By Emily Folk
Renewable power sources are critical for creating a better world. With no harmful emissions like fossil fuels have, green energy is the better option for the environment and public health. 2020 trends have shown that coal and nuclear are falling behind renewables like solar and wind.
Changes for Coal and Nuclear
2020 has been an unprecedented year. The COVID-19 pandemic brought many changes and disruptions. For example, stay-at-home orders and quarantines have many people working and learning from home. This shift led to a drastic drop in the oil and gas industry, lowering values into negative regions. While these fossil fuels are bouncing back, coal hasn’t been so successful.
Coal-fired power generation dropped by 18% in 2019. Supply chain and energy sector disruptions have caused it to drop even more this year. Its trajectory now suggests recovery isn’t likely. Fossil fuel is among the dirtiest energy sources, and there are easier, cleaner sources at play.
Nuclear energy hasn’t seen such drastic numbers. It decreased in use by about 3% in the first quarter of 2020, but the source is still relatively sturdy.
In comparison with renewable energy sources — specifically solar and wind — coal and nuclear are falling out of favor. The renewable takeover is not showing any signs of slowing down.
Rise in Renewables
Fossil fuels are the leading cause of global warming. Stopping and reversing the effects of the climate crisis cannot wait. Renewables, on a large scale, are the solution.
In the United States, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) stated in its Electric Power Monthly report that renewables contributed more to the energy mix than coal and nuclear did in about 30 states. From Alaska to New York and from New Jersey to Texas, green energy is on the rise. This data accounts for January through August. As these trends continue, solar and wind use will continue to rise.
In other states where coal and nuclear lead, the margin is closing. GlobeNewswire reports that quarter one of 2020 saw solar’s biggest growth yet, with 2 GW of solar generation for utility and 1.6 GW for commercial and residential areas. Compared to nuclear’s decrease in use, solar is catching up steadily.
The world is following similar trends. Ember, a global environmental organization, reports that solar and wind have grown 14% in the first half of 2020 within the 48 countries in the analysis. These findings show that renewables are on the right track — phasing out fossil fuels is the first step.
However, more work is needed.
More Work Ahead
Wind and solar come with countless benefits. They reduce pollution levels, and solar panels have an average lifespan of 25 years — which is a significant amount of time in the energy world. Resources like coal and nuclear are used up quickly, but solar and wind are here for the long run.
The benefits and surpassing of coal and nuclear, though, speak to the bigger issue at play. The Paris Climate Agreement requires countries throughout the world to meet high standards for integrating green power and phasing out harmful sources. Therefore, renewable energy is poised to exceed that of fossil fuels like oil and gas.
Solar and wind are doing well under the current trajectory. However, integration must speed up to properly stop and reverse the effects of climate change. Surpassing coal and nuclear provides a glimpse of what needs to happen with other nonrenewable sources. From there, the environment and public health can continue to improve.
It’s time for the world to focus on renewable energy and leave harmful sources behind. While nuclear power isn’t the worst, it can’t compare to the power of renewables. Coal and other fossil fuels, too, must become obsolete so the environment can thrive. Only then will we see improved health in ourselves and the planet.