Clean Energy Grew at Breakneck Speed in 2023

Solar is now the cheapest form of electricity in a majority of countries
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 27, 2023 3:21 PM CST
It Was a Banner Year for Clean Energy
The first operating South Fork Wind farm turbine, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023, stands east of Montauk Point, NY. The turbine at the commercial-scale offshore wind farm is producing power for the US electric grid for the first time.   (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson, File)

Led by new solar power, the world added renewable energy at breakneck speed in 2023, a trend that if amplified will help Earth turn away from fossil fuels and prevent severe warming and its effects. Clean energy is often now the least expensive, explaining some of the growth. Nations also adopted policies that support renewables, some citing energy security concerns, according to the International Energy Agency. These factors countered high interest rates and persistent challenges in getting materials and components in many places, the AP reports. The IEA projected that more than 440 gigawatts of renewable energy would be added in 2023, more than the entire installed power capacity of Germany and Spain together.

Here's a look at the year in solar, wind, and batteries.

  • Solar. In another banner year for solar, China, Europe, and the US each set solar installation records for a single year, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. China's additions dwarfed those of all other countries, at somewhere between 180 and 230 gigawatts, depending on how end-of-the-year projects turn out. Europe added 58 gigawatts. Solar is now the cheapest form of electricity in a majority of countries. Solar panel prices fell a whopping 40% to 53% in Europe between December 2022 and November 2023 and are now at record lows. In the US, California continues to have the most solar energy, followed by Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona.

  • Wind. By the end of 2023, the world will have added enough wind energy to power nearly 80 million homes, making it a record year. China was one of the few growing markets this year for wind, the Global Wind Energy Council said. Faster permitting and other improvements in key markets such as Germany and India also helped add more wind energy. But installations were down in Europe by 6% year-over-year, research group Wood Mackenzie said. Short-term challenges such as high inflation, rising interest rates, and increased costs of building materials forced some ocean wind developers to renegotiate or even cancel projects. Analysts are predicting that the global industry will rebound next year and make nearly 12% more wind energy available worldwide.

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  • Batteries. Amid an ongoing push to make transportation less damaging to the climate, the electric vehicle trend accelerated globally in 2023, with one in five cars sold this year expected to be electric, according to the International Energy Agency. That meant it also turned out to be another banner year for batteries. More than $43.4 billion has been spent on battery manufacturing and battery recycling just in the US this year, thanks largely to the Inflation Reduction Act, according to Atlas Public Policy. This puts the US on a more level playing field with Europe, but still behind battery powerhouse China. The industry continued to explore different ways of making batteries without depending so much on harmful materials, as well as ways of making components more sustainable, and the battery recycling industry made headway, experts said.
(More clean energy stories.)

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