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STOP "cherry picking climate hope" - Fossil fuel expansion crushes renewables

Brad H

See this important article below by Barry Saxifrage. If you are part of an organization out there that uses the argument for renewables only to "cherry pick climate hope" - isn't it time to change your emphasis from technologies to political solutions? Like revolution?

Fossil fuel expansion crushes renewables

"....Renewables aren't the metric that will determine our climate future. Renewables can — and currently are — prospering even as fossil fuels expand and we accelerate into the climate crisis."

"Focusing on just the positive renewable energy news feels to me like cherry-picking climate hope. It's tempting, for sure, but can distract from what actually determines our climate fate: how much fossil fuel we burn. And by that measure we are still heading ever further from safety while our time to turn around is running out."

Barry substantiates the arguments below with statistical analysis:

- renewables are great but only if they actually replace oil, gas, or coal
- renewables have NOT interfered with increasing fossil fuel use, or rising emissions
- fossil fuel use continues to rise every year
- fossil fuels continue to supply at least 85% of global energy use
- oil and gas are expanding more than other energy sources
- renewables are expanding, but overall energy demand is rising faster
- "all the expansion of renewables over the last seven years isn't enough to cover even the single-year demand surge of 2010"
- "renewables expanding at a good clip, but fossil fuels even more"

Fossil fuel expansion crushes renewables
By Barry Saxifrage in Analysis, Energy | September 20th 2017

I read lots of articles these days pointing to the rapid expansion of renewable energy as a reason to be hopeful about our unfolding climate crisis. Unfortunately, the climate doesn't care how many solar panels and wind farms we build.

What determines our climate fate is how much climate-polluting fossil fuels we decide to burn. Renewables are great but only if they actually replace oil, gas, or coal. Sadly, rising renewables haven't stopped our fossil fuel burn, or our atmosphere's CO2 from continuing to rise. Instead, the new business-as-usual is one in which we keep expanding both renewables and fossil fuels at the same time.

The best available science says we need climate pollution "reductions of 90 per cent or more between 2040 and 2070." (see International Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report.)

But the latest energy data clearly shows we aren't reducing fossil fuel burn. Just the opposite. We keep cranking the tap open wider every year. In a recent article, I dug into the latest "BP Statistical Review of World Energy" to illustrate the climate-sobering fossil fuel side of this story:

  • Fossil fuel use continues to rise every year
  • Fossil fuels continue to supply at least 85 per cent of global energy use
  • Oil and gas are expanding more than other energy sources
After reading that article, Canadian energy expert Dave Hughes pointed me to the equally sobering renewable energy side of the story. Here it is.

Demand growth swamps renewables
Hughes notes that while renewable energy is growing, global energy demand is rising much more.

To illustrate, I created this new chart on the right from the BP data.

The orange line shows the increase in global energy demand since 2009.

Compare all that new demand to the top green line showing the increase in renewable energy. As you can see, renewables expanded only enough to cover about a quarter of new demand.

In fact, all the expansion of renewables over the last seven years isn't enough to cover even the single-year demand surge of 2010. Sure that was a big year for demand as the world emerged from a global recession. But those last seven years have also been the all-time biggest years ever for renewable energy.

The situation looks even worse if you don't like the idea of relying on expanding hydropower dams. That's because hydropower expanded more than any other renewable over those years. The lower green line shows the increase from all the non-hydro renewables: wind, solar, biofuels and biomass.

So, any guesses what filled that huge gap between renewables and demand? Yep.

Fossil fuel expansion trumps all renewables
Instead of prioritizing climate-safe renewables, humanity met most of the rising energy demand by burning ever more fossil carbon. My next chart shows the renewables-crushing scale of the recent fossil fuel expansion.

The huge bar on the left shows global fossil fuel burn last year. The tiny right bar shows all renewable energy use last year. Quite a mismatch, eh? But the key thing to notice is the yellow part of each bar. This shows how much each type of energy increased over the last decade.

As you can see, we expanded fossil fuels twice as much as renewables. Actually, 2.4 times more. When people have wanted more energy, they have mostly decided to burn more fossil carbon, not install more renewables.

In fact, as the red arrows show, the last decade’s increase in fossil fuels was so huge that it single-handedly exceeds all the renewable energy supply we’ve ever built.

In other words, all the world's hydropower dams, solar installations, biomass burning, biofuels and wind farms produce less energy than just the recent expansion in fossil fuels.

The new business as usual: more of both
Here's another chart showing how things have played out over the last decade.

