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Climate

The IEA's Optimistic Renewables Report

On global green energy capacity, EV charging infrastructure, and bird flu

The IEA's Optimistic Renewables Report
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: The parade of winter storms continues today across much of the U.S. • The Congo River is at its highest level in more than 60 years after intense rains • This weekend's NFL game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins could be the coldest game in franchise history.

THE TOP FIVE

1. IEA report shows renewables expansion gaining momentum

The International Energy Agency (IEA) is feeling optimistic about the green energy transition. In its new Renewables 2023 report, released today, the agency says the world added 50% more renewable capacity last year than in 2022. This kind of momentum could get us close to the COP28 goal of tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, but governments must do more to get us across the finish line, the IEA concluded.

Share of rewnewable electricity generation by technology IEA

Renewable capacity hit almost 510 gigawatts (GW) in 2023, with China seeing the most explosive growth, but the U.S., Europe, and Brazil also hit all-time highs. Solar was the real workhorse, accounting for 75% of the expansion. The report includes this quite astonishing statistic:“The world is on course to add more renewable capacity in the next five years than has been installed since the first commercial renewable energy power plant was built more than 100 years ago.”

The current growth rate puts the world on course to increase renewable capacity by two-and-a-half times by 2030, said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. He calls on governments to prioritize policy changes that speed up renewables development, and highlights the need for more financing in developing countries to help them with the energy transition. “Success in meeting the tripling goal will hinge on this,” Birol said.

2. Biden funnels $623 million into EV charging network buildout

The Biden administration has announced the recipients of infrastructure grants amounting to $623 million focused heavily on expanding the national electric vehicle charging network. The administration has a goal of installing at least 500,000 public chargers by 2030 – a Department of Energy report put the number at around 140,000 at the end of 2022, installed across 53,000 stations. Huge gaps in coverage remain across the country, fueling range anxiety among would-be EV buyers. The new grants are split between 22 states and Puerto Rico and will support 47 infrastructure projects, including 7,500 charging ports. About half of the money will go to “community” projects in urban and rural communities. The other half will go to “corridor” projects along roadways that are expected to “fill gaps in the core national charging and alternative-fueling network,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s press release.

3. GOP presidential candidates pile on Biden for ‘green’ policies

It appears that Republicans have a new favorite boogeyman buzzword this election season, writes Heatmap’s Charu Sinha. The word? “Green.” It was on every Republican presidential hopeful’s lips on Wednesday, both at CNN’s debate in Iowa between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and at former President Donald Trump’s competing town hall on Fox News. DeSantis reiterated his promise to reverse President Biden’s clean energy policy, facetiously calling it the “Green New Deal.” Haley took her own stab at Biden’s “green subsidies” while answering a question about funding Ukraine and Israel. And for his part, Trump said Biden should “go into the energy business instead of this green new scam business that they’re in."

Sinha notes that “at no point during the fifth Republican presidential debate or Trump’s town hall was the Inflation Reduction Act mentioned by name.”

4. Bird flu found in mammals in Antarctica

Bird flu strain H5N1 has been transmitted to seals in Antarctica, scientists have confirmed, an alarming development that raises concerns about how easily the virus can spread among mammals. The virus, which has killed millions of birds across the world, was detected in elephant seals and fur seals on the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. Researchers believe migrating birds from South America brought the virus with them. Last week officials in Alaska confirmed a polar bear had died from the disease. “If a bird is weakened by avian influenza, or succumbs to it, polar bears aren’t fussy about what eat,” Andrew Derocher, a polar bear biologist at the University of Alberta, toldReuters. “If it’s dead and it’s edible they’ll probably eat it. There is a high likelihood of an interaction between climate change, avian influenza, bird mortality, and polar bears.”

5. Study: Snowpack worryingly low in parts of Northern Hemisphere

The Northern Hemisphere is seeing less snowpack due to human-caused climate change, according to a new study published in Nature. The researchers examined data from hundreds of river basins across the U.S. and Europe and found that about 20% of them saw a decline in snowpack – which is the total mass of snow that accumulates on the ground – over the last 40 years. “We see a pattern of snow change that is only consistent with human emissions,” Alex Gottlieb, a graduate student at Dartmouth College and lead author on the new study, toldThe Washington Post. The researchers also seem to have discovered a snow “cliff” – a tipping point temperature of 17 degrees Fahrenheit – at which snow loss accelerates very quickly. They say more than 2 billion people who rely on snow melt as a source of water are near the cliffedge.

THE KICKER

The cost of charging an EV in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to a gasoline price of $1 to $2 per gallon, with the national average being $1.41 per eGallon, according toYale Climate Connections.

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Jessica Hullinger

Jessica Hullinger is a freelance writer and editor who likes to think deeply about climate science and sustainability. She previously served as Global Deputy Editor for The Week, and her writing has been featured in publications including Fast Company, Popular Science, and Fortune. Jessica is originally from Indiana but lives in London. Read More

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