My column in the StarPhoenix today:
Renewable energy is emerging as the top new energy source around the world. Unfortunately, Saskatchewan is not in the game.
In 2014, renewable energy became the number one source of power production in Germany for the first time. Twenty-six per cent of Germany's power generation came from renewable sources such as wind, biomass and solar, replacing coal (25 per cent of supply) as the main energy source.
Germany hit multiple solar records in 2014. In June, solar energy met more than 50 per cent of Germany's total electricity demand for the first time, set a new peak power production record and hit new highs for weekly total output.
Electricity output from renewables has grown eightfold in Germany since 1990. Under an ambitious energy transition policy, known as the Energiewende, Europe's biggest economy aims to generate up to 60 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2035. This shift is being accompanied by an exit from nuclear power. All of Germany's nuclear plants will be switched off by 2022.
In the U.K., record amounts of clean electricity were generated by wind in 2014. Wind generated enough electricity to supply the needs of more than 6.7 million U.K. households last year, just over 25 per cent of all U.K. homes, all year round. Large wind farms and smaller sites connected to local networks provided 9.3 per cent of the U.K.'s total electricity supply in 2014, up from 7.8 per cent in 2013.
Records were broken in December with a new monthly high of 14 per cent of all U.K. electricity generated by wind. Scotland was even more impressive. Wind generated enough electricity to supply 3.96 million homes, equivalent to 164 per cent of residential demand. Scotland has more than doubled the amount of its electricity generated by wind turbines in the last four years. In 2013, wind turbines generated more than 20 per cent of Scotland's electricity.
Impressive, yet the Danes laugh at such statistics. In 2014, wind-generated energy made up 39 per cent of Denmark's overall energy consumption. The figure makes the country the world's leading nation in wind-based power usage. In January 2014 alone, power from wind made up 61.4 per cent of the Danes' energy consumption.
Denmark plans to be coalfree by 2015. It is firmly on track to meet its emissions and renewable energy targets for 2020, when 50 per cent of overall energy consumption has to come from renewable energy sources.
It is not just Europe that is turning to renewables. Solar power is beginning to take off in the U.S., where solar sales were more than 1.1 GW in the second quarter of 2014, a new record and 21 per cent over the same quarter in 2013.
The cost of solar has reached "grid parity" in 10 U.S. states already and will soon reach parity in 36 states, according to a Deutsche Bank report published in October.
In other words, solar will be no more expensive than other major power sources. The price of solar electricity sold to U.S. utilities has fallen by more than 70 per cent since 2008. One utility, Austin Energy, announced it would buy solar electricity for less than five cents per kWh, the least expensive solar contract to date.
Now major U.S. solar service providers are offering energy storage systems to their customers, with one company announcing that every customer will get battery backup within five to 10 years. This could have major implications for U.S. utilities.
Energy conservation and efficiency are also gaining ground, complementing the surge of renewables. For example, the number of "netzero" buildings, which produce as much energy as they use, is growing significantly. Japan and California are now considering net-zero requirements for new buildings. But Canada can't switch to renewables, can it? Go to live. gridwatch.ca/home-page. html and see where energy in Ontario comes from in real time. When I last checked, wind was supplying 11.2 per cent of Ontario's supply.
They can do it everywhere but in Saskatchewan, it seems. Saskatchewan used to be a Canadian leader in wind energy, but now renewables are shrinking as a percentage of energy supply. And Saskatoon routinely backs away from renewable options. Timidity rules.
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