The black line shows fossil fuel use. The green line shows renewables. And, again, yellow shows how much each increased over the last decade.

This chart lets you see how both fossil fuels and renewables continue to rise at the same time.

As with the previous chart, the red arrows point out that fossil fuels expanded more in this decade than all renewables combined have ever expanded.

This chart certainly shows that renewables are growing at a good clip. But it also shows that fossil fuels keep expanding even more. There is no indication here that fossil burning is going start declining rapidly as needed. I don't even see any sign it is going to stop rising!

Instead, the world isn't even coming close to expanding renewables enough to meet the annual increases in energy demand.

Cherry picking climate hope?
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of renewables. I've got grid-tie solar panels on my roof and I'm an avid daily reader of the renewable energy press. I see renewables as a critical and necessary part of a climate-sane future.

But renewables aren't the metric that will determine our climate future. Renewables can — and currently are — prospering even as fossil fuels expand and we accelerate into the climate crisis.

Focusing on just the positive renewable energy news feels to me like cherry-picking climate hope. It's tempting, for sure, but can distract from what actually determines our climate fate: how much fossil fuel we burn. And by that measure we are still heading ever further from safety while our time to turn around is running out.


New Member
Yeah pretty bad news unfortunately. What is also unfortunate is your failure to recognise that anything burnt emits CO2. Why do you place that Abomination bioenergy along with renewables I wonder? We need to rapidly transition away from anything that is burnt along with massive carbon sequestration.

Steve Ongerth

If you presented this argument to anyone who was a renewable energy expert, you’d be laughed right out of the room.

While I agree that we should not rely on a strategy of “cherry picking hope” (as if that’s what anyone other than a few green capitalists are doing with regards to renewables), there are some errors in Saxifrage’s analysis of the very graphs he includes:

First of all, while it’s true that fossil fuel usage has continued to expand since 2010, the trend line shows that the *rate of fossil fuel increase* is actually *decreasing* each year (though the curve turned slightly upward at the end of 2016). There is no *corresponding decrease* in the installation of new renewable energy capacity, however.

This essentially *contradicts* Saxifrage’s claim that renewable energy is having no appreciable impact. In fact, most experts agree that it is having a *substantial* impact, in fact a much larger impact much earlier than even some of the most optimistic projections from the first decade of this century predicted.

Now, you may argue that this was due to the crash of the Chinese economy, but if that were true, we’d see a corresponding drop off in renewables. We don’t, however.

Secondly, even the most pie-in-the-sky predictions don’t assume that there would be a sudden drop-off in the rate of expansion of new fossil fuel capacity, because many of these projects go through a lengthy permitting and planning process that can sometimes take more than a decade to unfold. In other words, much of the expansion we’re seeing in the graphs here was already “in the pipeline” so to speak. Most experts predict that the curve we see is going to slow and then begin to decline. (it will decline faster if we have a revolution, of course.)

Thirdly, this study fails to distinguish between increases in capacity that are demand driven and those that are *supply* driven. The latter are cases of fossil fuel capitalists pushing development of unwanted capacity so that they can continue to justify their existence and profiteering (such as the Dakota Access Pipeline) in spite of the deep unpopularity of these projects. (The Chinese are only now beginning to put a moratorium on permits for new coal plants which already greatly exceed their demand).

Fourth, the graphs fail to show that the newer fossil fuel capacity, while certainly not welcome due to their contribution on GHG emissions, is still more efficient and cleaner than the older capacity that is being retired. It’s a small point, but it should be made nonetheless.

Lastly, Saxifrage’s assessment fails to mention the likely disruptive effect that storage—which is only becoming a major factor *this year*, will have on these energy mixes.

None of these points is meant to suggest that we shouldn’t continue to push as hard as we can to end capitalism, but we don’t do ourselves any credit if we make weak or inaccurate arguments.
Steve, I think you are misrepresenting what my article says.

My article says:

* BP energy data shows that energy demand has vastly out-paced renewables. And that humans are still expanding fossil fuels. This isn't controversial.

* Climate safety requires that we reduce fossil fuel use to near-zero in a few decades. There are three main fossil fuel knobs: oil, gas and coal. The data shows we aren't doing this. In fact fossil oil and gas are increasing the most of any energy source. They are crushing renewable options. By far. Oil use is increasing so fast that the global economy has started burning more oil per dollar of GDP in recent years. It's getting dirtier. Not exactly climate hope or cleaner in my book. Coal use is supposedly flat, but as BBC "Counting Carbon" and others, including my previous article, point out the coal data is self-reported by the burners and impossible to verify. And it doesn't match CO2 rise in atmosphere. We know that climate polluters fudge and cheat (ex: VW) when they can. So if there is room for skepticism in the fossil fuel data it is towards under-reporting of coal. All told, the energy data to date shows INCREASING fossil fuel use and lock-in. Nothing in the data shows we are anywhere close to a path to climate safety.

