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Renewables Cheap, Growing Fast in Developing World

The falling cost of solar and wind is changing the energy picture in the developing world. (World Resource Institute)
The falling cost of solar and wind is changing the energy picture in the developing world. (World Resource Institute)
January 5, 2017

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – Renewable energy is growing fast in poor countries, and in a change from a few years ago, demand for coal is stalled or falling.

According to the international bodies that track the patterns, more solar and wind power is coming online than any other kind of energy.

Vrinda Manglik, campaign representative for the Sierra Club's International Climate and Energy program, says for a few projects in the developing world, new solar power can cost half of new coal.

She adds across much of the world, the price of renewable energy has come down so much it's competing with current power sources – without subsidies.

"The World Economic Forum is reporting that solar and wind have reached grid parity in more than 30 countries,” she points out. “It's expected that in the coming years that'll be the case worldwide, but at the moment we're just seeing more and more examples of it."

Some in the coal industry, in the past, have described coal as a necessary low-cost option for places hungry for electricity.

But Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates 60 gigawatts of wind and 70 gigawatts of solar were installed last year.

Manglik says demand for coal in India has stopped growing, and it has started to fall in China. She cites a number of factors contributing to that, but says the price is key.

"The air pollution that is a big problem in China and India, as well as the climate agreement,” she states. “In addition to that, it's basically the economics of it."

About 1.2 billion people worldwide don't have easy access to electricity. Most of them live in rural areas, disconnected from the power grid.

Manglik says it's often cheaper, faster and easier to give them off-the-grid solar than it is to reach them with power lines.

"Solar home systems, solar lanterns, and the people don't have to wait for the grid to be extended," she explains.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV