2023-01-30
http://w3.windfair.net/wind-energy/news/42860-usa-turning-point-ira-renewable-energy-paris-climate-agreement-path-coal-fossil-decade-replace-emissions-weather

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Turning point in the U.S.? Renewables overtake coal as energy source

Even though the effects of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) have not yet been fully felt, initial developments from the previous year give some hope that the U.S. has finally embarked on an effective path against climate change. However, the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement remain a long way off.

Whether the IRA can really become the hoped-for turning point in the USA will probably become clear this year (Image: Pixabay)Whether the IRA can really become the hoped-for turning point in the USA will probably become clear this year (Image: Pixabay)

Four years of Donald Trump's presidency have set the U.S. far behind in climate protection - and not only because the country, as one of the largest CO2 emitters on earth, had withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. Trump's successor Joe Biden has since been struggling to pass various packages to promote climate protection measures. He finally succeeded last year the Inflation Reduction Act after tough wrangling with his own party.

Although the IRA's measures have not yet had their full effect - this is not expected until later this year - the first figures at least point in the right direction. A now published report  by the non-partisan Rhodium Group takes a closer look at electricity consumption in the U.S. last year: For the first time in more than 60 years, renewable energies have overtaken coal as an energy source in the United States. Clean energy generation increased by more than 12% in 2022 compared to 2021, according to the figures.

Renewables have overtaken coal in electricity production in the U.S. for the first time in more than 60 years. (Image: Rhodium Group, EIA)

A remarkable development, as Holly Bender, Senior Director of Energy Campaigns at the Sierra Club, a US grassroots environmental organisation, expressed: "For the first time since the 1960s, renewable energy has eclipsed coal, marking a huge milestone as we continue the important work of transforming the power sector from fossil fuels to clean energy. This is a major accomplishment, and one that might have seemed impossible to some when we first launched the Beyond Coal Campaign over a decade ago. But thanks to the tireless efforts of our people-powered movement and their commitment to creating cleaner, healthier communities, coal use continues to decline as this dirty fossil fuel of a bygone era is replaced by renewable energy."

Nonetheless, the report is no cause for celebration, as emissions in the U.S. rose again last year - the country is far from meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. But here, too, there is at least one bright spot: While emissions have increased by 1.3% compared to 2021, the US economy has grown faster than emissions - an important difference from 2021, where GDP growth outpaced emissions growth. The energy sector has been the driving force in reducing emissions, thanks to the switch from coal to renewables.

This winter, a devastating so-called 'Bomb Cyclone' caused masses of snow in the U.S. that claimed several lives and threw parts of the country into chaos. (Image: Pixabay)

Nevertheless, climate-related extreme weather events have caused emissions in the building sector to skyrocket as more energy is needed to heat or cool the places where people live and work.

Despite high inflation and a global energy crisis triggered by Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, however, the figures give cause for hope. The Rhodium Group sees the IRA in particular as an important factor: "The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) by Congress is a significant turning point, and we may start to see its effects on emissions as early as this year," the report says. However, this will require additional aggressive action by federal agencies, states and the private sector to meet the emissions reduction targets set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Accordingly, all stakeholders would need to act as quickly as possible to achieve the climate goals.

The Sierra Club, with its more than 2.4 million members, is ready for action: "Today’s report is also a sobering reminder that as long as fossil fuels have a grip on our economy, the road to achieving our climate goals remains steep. We must continue our work to electrify our homes and vehicles, and reduce energy consumption."

But anyway there is a small light on the horizon.

Author:
Katrin Radtke
Email:
press@windfair.net
Keywords:
USA, turning point, IRA, renewable energy, Paris Climate Agreement, path, coal, fossil, decade, replace, emissions, weather



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