* You say I'm claiming "that renewable energy is having no appreciable impact." I don't say that. I say that it hasn't been able to meet rising energy demand yet. Until it can do that it won't be able to ever reduce humanity's fossil fuel burn -- which keeps rising. Every year. Last year fossil burn rose at the same level as 1990s average -- hardly a decade of climate hope, eh? Renewables so far are ever-thicker frosting on an ever-expanding fossil fuel cake. After twenty years of trying the still expanding fossil fuel cake doesn't give me climate hope. Does it give you climate hope?

* You say renewables are doing better than expected. Yes. I don't say anything about whether they are doing better than expected. I just point to the data to show they aren't able to drive down fossil burn. And I show how humanity expanded fossil fuels more than renewables in recent years. That includes last year too. If you have different data, please share it.

* You make several claims about what will happen in the future. And you say most experts predict falling fossil fuel use. Hmm, not the energy experts I read or talk to. If you have projections from experts that show falling fossil fuel use anywhere close to the rate needed for climate hope, please share them.

* I actually try to walk the talk, so I know the energy transition territory at a personal level too. I put on grid-tie solar. I grow a bunch of my own food. I boycott hyper-carbon, such as not flying for the past decade. I don't burn natural gas at home. And so on. I think the transition to renewables is possible but I certainly don't see people doing it. I think renewables could provide climate hope. But humans aren't choosing them in the quantities required. What I see in my life and in the data is people continuing to burn huge amounts of fossil fuels with little effort to eliminate them as needed.

Brad H

Your welcome, Barry! Really great that you responded on this Forum, and thanks for your continued good work/analysis on these issues. I know it is important information for a lot of people in this community. There was another substantive reply to your article from Roger on our internal list - I will encourage him to post it here as well.

Steve Ongerth


I repeat this point, which you did not fully address:

First of all, while it’s true that fossil fuel usage has continued to expand since 2010, the trend line shows that the *rate of fossil fuel increase* is actually *decreasing* each year (though the curve turned slightly upward at the end of 2016). There is no *corresponding decrease* in the installation of new renewable energy capacity, however.​

To elaborate: if you look at the graphs you use in your own article, you will see that the line showing fossil fuel increases is still rising, but at a slower rate each year after 2010 (with one small uptick in 2016, but not to the previous levels shown in the years immediately preceding 2016). However, the rise in renewables is, by contrast, steadily moving upwards. So while you're correct that the amount of fossil fuels continues to increase and the increase still outpaces the increase in renewables, the rate of increase in fossil fuels is declining whereas the rate of increase in renewables remains steady. In other words, the only data I really need is the graphs you provide in your own article.

Clearly the trends show the rate of fossil fuel increase declining, but the rate of renewable energy continuing its steady growth. Even under the most pessimistic forecasts (outside of a few exceptions, which I note below), almost everybody predicts that these trends will not reverse.

I don't know which energy experts you're talking to (you don't mention any by name or provided any sources), but just about every reputable source that I've seen or heard, from Bloomberg to Moodys, to Chris Nelder (the Energy Transition show) agree that all reliable trends show fossil fuel demand is likely to peak, possibly as early as the end of this decade, but almost certainly within the next two decades. (B.P.'s predictions, being those of a fossil fuel capitalist corporation are unreliable according to many experts for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they've got every incentive to downplay the dangers of stranded assets lest they lose their investors. I believe either Oil Change International or DeSmog covered this a few months ago. Also, the EIA and IEA are notoriously unreliable, based on their past records, so citing them is an immediate nonstarter with me and should be with anyone else.)

To elaborate on my point about fossil fuel usage getting (slightly) cleaner: The use of coal is dropping, whereas the biggest increase in fossil fuel usage is natural gas (not dirty crude). Plus a lot of older, dirtier fossil fuel generating facilities are being retired. Does that mean that I think we shouldn't try and phase out fossil fuel usage of all sorts as quickly as possible? Absolutely not.

