Global Energy Outlook: Oil price volatility is good news for renewables

Renewable investment will continue to grow and oil is unlikely to make a major comeback in power generation, according to Frost & Sullivan's latest Annual Global Power and Energy Outlook.

Oil currently accounts for just 5% of global electricity generated, and in many countries – including the UK–  it is 1% or less. And, with oil prices creeping back up to around $58 a barrel from a low of $48, Frost & Sullivan analysts said they were confident that the fuel was no longer a viable option for electricity generation.

Frost & Sullivan senior consultant Jonathan Robinson said: “In contrast, solar photovoltaic (PV) is currently judged to be the hottest of the renewable technologies. We forecast that the global solar PV capacity, which stood at 93 gigawatts (GW) in 2012, will increase to 446 GW in 2020, with China, India and North America recording the highest growth rates.

“Even the global leader in solar PV, Europe, will see capacity double by 2020, despite reductions in incentives during the financial crisis.”


The analyst also points out that the rapidly falling cost of solar is having a predictably positive effect on its take-up. In North America, for instance, commercial solar PV is increasingly becoming competitive against centralised generation, despite reductions in feed-in tariffs.

Last month the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a report claiming biomass, onshore wind, geothermal and hydropower can all produce electricity in the same cost range or better than fossil fuels.

According to IRENA solar is currently more expensive than most fossil fuels, but the technology still saw its generation costs halved in the last four years.

Clean energy sweep

Frost & Sullivan’s positive outlook is reinforced by the burgeoning European market for renewable energy, which increased by 26.5 % in 2014 according to new figures released on Thursday by the Association of Issuing Bodies (AIB)

And the trend looks set to continue, with a report released on Tuesday finding that the European wind energy industry installed more than twice as much new capacity as coal and gas combined in 2014.

The UK specifically got off to a flying start to 2015, as wind energy broke new records for monthly, weekly and half-hourly generation in January, providing enough energy to power almost nine million homes.

Brad Allen

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