By Michael Mariotte

If 2015 was the year that the ongoing global energy transition away from nuclear power and fossil fuels and toward a clean energy system based on renewables gained public notice, then 2016 naturally should be the year that the transition takes visible and meaningful steps forward.

Two critical steps that occurred in December ensure that the coming year is indeed likely to be that kind of pivotal, transformative period.

The first was, of course, the international COP 21 climate agreement, which–despite its flaws–will cause a global acceleration of the transition. The second factor, here in the U.S., was the five-year extension (and eventual phase-out) of tax credits for solar and wind power deployment. Both will combine to enable 2016, and the years immediately following, to attain milestone after milestone in the development of a nuclear-free, carbon-free energy system.

A third factor, by the way, also limited to the U.S. but related to the ability to achieve the COP 21 agreement, is President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

But you don’t need to take my word for it; there are plenty of energy experts predicting the same–and also throwing out new ideas for how to make the transition even faster.

First, take a step back, to those long-ago almost-forgotten first days of the Obama Administration back in 2009. As E&E Publishing put it, “If you were a time traveler from 2009, you would not recognize the energy world of 2016.” There is a lot of truth in that, as the article demonstrates, but there also have been a lot of changes the article doesn’t address. For example, while the article does note in sort of sidestep fashion that solar and wind prices have fallen through the floor over the past seven years, it misses the fact that nuclear costs have not done the same–in fact they’ve increased even for paid-for operating reactors to the point where in many competitive markets, such reactors are no longer economically competitive with renewables, a gap that is only going to grow.

The World Future Council (WFC) does notice that point in its round-up of energy developments and projections for an exciting energy system quite unlike the 20th century model the dinosaur utilities are still striving to protect: “Fossil fuels and nuclear power are now bound to remain stranded assets not only because they are environmentally destructive or bad for the climate, but more importantly, because they have become a financially NOT viable option for the 21st century.”

WFC approvingly notes Germany’s ongoing and increasingly successful Energiewende energy transition, and a new report from the German think-tank Agora Energiewende documents that success, which is becoming the de facto, if not necessarily publicly acknowledged, model for the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, Utility Dive takes a look at the effect the five-year extension of the renewable tax credits will have on the rapidly growing clean energy technologies and predicts even faster deployment of such distributed energy resources than we’ve experienced to date.

While last year’s breakthrough developments in …read more

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