I also want to reemphasize: a great many examples of new fossil fuel generating capacity are projects that have been under construction and/or "in the pipeline" for at least a decade or more. These facilities are often granted preliminary approval and then delayed due to numerous factors (including community opposition), so much of the increase is due to decisions made at leas6t tend years ago. One might want to look into the rate at which currently proposed but unbuilt fossil fuel facilities are being approved (or even proposed) as opposed to renewable energy alternatives. I am almost certain that this will show the rate of new fossil fuel capacity continuing to level off. Meanwhile, I am almost certain the amount of proposed renewable energy projects is likely to be growing.

By the way, none of this accounts for the construction of fossil fuel facilities to replace wood burning stoves (which are often even dirtier and more polluting than some fossil fuel facilities), which is a significant issue in China, among other places.

The graphs also fail to account for the fact that much of the fossil fuel capacity is overbuilt and not needed, but used anyway while wind power is curtailed, so that Chinese fossil fuel capitalists retain the returns on their investments.

All of these factors are significant in gauging what is actually going when it comes to the attempts to decarbonize the world's energy systems.

Add to that, as Sean Sweeney of Trade Unions for Energy Democracy points out, grassroots movements to decarbonize the world's energy system and replace it with cleaner alternatives and address climate change are growing and this will likely force the trends I mentioned to accelerate further.

In essence, while I would certainly agree that decarbonization isn't currently happening fast enough, there is absolutely no credible prediction that suggests that the world is moving further away from it.

As for predictions, of course, nobody has a crystal ball, but I am extremely well read in this matter and have studied this issue in depth now for at least 15 years. The current trends are based on numerous factors, but there is every reason to believe that the rate of increase in renewable energy is going to accelerate and the rate of fossil fuel increase will continue to level off and even begin to decline, even if the fossil fuel wing of the capitalist class goes to desperate lengths to try and prevent that from happening.

And none of that accounts for the new technologies that are maturing (especially storage) which are likely to further increase the rate of renewables growth and decrease the rate of fossil fuel demand increase or even cause it to peak.

Again, of course, I am all in favor of continuing to sound the alarm about climate change and the need to decarbonize, but again, I call for accuracy.

David Klein

First of all, while it’s true that fossil fuel usage has continued to expand since 2010, the trend line shows that the *rate of fossil fuel increase* is actually *decreasing* each year (though the curve turned slightly upward at the end of 2016). There is no *corresponding decrease* in the installation of new renewable energy capacity, however.
Steve, I don't think that what you say here is very significant. Using mathematical language, you are saying that the second derivative of the fossil fuel graph is negative, whereas the second derivative for renewables is positive. To illustrate the lack of significance, consider the graph of the logarithm function. It has a negative second derivative (so its rate of increase is constantly decreasing). Neverthelss it still diverges to infinity. Based only on your above paragraph, a similar behavior could be true of the fossil fuel graph.

More significant is that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have not only been increasing but even accelerating, with the increases per year for the past two years of 3 ppm. So somebody somewhere is spewing out a lot of GHG despite whatever the emissions accounting system is claiming.


Brad H

With permission from Roger - I'm adding his comments on Barry's article from a recent compilation of his thoughts on this subject from his website, here:
The green energy mirage - A Socialist in Canada

Comment by Roger Annis on ‘renewable energy’, to the System Change Not Climate Change listserve, Sept 20, 2017
Something important is missing from Barry Saxifrage’s important article in the National Observer examining the flawed energy outlook of the International Energy Agency (Fossil fuel expansion crushes renewables, by Barry Saxifrage, National Observer, Sept 20, 2017). His commentary is worded as though a switch by the world to what he calls renewable energy, this would somehow slow and eventually halt reverse rising global emissions. But this is a mirage. I actually doubt that this is the writer’s view (and for the record, he is far, far more informed and experienced than I on matters of global warming). But the wording is there and it is misleading as written.

It is not just the extraction and burning of fossil fuels that is causing the global warming emergency. It is the entire extraction, production and consumption cycle of (capitalist) society, however it is powered.

As we know, the capitalist production cycle is relentless and ever-expanding. This expansionism is inherent to capitalism as a whole. Fossil fuels are the chosen source of power for much of the capitalist expansion of the past 200 years or so (for good, solid capitalist reasons). But if the supply of fossil fuels were to halt tomorrow or at some future point as supply dries up (heaven forbid we should actually arrive at such an end point), then alternative energy sources would take their place. And the whole, destructive cycle would carry on.

(As a sidenote, there is no such thing as ‘renewable’ energy. That would defy the laws of physics. All energy production requires material input. There is ‘more polluting’ and ‘less polluting’ energy. These are ‘more harmful’ or ‘less harmful’ to society, according to society’s judgement. There is no free energy ride.)

