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"Solar Singularity" update for 2020

The short summary: renewable energy progress is good but the pandemic and Trump cast some doubts about timing

The coronavirus pandemic has shrunk economies significantly, with two opposing impacts: a serious decline in greenhouse gas emissions, which is good for the planet in the short term, and a serious decline in new project development of all types, including green energy and public transit — which is not so good for the planet. We’ve also seen real support for various types of Green New Deal policies. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden released a surprisingly ambitious climate-mitigation plan investing $2 trillion over a span of four years.

As part of the pandemic recovery, policymakers and the public are realizing that climate-change mitigation, local energy independence, self-reliance and resilience, and massive job creation make a whole lot of sense. I’m optimistic that Democrats will win both Congress and the White House this fall and quickly implement comprehensive climate-change legislation.

On the other hand, 2020 will probably be the first year that the solar energy sector will see a decline globally, down from a record year in 2019.

How will the upheaval of 2020 affect the world’s long march to a green energy economy? This piece will look at the numbers for 2019 and the first half of 2020, and offer some thoughts about the next few years in light of the pandemic and its economic impacts.

My “solar singularity” updates over the last few years have attempted to track on-the-ground progress on the transition. Here’s the summary of this annual update (my fifth): While I am still optimistic about the solar singularity and the green energy transition (as we’ll see below, there were many very promising developments in the past year), the double whammy of Trump’s election and the pandemic with its severe economic impacts may slow the transition by a few years.

This annual update will focus on solar power, battery storage, EVs and self-driving technology. These are the intertwined revolutions of the new green energy economy. A caveat is in order: Many sources cited are forecasts published before the pandemic, and some of them will surely be downgraded in the coming year.

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