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The global transition to clean energy – explained in 12 charts

Despite all the progress, we’re still struggling to hit the climate emergency brake.

A report released by Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) goes into that question in considerable detail. The Renewables Global Status Report (GSR) digs into the growth rates of various energy sources, the flows of clean energy investment, and the world’s progress on its sustainability goals.

But first, we are still moving in the wrong direction. Global carbon emissions aren’t falling fast enough. In fact, they aren’t falling at all; they were up 1.7 percent in 2018.

Second, we’re still pushing in the wrong direction. Globally, subsidies to fossil fuels were up 11 percent between 2016 and 2017, reaching $300 billion a year.

And third, the effort to clean up is flagging. Total investment in renewable energy (not including hydropower) was $288.9 billion in 2018 — less than fossil fuel subsidies and an 11 percent decrease from 2017.

This is all bad news. The public seems to have the impression that while things are bad, they are finally accelerating toward something better. It’s not true. Collectively, we haven’t even succeeded in reversing direction yet.

So, here are the 12 charts:

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  1. There’s a simple and affordable way to make– fossil fuel companies pay for the transition– from a fossil fuel energy economy to a carbon neutral economy.

    Governments simply need– to mandate– that a growing percentage of the electricity and transportation fuel produced by the energy companies comes from carbon neutral resources. Congress could mandate that at least 50% of the electricity produced by an American utility must come from carbon neutral resources by 2025 and 90% by 2035. Congress could also mandate that at least 10% of the transportation fuel sold in the US has to come from carbon neutral resources by 2025, 50% by 2035, and at least 90% by 2045.

    Of course, utility companies already know how to produce carbon neutral electricity: nuclear, solar, wind, hydroelectric, etc. And energy companies already know how to produce carbon neutral fuels (methanol, gasoline, jet fuel, dimethyl ether, etc.) from biowaste and from the extraction and synthesis of hydrogen and carbon from water and the atmosphere through carbon neutral electricity.

    The penalty for individual utility companies and private energy companies not achieving the Congressional mandates should be a 100% sin tax on all electricity or fuels sold by these companies within the US until they reach the current Federally mandated levels.

    Such a policy would provide a powerful economic incentive for the fossil fuel companies to– gradually– transition towards a carbon neutral economy.



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