16 May 2012 – From The Conversation by Peter Newman:“King coal still reigns” was the headline emblazoned across a full page article in The Weekend Australian on the 28-29 April 2012, by environment editor Graham Lloyd. The article’s subtitle was, “The world is in the grip of a fossil fuel boom that shows no sign of fading”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The latest data on global investment in new power production shows the dramatic decline in fossil fuel investment, and an astonishing increase in renewables investment.
In 2004, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the International Energy Agency, investment in renewables was $52 billion, with $250 billion invested in fossil fuels. By 2008 the peak in fossil fuel investment had arrived: it dropped to $140 billion, while renewables overtook it with $155 billion in investment.
By 2010 the amounts were $90 billion in fossil fuels and $211 billion in renewables, and by 2011 only 14 per cent or $40 billion of investment was in fossil fuels while 86 per cent or $260 billion was in renewables.
King coal has in fact been dethroned. It will take a while for the global power system to phase out old power stations and be dominated by renewables, but the transition is proceeding much faster than imagined by most institutions, as well as media like The Australian. The International Energy Agency predicted in 2008 that the world would build 64 gigawatt coal generation in 2010, but when the dust settled on projects built in 2010, only 14 GW of coal was actually built.