The price of solar photovoltaic panels has declined 99 percent over the last four decades, from $74 a watt in 1972 to less than 70 cents a watt in 2014. Between 2009 and 2014, solar panel prices dropped by three fourths, helping global PV installations grow 50 percent per year.
Over the past decade, world wind power capacity grew more than 20 percent a year, its increase driven by its many attractive features, by public policies supporting its expansion, and by falling costs. By the end of 2014, global wind generating capacity totaled 369,000 megawatts, enough to power more than 90 million U.S. homes.
U.S. coal use is dropping – it fell 21 percent between 2007 and 2014 – and more than one-third of the nation’s coal plants have already closed or announced plans for future closure. Meanwhile the Stowe Global Coal Index – a composite index of companies from around the world whose principal business involves coal – dropped 70 percent between April 2011 and September 2014.The transition away from fossil fuels, in particular, is not going to be painless. As Dr. Pollock noted in a comment on yesterday's post, most fossil fuel based energy firms are worried about the short-term impact on themselves and shareholders, not the long-term impact on the sustainability of life on the planet. But Lester Brown's book provides strong evidence that the momentum is shifting toward a reliance on sustainable energy sources, and that the transition can be accomplished fairly quickly, even if not painlessly. One way to promote this, as the book points out, is for all of us to endorse the divestment movement, in which organizations are asked to drop their investments in fossil fuel based companies.
In China, electricity generation from wind farms now exceeds that from nuclear plants, while coal use appears to be peaking.