Is Renewable Energy Making A Difference? Carbon Emissions Rise Despite Record Solar And Wind

Cars drive in heavy smog during a polluted day in Beijing, China, December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY. CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA. - RC195610EE30

Jessica Jenkins Contributor
Font Size:

Carbon emissions rose in 2017, the first time in three years, despite record high usage of renewable energy, according to new energy usage data released by BP last week.

“Despite the extraordinary growth in renewables in recent years,” said BP, “and the huge policy efforts to encourage a shift away from coal into cleaner, lower carbon fuels, there has been almost no improvement in the power sector fuel mix over the past 20 years.”

Coal grew by one percent in 2017, the first it has grown since 2013. World coal production grew by 3.2 percent the fastest rate of growth since 2011. This growth was driven by increases in coal energy use in India and China.

Natural gas grew three percent globally, its fastest since 2013. This growth was driven by substantial increases in China, the Middle East, and Europe. Global gas production was up by four percent.

Both of these increases in fossil fuels have offset the 17 percent increase in renewable energy. Solar energy grew by 17 percent and wind energy grew by 35 percent. In fact, use of “clean” energy has decreased over the last 20 years, due mostly to a decrease in nuclear power.

Renewable energy still accounts for only six percent of energy usage despite extreme government subsidies and large donations from private investors. It’s clear that solar and wind energy are not at a level yet to make up for declines in nuclear energy or to replace fossil fuels in a way that will actually reduce carbon emissions.