reduce air pollution and align with WHO standards to achieve zero pollution by 2050.

Barclays, one of Europe’s biggest banks, announced it would no longer fund new oil and gas fields, marking a significant shift towards sustainable finance.

An alternative to plastic
It is important to keep an eye on all the good things that are happening, because we hear a lot of bad news all the time. Good things are happening at the same time! Things are moving in the right direction. Yes, little by little, and still much too slowly – but it’s happening. Change is coming. People from all walks of life are building a movement for the changes we need.

It’s not just about energy. Innovation is happening in so many other areas as well.

As an example: have you heard of ‘Funga’? – the world’s first project utilising fungi to create commercial carbon offsetting credits, offering a novel approach to carbon sequestration.

Or about the revolutionary plant-based polymers that promise to break the dangerous microplastic pollution cycle?

Every year, MIT in the USA looks for promising breakthrough technologies poised to have a real impact on the world. Here are the advances that they think matter most right now. Among them: super-efficient solar cells, enhanced geothermal systems, heat pumps, and as no. 11: thermal batteries. But also a range of other technologies.

You are not alone
An interesting new study found that 69 per cent of people worldwide are willing to contribute 1 per cent of their income for climate action. Based on a globally representative survey involving 130,000 people across 125 countries, these findings highlight that a majority of the global population supports climate action. And 89 per cent demand that national governments should do more to fight climate change.

Even with these promising numbers, the study found that people consistently underestimate others’ willingness to act on climate change. Why does this matter? Because people who underestimate public support for climate action are less likely to take action themselves.

‌So the next time you feel alone in the fight for our planet, a lone warrior in this climate crusade, remind yourself that you are part of a global majority pushing for change. A vast majority around the globe are ready to contribute to the cause, disproving the myth of public apathy towards climate action.

If you’ve been exposed to the nonstop gaslighting from climate-denying media outlets that the “communities oppose the government’s renewables push”, well, surprise surprise, nothing could be further from the truth:

Australia’s national science agency CSIRO has released a survey on nationwide attitudes towards the renewable energy transition, which reveals that almost nine out of every ten Australians want a faster or moderate transition to clean energy. And why? People mentioned energy affordability, self-reliance and emissions reductions as their top reasons why they wish to see the renewables transition speeding up now.

Which is also why Australia’s solar manufacturing capacity is now being revitalised with a $1 billion dollar promise from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. The funding will provide subsidies and grants to build a solar supply chain in Australia.

Global progress
As the figures show, the world is making some real progress on climate. Not enough, correct, but momentum keeps building, and many avenues are being explored and continue to accelerate.

10 years ago, the scientists calculated that with the government policies at the time, the world was heading for a between 3°-and-4° degrees average global warming by 2100. Now, ten years later, they calculate the current policies will lead to between 2.1° or up to 2.7° degrees Celsius of average global warming. Still too much. But an improvement since ten years ago.

There is a 70 per cent chance global CO2 emissions will start falling this year, says researchers from Climate Analytics. Wind and solar growth could peak coal in 2023, and gas in 2024. EV growth may cause peak oil in 2025. Over 50 countries peaked in total greenhouse gas emissions ten years ago.

Climate solutions are available and affordable – and many are already being rolled out around the world as we speak.

So… Stop just hoping for a better world – and start building it! One renewable energy source, one electric vehicle, one solar panel, one new tree, one veggie garden, one new invention and one improvement at a time.

Here’s to moving forward, together.


Image: graphic design by ChatGPT and Mik Aidt

“It’s a time for inventing, for creativity.”
~ Pope Francis


Meeting 100% of electricity needs through renewables

In mid-April, California got a lot of buzz for meeting 100% of its electricity needs through renewables, if only for short times, for 30 of 38 days. The trend continues in this low-demand, high-solar season; on April 25, it was 41 of 49 days, 12 days in a row, and over 6 hours of entirely renewable energy, according to Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson. Batteries are an essential part of the mix: California will soon replace a natural gas plant with an enormous battery storage plant online, and batteries supplied close to 10% of California’s power during the eclipse on April 8.

A couple of years ago, on May 8, 2022, California hit 100% renewable power for the first time, so this is real progress.

However, the 6th largest economy in the world is far behind countries like Albania, Bhutan, Nepal, Paraguay, Iceland, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which had met nearly 100% of their total energy needs through renewables by then. In fact, renewables supply at least 50% of the energy mix in 47 countries, yet the US still needs to be added to that map. Let’s just call that a growth opportunity.
See Electrify Everything Nexus to learn more.
~ Excerpt from The Waggle newsletter Issue 71

 Equitable Solar Power • By Claire Inciong Krummenacher
In a landmark decision, the Biden administration announced that 60 U.S. organizations will receive a combined $7 billion in funding to bring residential solar to 900,000 households in low-income neighborhoods as part of its Solar for All program. State, municipal, tribal governments, and nonprofits are among the groups eligible to receive grants to support existing low-income solar and battery storage installations and establish new ones.

The EPA estimates that the $7 billion will supply 4 gigawatts of solar installations, enabling over 900,000 households nationwide to benefit from distributed solar energy. This is expected to save over 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and create 200,000 jobs.

In addition to covering the high initial solar panel installation costs, Solar for All should save low-income families as much as $400 in annual energy costs. On top of the economic and environmental benefits, the $500 million earmarked specifically for Indigenous communities will accelerate tribal energy sovereignty efforts.
To learn more, see our Solar Nexus.

Electric car mass adoption in 31 countries
Electric cars passed the 5% tipping point to mass adoption in 31 countries.
Top 11:

1 Norway 80% EV market share
2 Iceland 58%
3 Denmark 45%
4 Sweden 40%
5 Finland, Netherlands 35%
7 Ireland 34%
8 Belgium 25%
9 Portugal, Switzerland, and China 24%

Petrol car makers are soon in for a rude shock. Electric vehicles are soon going to crush fossil cars on price – because lithium and battery prices keep falling. New research suggests the decline in EV prices may by happening much faster than thought.

→ The Guardian – 8 March 2024:
Health gains of low-traffic schemes up to 100 times greater than costs, study finds
“Research looked at three London boroughs to value overall health benefits of active travel over 20 years at up to £4,800 (AUS$9,300) per head.”

In Spain, electricity is almost free as the nation’s wind and solar parks are churning out more power than ever.

In Oregon, in the U.S., the state parliament last week made a decision to stop investing retirement money for public workers in coal companies:

The energy world will look very different by 2030, even under today’s policy settings

🚗 Nearly 10 times as many electric cars
☀️ Renewables = 80% of new power
⚡️ Electric heating outselling fossil fuel boilers
🏭 Fossil fuel demand has peaked

More ➡️

International Energy Agency, 17 April 2024