5 unexpected countries that are leading the way on renewable energy
Clean tech has made great strides in the U.S. recently. But if you take a look around the globe, you'll find equally encouraging signs.
Mon, Jun 09, 2014 at 01:23 PM
I've already written about emerging economies that are pioneering a clean energy future. Recent announcements suggest that this trend shows no sign of slowing down. Add to that the apparent eagerness of some developed, oil-driven economies to seek an alternative path forward, and it starts to look like the global push for a low-carbon future is beginning to pick up speed.
Here are some of the recent international developments we'll be paying close attention to:
Bhutan goes all out for electric vehicles
The tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan has already pledged to become the first 100 percent organic nation on Earth, and it has promoted a weekly "pedestrian day" in an effort to curb vehicle emissions. Now Bhutan is partnering with Nissan to slash fossil fuel imports and embrace electric cars. The initial push will see government and taxi fleets converting to battery powered vehicles, but as awareness of EVs increases, and charging infrastructure gets more common, it's a fair bet that electric cars will become more popular among the general populace too. (At least, the populace that has the means to buy cars and have access to electricity.)
Iran targets 5,000 megawatts of new wind and solar power by 2018
As an oil producer and a relatively totalitarian regime, Iran is probably not the first nation that comes to mind when you think about a progressive energy future. Nevertheless, the pressure of international sanctions combined with increased energy demands created by a post-revolution baby boom have made diversifying Iran's energy portfolio a necessity. Nuclear energy is, as everyone knows, a big part of Iran's energy ambitions, but it is now investing increasing amounts in wind and solar too. According to Cleantechnica, Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian recently announced plans to increase Iran's solar and wind portfolio by a whopping 5,000 MW by 2018.
As the video above from 2012 shows, Iran was already making moves toward cleaner energy systems. It looks like those efforts are going to continue. The video also points to one of the paradoxes of current clean energy development: petrostates are getting increasingly interested in renewables as a means to both process more fossil fuels, and to reduce domestic consumption so they can export more.
Norway embraces electric cars, considers divesting from fossil fuels
When it comes to fossil fuel-driven economies, Norway is at the opposite end of the spectrum to Iran. Yet this oil-producing Scandinavian democracy is also exploring alternative energy options. Already big on hydroelectric power due to its many fjords, it has, in recent years, also become one of the leading markets in the world for electric cars. Recently, Norway's energy policy took another interesting turn, with parliamentarians reviewing a plan to divest its massive sovereign wealth fund from fossil fuels. This development becomes all the more remarkable when you consider that this wealth fund was built largely on the back of income from natural gas and oil. There are, however, pragmatic reasons for divestment: given how reliant Norway's economy has been on fossil fuel production, moving its investments away from these commodities would help to hedge its bets in the event of a global shift toward clean energy.
Nigeria plans 3,000 MW of solar in oil-producing Delta State
Nigeria has been in the news recently for some depressing reasons: the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls and bombings and raids by Islamists. Such conflicts are not unrelated to the resentments over massive inequality and corruption that exist in this major oil-producing nation. So an announcement that Nigeria is working with SkyPower FAS Energy to develop 3,000 MW of utility-scale solar power in the next five years is encouraging indeed. Let's just hope that the solar industry proves more effective than the oil industry has been in distributing the benefits of what is, after all, a shared resource.
India to electrify every household by 2019, largely using solar
As the video above shows, many of India's rural areas have already experienced the benefits of solar energy. But there is much left to do. Now Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has has announced an incredibly ambitious goal: bringing electricity to the 400,000,000 Indians who do not currently have access to it. How is the newly minted prime minister going to do it? Solar power, of course. By 2019, says Narendra Taneja — Modi's energy spokesperson — every household will be able to run at least two light bulbs, a television and also cook with a solar cooker. The reasons why solar is such an important part of that goal are as much pragmatic as they are ideological. Where the choice is between rapid deployment of distributed solar, or waiting for the development of fossil fuel power plants and the related grid-based infrastructure, the question really ought to be a no brainer.
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