Renewable energy investments (primarily solar and wind generation) set a record in 2015 with a collective investment of $286 billion. This according to a report from the United Nations Environment Progamme. (Climate Central News). The indication was that this amount was substantially greater than the total of $130 billion spent on fossil fuel plants last year. Moreover, much of the total is attributable to China, which has historically focused primarily on coal-fired electric generation.
Similar progress was noted in the United States at the recent National Renewable Energy Policy Forum held recently in Washington, D. C. The consensus was that recent tax and budget agreements in Congress will make available approximately $70 billion for investment in renewable energy. (Yahoo Financial Report). One commentator noted that the forum highlighted the fact that U.S. corporations are beginning to demand renewable sources for their production and workplace activities. He also noted that the increase in renewables is beginning to focus attention on the need to improve the nation’s grid system and other support activities. (Environmental Leader).
Another focus that is being driven by this increasing interest in renewables is the need to expand investment opportunities. (Clean Energy Investment Opportunities). Currently, the investment levels in the world are a few hundred billion dollars, whereas projections are that this should, of necessity, increase to over $1 trillion annually if goals for limiting global warming are to be achieved.
While corporations in all business sectors are increasingly showing an interest in the use of renewables, there is also an indication of an emerging willingness to embrace renewables in the nation’s historically conservative rural electric co-ops. Although many in this sector remain publically opposed to any mandates for the use of renewable energy and the consequent impacts on billing and system support costs that are associated with small renewable projects, some co-ops have begun to invest heavily in renewable sources. For example, Dairyland Power in Wisconsin is now sourcing about 12% of retail energy sales from a variety of renewable sources. (Community Power Network). And recently, the Central Iowa Power Cooperative announced plans to build and generate a total of 5.5 megawatts of solar power using a combination of six locations within the co-op. (Iowa Co-op Sets Standard).
Finally, the need to improve and expand the electric grid system is an ongoing effort by the U. S. Department of Energy. Accelerating the deployment of renewable energy is a part of that effort. Recently, the DOE announced that it will participate in the development of the Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project (Clean Line), a major clean energy infrastructure project that will bring wind generation resources in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle regions and deliver up to 4,000 megawatts of power along a 700-mile direct current transmission line. This will provide electricity to power more than 1.5 million homes. (DOE Announcement).
While many continue to resist or downplay renewable sources, the progress and expansion seems undeniable. This would appear likely to accelerate if the technology continues to improve and investment opportunities and vehicles are made readily available.