It’s easy to get down in the dumps when it comes to the state of our environment and what the future has in store for the planet. Climate change is happening, and if we don’t make serious changes very quickly, the outlook is not good. Fortunately, when it comes to the energy sector, the future is looking green.
More than ever, individuals, governments and corporations are investing in low-carbon technology and climate change mitigation efforts. Global investment in clean energy in 2015 reached an all-time high of $329 billion, and this positive trend is expected to continue. Of this amount, $162 billion was devoted to solar projects and $110 billion to wind.
Solar and wind power are two categories of technology whose success is aided by significant cost reductions over time, as well as improvements in performance. Between 2010 and 2015 alone, the cost of PV solar panels dropped by 75% and the average cost of on-shore wind projects dropped by close to 50%. With the increasing cost efficiency of these technologies, PV solar and on-shore wind projects are now considered cost competitive without subsidies.
Light emitting diode (LED) lighting is an emerging frontrunner in clean energy technology, and is rapidly taking over the global lighting market due to its high energy efficiency and performance, comparatively long replacement cycles and strong policy support. LEDs cut electricity consumption by 85% compared to incandescent lightbulbs and by 40% compared to fluorescents, and these numbers are increasing as the technology improves. For this reason, and that of their steadily dropping prices, LEDs are projected to hold 95% of global lighting market share by 2025.
Hybrid and electric vehicles are another technology whose prevalence in the global market is increasing rapidly. Due to growing popularity, along with increasingly strict CO2 emissions regulations around the world, market share is expected to increase from its current 3% to about 22% by 2025.
Though Canada still lags behind some countries in environmental stewardship, positive trends are starting to emerge. In 2014, green energy investments totalled $11 billion, an 88% increase from the previous year. Much like the global statistics, Canada’s clean energy sector has been focused on solar and wind, garnering cumulative investments of $6 billion and $16 billion, respectively, by 2014.
With the appointment of a Liberal government headed by Justin Trudeau on October 20, 2015, clean energy investment in Canada is predicted to intensify if Trudeau follows through with promises to invest $100 million in clean-tech companies, create a $2 billion fund to support projects that aim to cut carbon emissions and support energy efficiency and electric vehicles, among other things.
All this forward motion on climate change and renewable energy is heartening. If governments, businesses and individual investors keep this momentum going, just imagine how bright the future could be.