With regard to an earlier comment to this listserve, I am very reluctant to offer the term ‘revolution’ on its own as an answer to the global warming emergency. It’s too vague. Ditto, even, for ‘socialism’. I think the answer offered up needs to be something along the lines of ‘revolution (or socialism) that brings about a planned economy and a halt to humanity’s assault on nature’.

One of the big theoretical questions that environmentalists need to examine is the following. What is the world to do about the global warming emergency in circumstances where there is no socialist revolution (ie rational, planned economy) on the immediate agenda in any of the large, most polluting countries? This is one reason why I am keenly interested in studying the New Economic Policy (NEP) which guided the economic development of the early Soviet Union (1921 to 1928). NEP was cut brutally short in 1929 by the rising Stalinist bureaucracy. It dealt with a similar problem that we face today: what is the rational path to social development during the transition period in which the capitalist law of value still holds great sway and power?

The path to climate (societal) salvation is that of emergency retrenchment and related emergency mitigation of the worst of what is to come. I believe this leads inexorably to socialism, ie a planned and social economy. But that is a lengthy process that will take at least several decades (so far in the world, it has taken 100 years!). What are the class alliances that are possible and necessary along that path? Are we dependent, exclusively, on the awakening of the workers and other exploited classes to win political power? Or do we seek the broadest possible class (and national) alliances during the awakening? If so, what would we seek to accomplish? Stopping oil pipelines, oil-by-rail, gas fracking and all the rest is only the beginning of wisdom. For its survival, society simultaneously need big leaps forward–redesigning cities without automobiles; vastly expanding localized food and energy production; learn to grow food without poisoning the soil and water with chemicals; radically reduce air travel; etc. Unless I am mistaken, this is a very unexplored area of Marxism and other radical philosophies (eg anarchism) in this era of global warming emergency. It’s time for a theoretical leap, what I’ve been calling a ‘renewal and revival’ of radical social thought.
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Hi again Steve,

REPLY TO FOSSIL TREND COMMENT -- You say that the slowing growth in fossil in the last few years can be clearly extrapolated into the future. This is exactly the cherry picking of climate hope I'm talking about. This is exactly what climate deniers do with a few years of declining surface temperatures. Oh, look, climate change has stopped.

In reality, the fossil fuel add every year fluctuates a lot. Mostly with the global economy. Go back and look at the fossil fuel trend line over the last few decades. There are plenty of declines. At each point someone could make your argument that it would continue. But it never has. It bounces back. And there are several years with less fossil add than last year. You can read my earlier article on this topic for graphs showing this: These 'missing charts' may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction

I repeat my earlier request: please provide us with an energy analyst's projections showing declining fossil fuel use into the future. If it is obvious and everyone is saying it will happen, then were are the links?

Let's take Bloomberg, for example. They have the most aggressive EV-expansion forecast of any major energy expert I know. They say that EVs will eliminate 8 mbbld of oil demand by 2040. I contacted the lead author of that report and asked him if that meant total oil use for transport would be lower in 2040 than now, in this scenario. He said they don't know, because they didn't model that. Their -8 mbbld is the reduction from a BAU level in 2040 if all cars were ICE-only. He also said that their scenario still sees increasing numbers of ICE vehicles for decades to come that will have a serious "lock in" impact on climate hopes. He said their projections aren't close to enough for transport fuel use to be on a path to stay below 2C. And that is the most aggressive EV forecast...and from a non-oil company.

Links please...
Another response Steve,

REPLY TO COAL DECLINING COMMENT -- You say that coal use is declining. I doubt it.

The official numbers from BP show that. And that is what I used in my charts.

But the atmosphere doesn't show coal use declining. And as I covered in my earlier article, many experts on carbon counting say coal numbers are unreliable. China's coal accounting is so unreliable that they refuse to use it internally themselves for their own cap&trade system. They know everyone is cheating and they don't trust the numbers. I covered this in detail in two recent articles if you aren't familiar with the coal number controversy and the massive past "revisions".

For those interested in the coal fudge-fest here are two links:

* My previous article summarizes several recent reports on this: These 'missing charts' may change the way you think about fossil fuel addiction

* BBC has a great podcast exploring "Counting Carbon": BBC Radio 4 - Counting Carbon

Read and let me know whether you are still so sure coal use is declining!
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Steve, here are some short replies to other of your points.

REPLY TO UNNEEDED FOSSIL FUEL CAPACITY COMMENT -- My charts and article are about energy usage, not capacity. Usage of fossil fuels is rising for lots of reasons.

