Report: Solar and wind can meet global energy demand 100 times over

The tumbling costs of wind and solar can unlock demand that could power the world 100 times over, with a new report from think tank Carbon Tracker finding that renewables are set to push fossil fuels out of the electricity mix by the mid-2030s.

Report: Solar and wind can meet global energy demand 100 times over

Solar costs have fallen by an average of 18% every year since 2010 with wind prices down 9% annually

A new report from Carbon Tracker finds that 60% of the world’s solar resource and 15% of its wind resource are economically comparable with local fossil fuel generation. As costs fall further, fossil fuels could be pushed out of the electricity mix by the 2030s, at which point all solar technology and more than half of wind will be economically preferable compared to other forms of electricity generation.

By 2050, wind and solar would displace fossil fuels entirely in supporting technologies such as electric vehicles and green hydrogen production. Falling costs could see renewables create energy demand that would power the world 100 times over.

The report notes that global energy consumption in 2019 sat at 65 Petawatt hours (PWh). Currently, solar alone has the potential to capture more than 5,800 PWh annually – as much power in a single year as could be generated by burning all known fossil fuel reserves – while onshore and offshore wind would account for 900PWh annually.

Solar costs have fallen by an average of 18% every year since 2010 and the technology is growing faster than any technology at this size, with annual increases of 39%, nearly doubling capacity every two years. In comparison, wind prices have fallen by an average of 9% while capacity has grown 17% a year.

Utility-scale solar PV and onshore wind are now the cheapest forms of new-build energy generation across two-thirds of the global population, according to analysis from BloombergNEF (BNEF).

The report adds that Africa has the potential of becoming a renewables superpower, account for 39% of the global installation potential. However, the UK is more likely to focus on offshore due to land constraints.

Carbon Tracker’s energy strategist Kingsmill Bond said: “We are entering a new epoch, comparable to the industrial revolution. Energy will tumble in price and become available to millions more, particularly in low-income countries.

“Geopolitics will be transformed as nations are freed from expensive imports of coal, oil and gas. Clean renewables will fight catastrophic climate change and free the planet from deadly pollution.”

UK boon

In related news, a new report by renewable energy developer and operator SSE Renewables has claimed that the four new windfarms located in the Scottish Highlands will add £485m to the UK economy.

The analysis claims that the Strathy North, Achany, Gordonbush and Gordonbush Extension wind farms will deliver £327m to the Scottish economy, with the Scottish Highlands benefitting from £131m across the lifetime of the projects.

SSE Renewables’ managing director Jim Smith said: “Millions of pounds and hundreds of jobs have been supported and retained in the local, regional and national economies and – crucially – the benefits will continue throughout the projects’ operational lives.

“Through our direct actions and that of our supply chain, we create local jobs and make a positive contribution to Scottish and UK GDP. SSE Renewables is part of these Highland communities for the long-term and this report lays out our ongoing commitment to them – to share in the value we’ve created.”

Matt Mace

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    Midnight on a cold windless night in January, and reliant on wind and solar!!!
    Not for me, please.
    Electrical storage is simply very difficult and expensive (we do not have the geography).
    Nuclear generation makes the non-scientific world a little uncomfortable,(not me, ex35 years scientist at Harwell)
    But if fossil fuels are out, only nuclear remains as a major power source totally under our control.
    If fossil fuel is out, nuclear must be in.
    Richard Phillips7

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