Progress (Or Not) in Global Emissions

Decarbonization Stagnation by Sector

We talk a lot about decarbonization in the electric power sector, possibly because there are so many solutions on the table: nuclear reactors, renewable energy, carbon capture, and on and on. But electricity is only about one-fifth of global final energy consumption, and decarbonization outside the power sector is pretty disappointing. If we want to really tackle the emissions challenge, we’ll need innovation and deployment of technological options far beyond zero-carbon power generation.

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BP’s Annual Energy Rorschach Test

Progress and Disappointment in Global Energy Transition

It’s finally summer, and energy wonks know what that means: the annual release of energy data from BP. While the data can be extremely useful for all manner of analysis and modeling, it also serves as tea leaves, allowing people to proclaim the truth of their preferred narrative, clearly reflected in the mess of data.

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Why Bans of Internal Combustion Engines Don’t Make Sense

We Need Better Technology for a Smooth Transition

The imperative to respond to climate change, as well as recent progress with electric vehicles and other alternatives to gasoline, has emboldened many countries to mandate a transition to zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) through a ban on internal combustion engines. Great Britain plans to ban the sale of new gasoline or diesel cars by 2040 and completely ban their operation by 2050. France will also ban new gasoline burning cars by 2040, though hybrids will still be allowed. Several other countries have adopted or are considering similar policies. Legislation under consideration in California would also end the sale of new internal combustion cars by 2040.

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Solar Power: The Case for Tempered Optimism

How the EIA and IEA underestimated industry’s growth, and why we must still be cautious

The rapid growth of solar power in the 2010s, both in the United States and worldwide, is one of the big success stories in recent energy history. However, as many analysts have pointed out, this success is one government agencies failed to foresee. Why have forecasts consistently underestimated the growth of solar and how can forecasts be improved in the future? This is an important question, since as we think about the options for decarbonizing the world’s energy system, we need to know what different technologies can do.

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Where Does Decarbonization Come From?

Nuclear, Hydro, and Economic Growth

We know the world is not decarbonizing fast enough to reach global climate targets. But it turns out that no single country, anywhere, ever, has even achieved emissions progress of the scale needed.

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Stuck in the S-Curve?

Obstacles to Renewable Energy Integration Persist

Some have described the growth of solar electricity as “exponential,” and many expect solar power to provide the bulk of zero-carbon energy in the future. There’s reason for optimism. Solar panel costs have plummeted and solar deployment has skyrocketed. But as we at Breakthrough have warned for some time, cheaper panels do not guarantee sustained boom times for solar. We’re already seeing signs of the economic and technical roadblocks that solar enthusiasts shrug off at their peril.

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How Natural Gas and Wind Decarbonize the Grid

Updated Analysis of US Regional Power Generation, 2007–2015

Cheap natural gas has reduced carbon emissions on the US electricity grid more than anything else over the past decade.

That’s the core conclusion of our new analysis. But while the coal-to-gas shift continues to lead power sector decarbonization, wind is playing a bigger and bigger role.

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Urbanization in the 21st Century

A Double-Edged Sword

In the developing world, large cities are and will continue to be the engines of prosperity and growth. That’s the conclusion of new research by Ed Glaeser and Wentao Xiong. But the benefits of urbanization in emerging economies are not a fait accompli. And even as density, clustering, and agglomeration drive innovation and efficiency, they also concentrate intra-urban inequality and drive sharper divisions between urban and rural populations. How to wield the double-edged sword of urbanization in the 21st century is, as Richard Florida writes in his recent book, “the central crisis of our time.”

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Solar in California

Pushing Boundaries and Testing Limits

Solar power in California continues to grow. But as California becomes one of the first regions in the world to get over 10% of its annual electricity from solar, it will also be the first to hit major obstacles to continued growth of solar generation. Utility-level solar, mostly photovoltaic and also some concentrating solar, constituted nearly 10% of raw electricity generation in California in 2016. When distributed solar is taken into account, this figure rises to 13%. This is an impressive achievement for the growing industry, and well above the national average of about 1% solar on the grid.

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Cities: A Climate Solution?

New Analysis Shows California Can't Meet Climate Goals Without Denser Cities

California cannot meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets without increasing density in already-developed cities, according to a recent analysis by the LA Times, the California Air Resources Board, and BuildZoom.

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