Solar power is on the rise, and countries around the world are catching on.
More governments are investing in the production of solar energy than ever before. Solar tech has advanced in recent years, causing a massive decline in the price of solar energy. Now, solar power is cost-competitive and reliable. There is promising data suggesting that solar can someday match or even outperform traditional sources like coal and gas.
Of course, some countries are ahead of the game. Can you guess which five countries produced the most solar energy in 2016? The answer may surprise you — especially number one.
Let’s look at the top 5 countries for solar energy.
When it came to solar energy, Germany used to be on top. It once produced more gigawatts (GW) of solar power than any other country in the world — until 2015. Now, other nations have caught up and pushed Germany back to the number five position.
Regardless, Germany is still a world leader in renewables and one of the top countries for solar energy. The country’s Energiewende strategy has it aiming obtain at least 60% of its energy from renewable sources by 2050. Last year, Germany broke its own records for the production of solar energy.
India is at the cusp of a solar energy boom. Since 2011, India has made massive strides in is renewable energy production thanks in part to investment from the World Bank. India’s total solar energy capacity is expected to grow from 5 GW in 2015 to a whopping 57 GW by 2020. The nation is on target to produce 100 GW of solar energy by 2022.
Japan was an early adopter of solar generation, and it continues to be an innovator in this sector. It is home to the Solar Ark, one of the world’s largest solar buildings, which boasts over 5,000 solar panels. The country aims to meet at least 10% of its energy demands with solar by 2050.
Yes, it’s true — the USA misses the top spot on this list. Surprised? After all, the country has an abundance of tech, talent, and just the right environmental conditions for wide-scale adoption of solar energy. Why shouldn’t it be number one?
Unfortunately, there has always been a sharp political divide when it comes to renewable energy in the USA. And with the Trump administration threatening to withdraw from the global action plan on climate change, solar faces an uncertain future in America.
Still, the United States produces the second-most solar energy of any country in the world. It is home to some of the world’s largest solar installations, and many states have set high renewable energy goals. Whatever happens in the political realm, the United States is likely to remain one of the top countries for solar energy and has the potential to claim that number one spot someday.
Given China’s notorious environmental record, you may be surprised to learn that China produces the most solar energy in the world. In fact, it leaves the other countries on the list in the dust! China produces a massive 130.5 GW to the USA’s 85.3 GW.
China bumped Germany from the top spot on the list in 2015, when it expanded its solar capacity by 81%. Now, it has set the ambitious goal of generating 20% of its power using renewable sources by 2030.
How do you find eco-friendly appliances? Easy: just look for the blue and white Energy Star sticker.
But look fast, because the Energy Star program could come to an end in President Trump’s upcoming budget.
If you’ve ever shopped for a new appliance, you’re probably familiar with Energy Star. But you may not have realized that Energy Star is actually a program under the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Energy Star started back in the year 1992. It was originally launched to rate the efficiency of computer monitors (if you’re using one now, take glance at the bottom-right corner — you’ll probably find a sticker). Since then, the program has expanded to cover everything from dishwashers to electronics and even entire homes.
The EPA’s Energy Star standards are completely voluntary. So why do manufacturers choose to comply with the standards? It’s because they want to use the Energy Star label and market the product as Energy Star-approved. Energy Star products catch the eyes of eco-friendly consumers, leading to higher sales and bigger earnings. In short, Energy Star makes sustainability good for business.
This is an example of what’s called voluntary regulation — encouraging businesses to adopt sustainable practices beyond the regulatory requirements.
Now, Energy Star is one of 50 EPA programs that would be cut under President Trump’s budget.
Energy Star costs the United States government $50 million each year. In turn, it saves American consumers and businesses $34 billion and prevents more than $300 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Some commentators speculate that the latter benefit is exactly the reason Trump wants Energy Star gone. They point to other proposed budget cuts, like the Clean Power Plan and fuel economy standards on cars, which are also meant to reduce emissions and combat climate change. The President expressed skepticism of climate change during the 2016 campaign.
Energy Star is widely regarded as a success. It has been a win-win for businesses, consumers, and of course the environment for 25 years. For now, we can only hope this energy efficiency program survives the upcoming budget.
When it comes to renewable energy, Canada should be on top of the world.
Canadians are gifted with substantial natural resources that can be used to produce clean energy, from rivers to wind, biomass to solar, geothermal to ocean energy. Several Canadian cities have become a hotbed of innovation technology start-ups. And Canada is mostly free from the skepticism surrounding climate change and greenhouse gases that pervades American politics. Simply put, Canada is in a perfect position to harness these resources and be a world leader in renewable energy.
However, renewable energy sources only provide about 18.9% of Canada’s total energy supply. And according to a new report, Canada is falling behind in the world of clean energy tech.
Christopher Barrington-Leigh, an assistant professor at the School of Environment at McGill University, says Canada is in a renewable energy paradox.
Though the land is rife with valuable resources, most of it lies in distant territories that are not connected to the electrical grid or near population centres. Keep in mind that 90% of Canadians live within one hour of the United States/Canada border. In other words, much of Canada’s potential renewable energy sources are out of sight and, for many, out of mind.
At the same time, Canada is what the assistant professor describes as an “energy hog.” We consume the most energy heating our homes throughout the winter months. This is an inevitable fact of living in Canada, and it puts a great deal of pressure on our electrical grid. The argument for shifting away from powerful-but-polluting energy sources to lighter renewable resources is difficult in this context.
That’s the world within which Canada’s clean tech sector operators. On top of that, this sector is having its own problems right now.
The heart of the problem is this: researching and developing innovative green technology is expensive.
According to Analytica Advisors, most Canadian green energy firms are stuck in unprofitable markets without access to financing that would enable them to meet demand. This industry pays comparatively high interest rates. Debt markets, including Canada’s big banks, are not open to most clean-tech firms.
While the government committed to investing in clean energy tech in the 2017 federal budget, the money won’t start flowing until 2019. This cleans Canadian clean energy firms in a tough spot.
The report concludes with the suggestion that the government focus not only on attracting centure capital to Canada’s clean energy sector, but to ensure that the government sets the stage for a successful clean energy market and supports infrastructure that takes full advantage of these innovations.