REPLY TO MOVING AWAY FROM DECARBONIZATION -- You say "there is absolutely no credible prediction that suggests that the world is moving further away from decarbonization." Not sure what you mean by decarbonization. The data shows clearly that humans continue to increase their reliance on fossil carbon every year. And the atmosphere is carbonizing at an accelerating rate. That is what my articles say. We are increasing our reliance on fossil carbon. And the atmosphere is carbonizing at an accelerating rate. If you are saying that we are reducing carbon per unit of GDP. Fine. But that isn't what the climate cares about. And it isn't what I'm writing about. If that is what you are saying then it seems like straw man argument regarding my articles.

REPLY TO BELIEF -- You say "there is every reason to believe that...the rate of fossil fuel increase will continue to level off and even begin to decline". That's what you believe. That's fine. I think that we don't know. Lots of forces could drive up fossil use, like population, wealth increase, Trumpism, desperation. It's a fight. And the fossil fuel folks are busy with technology too. A decade ago natural gas was $10 per GJ in BC. Now it $3. Oops. Lots of clean energy projects got cancelled because they don't pencil out with rising clean energy costs and falling fossil costs. My article says that the data doesn't show any sign of fossil falling at the rate needed for climate hope. You might believe it will, but data doesn't support it at this point.
More significant is that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have not only been increasing but even accelerating, with the increases per year for the past two years of 3 ppm. So somebody somewhere is spewing out a lot of GHG despite whatever the emissions accounting system is claiming.
Yes indeed. Anyone positing that we are on a trajectory of climate hope has some atmospheric explaining to do.

The number that determines our climate fate is the CO2 in the atmosphere. And it is accelerating upwards. No sign in that data either of the needed change in our climate trajectory. For those interested, I wrote an article on this with several charts showing the acceleration: Atmospheric CO2 levels accelerate upwards, smashing records
My response to Roger's comments.

I can see that we consuming things at a rate that is overshooting the planet's capacity to absorb it without increasing harm to other living things. We have more problems that just climate change.

My own view is that climate change requires immediate solutions or we will change the climate so much that it will bring harm to humans and ecosystems for thousands of years. Doing that just isn't a morally okay thing to do in my view. So I give priority to actions that reduce long-lived climate forcing gases over needed changes in many other areas. That's my own personal view.

One point I do disagree with is the notion that it isn't possible to have a "renewable energy" system. I think that is what is happening all over the planet with biological life using sunlight-derived energy. And it has been one long "free ride" in the sense that it comes to earth every day for free. Over time, life has evolved to recycle the waste products of the various biological energy systems. It's a mostly closed loop in nature at this point...but hasn't always been. Humans could develop a closed loop "renewable" energy system as well. We aren't, obviously. So it is just a philosophical point, I guess.

Steve Ongerth

IEA's numbers call into question some of BP's:
[Source: Top Ten Renewable Energy Surprises in New IEA Report ]

A new International Energy Agency report contains some startling findings about solar energy dominance and its future.

1. Renewables comprised 66% of all new net electricity capacity additions in 2016. Two-thirds of added capacity, in other words, consisted of photovoltaic solar cells, wind turbines and biofuels.

2. 165 gigawatts of new solar was added in 2016.

3. In 2016, new solar photovoltaic capacity globally grew by 50 percent.

4. China accounted for half of this additional solar capacity and for 42% of all new renewables additions.

5. Solar additions grew faster than any other fuel, leaving coal in the dust.

6. By 2022, the IEA expects nearly 1000 gigawatts of new solar to have been added internationally, an increase of 42 percent over today, in just 5 years.

7. Developments in India are also startling. By 2022 that country is expected to double its renewables electricity generation capacity (mainly wind and solar), a lightning fast pace of growth that is higher than the forecast for Europe.

8. Indian energy auctions yielded remarkably low prices for both wind and solar projects. In some Indian states, recent bids have been among the world’s lowest, and in some cases so low as to complete successfully with coal.

9. In the industrialized world, Denmark will be the vanguard of renewable energy by 2022, with 70% of its electricity generated by wind, solar and other renewables.

10. In several major European states, the share of wind and solar in electricity generation will come to 25%.
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Yes, renewables are doing great. I fully agree. And that same IEA report also noted that net coal capacity increased as well. By a lot: 57 GW. That was more than wind, for example. So coal investment and lock-in is still rising quickly. My point continues to be that what matters for a safe climate is reducing fossil. We aren't doing that yet.