Latest News 2020-10-20
The world’s best solar power schemes now offer the “cheapest…electricity in history” with the technology cheaper than coal and gas in most major countries.
That is according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020. The 464-page outlook, published today by the IEA, also outlines the “extraordinarily turbulent” impact of coronavirus and the “highly uncertain” future of global energy use over the next two decades.
Reflecting this uncertainty, this year’s version of the highly influential annual outlook offers four “pathways” to 2040, all of which see a major rise in renewables. The IEA’s main scenario has 43% more solar output by 2040 than it expected in 2018, partly due to detailed new analysis showing that solar power is 20-50% cheaper than thought.
Despite a more rapid rise for renewables and a “structural” decline for coal, the IEA says it is too soon to declare a peak in global oil use unless there is stronger climate action. Similarly, it says demand for gas could rise 30% by 2040 unless the policy response to global warming steps up.
This means that, while global CO2 emissions have effectively peaked, they are “far from the immediate peak and decline” needed to stabilize the climate. The IEA says achieving net-zero emissions will require “unprecedented” efforts from every part of the global economy, not just the power sector.
The main WEO pathway is again the “stated policies scenario” (STEPS, formerly NPS). This shows the impact of government pledges to go beyond the current policy baseline. Crucially, however, the IEA makes its own assessment of whether governments are credibly following through on their targets.
One of the most significant shifts in this year’s WEO is tucked away in Annex B of the report, which shows the IEA’s estimates of the cost of different electricity generation technologies.
The table shows that solar electricity is some 20-50% cheaper today than the IEA had estimated in last year’s outlook, with the range depending on the region. There are similarly large reductions in the estimated costs of onshore and offshore wind.
This shift is the result of a new analysis carried out by the WEO team, looking at the average “cost of capital” for developers looking to build new generating capacity. Previously the IEA assumed a range of 7-8% for all technologies, varying according to each country’s stage of development.
By 2040, although oil and gas would remain the first and second-largest sources of primary energy, there would have been declines in the use of all fossil fuels. Coal would have dropped by two-thirds, oil by a third, and gas by 12%, relative to 2019 levels.
Meanwhile, other renewables – primarily wind and solar – would have surged to third place, rising nearly seven-fold over the next two decades (+662%). The SDS sees smaller, but still sizeable increases for hydro (+55%), nuclear (+55%), and bioenergy (+24%).
Together, low-carbon sources would make up 44% of the global energy mix in 2040, up from 19% in 2019. Coal would fall to 10%, its lowest since the industrial revolution, according to the IEA.
Despite these rapid changes, however, the world would not see net-zero CO2 emissions until 2070, some two decades after the 2050 deadline that would be needed to stay below 1.5C.
Written by SIMON EVANS, JOSH GABBATISS Oct,20th
Cite and Extract From Carbonbrief
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