Rocky Mountain Institute: Top 10 Clean Energy Developments of 2017

Jan. 5, 2018
Laurie Guevara-Stone of the Rocky Mountain Institute explains why it was a good year for clean energy initiatives, including renewable microgrids.

Laurie Guevara-Stone of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) explains why it was a good year for solar, renewable microgrids, energy efficiency, blockchain, climate change efforts and other clean energy initiatives.

Laurie Guevara-Stone, Rocky Mountain Institute

Sure 2017 had its mishaps (and we’re not just talking about the La La Land/Moonlight fiasco). But it also had some great moments. From the “We Are Still In” movement to record-low solar prices, 2017 was a great year for clean energy. Here we highlight our top ten clean energy developments of the year, in no particular order.

1. U.S. Cities, Businesses, and More Declare “We Are Still In”
After President Trump announced his intent to withdraw from the landmark Paris Agreement, more than 2,700 U.S. states, cities, businesses, and universities organized themselves into an unprecedented coalition dedicated to continuing strong U.S. climate leadership. RMI and other leading organizations helped create the “We Are Still In” effort.

2. Countries Ban Fossil Fuel-Powered Vehicles
Numerous countries around the world joined Germany (which implemented its ban in 2016) in calling for a ban on internal combustion engine vehicles. Norway will sell only fully electric cars by 2025, India and the Netherlands by 2030, France and the United Kingdom by 2040, and China by sometime in the near future (no date yet set). Expect more countries to jump on the bandwagon (the electric bandwagon that is).

3. The Blockchain (Almost) Becomes a Household Word
With Bitcoin surging in value, it seems as though everyone is talking about cryptocurrency. The technology behind that currency is the blockchain. RMI, Grid Singularity, and ten energy companies joined forces to launch the Energy Web Foundation, a global blockchain initiative for energy. Blockchain technology has the potential to play a significant and potentially game-changing role in the energy sector.

4. The ETC Claims the Energy Transition is Possible
The Energy Transitions Commission (ETC) launched a new report that makes the case for the energy transition. The report, Better Energy, Greater Prosperity, argues that it is technically and economically feasible to grow economies and provide affordable, reliable, clean energy for all while meeting the Paris objective of limiting global warming to well below two degrees.

5. Corporate Renewable Energy Purchasing Surges in North America
The more than 3 gigawatts (GW) of corporate renewable energy deals completed in 2017 brought the total of new corporate backed renewable energy projects in the U.S. and Mexico to over 10 GW.

6. Google Goes 100 percent Renewable
Google, the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy, is now powering its entire global operation—including both data centers and offices—with 100 percent renewable energy. It is currently purchasing 2.6 gigawatts of wind and solar energy. Google is only one of 213 Business Renewables Center members that are taking advantage of clean, renewable energy.

7. Solar Beats 2¢/kWh
A new record was set in Saudi Arabia for the lowest-cost solar on the planet—under 2 cents per kilowatt-hour. The oil-producing country is investing $50 billion to diversify its domestic energy supplies away from fossil fuels. The bid to supply power from a 300 MW solar photovoltaic plant came to 1.79¢/kWh. Meanwhile, construction began on a 3-megawatt solar project in New Mexico that will sell its output below 4.5 ¢/kWh, a price as of this writing that RMI believes is the lowest reported contract for distributed photovoltaic energy in the U.S.

8. Trucking Roadshow Proves Efficient Trucks are Possible
Run on Less, a first of its kind cross-country road show, proved that 10 mpg is possible using efficiency technologies that are available on the market today. If the 1.7 million trucks on North American highways today achieved the same level of efficiency as the trucks in the Run, they would save 9.7 billion gallons of diesel fuel, $24.3 billion, and 98 million tons of CO 2 each year.

9. Self-driving Cars Hit the Roads
Waymo, the autonomous car project launched by Google, tested its autonomous cars in Phoenix as part of a pilot program. Waymo started offering free self-driving taxi rides—with a Waymo employee in the driver’s seat—to people who live in or near the Phoenix suburb of Chandler. By the end of 2017, the company was running its autonomous vehicles around Phoenix with nobody in the driver’s seat.

10. Renewable Microgrids Take Off in Africa
More and more people in sub-Saharan Africa are getting clean power from renewable energy microgrids. Governments in countries as varied as Tanzania, Rwanda, and Sierra Leone are beginning to think about how the off-grid energy provided by minigrids could help them achieve energy access and economic growth targets. For example, Nigeria is rolling out some 1,200 minigrids to serve a projected 200,000 households and 50,000 local businesses.

Laurie Guevara-Stone is writer/editor for Rocky Mountain Institute. This blog originated on RMI’s website and was reposted with permission.

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