According to New Energy Outlook 2019, a report recently released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, deep declines in costs of solar, wind and battery technologies will result in nearly half of the grid powered by renewables by 2050. Further good news is that in approximately two-thirds of the world, solar and wind now represent the least expensive option for new power-generating capacity. And with electricity demand expected to increase 62% by 2050, the global generating capacity will almost triple from 2018 to 2050, resulting in $4.2 trillion in investments in solar.
Energy generated from renewables to undercut that generated by coal and gas
Solar, wind and battery technology will continue to enjoy price reductions through 2030. The growth in renewables overall will mean that clean energy generation surpasses that of energy generated from fossil fuels by 2030, leading most nations on a path toward keeping world temperature increases to 2 degrees or less. This, however, is where the bad news comes in. The report indicates that a lot more has to be done beyond 2030 to keep the temperature increase at that 2 degree level.
Seb Henbest, the director of BNEF’s New Energy Outlooks said that governments need to do two things. “Ensure their markets are friendly to the expansion of low-cost wind, solar and batteries, and the other is to back research and early deployment of these other technologies to that they can be harnessed at scale from the 2030s onwards.” In addition to generating electricity from renewable sources, transportation and heating should come from renewables. The report contends that electrifying heat and transport would lower economy-wide emissions, saving 126Gt of CO2 between 2018 and 2050.
Solar soaring in the United States
The recently released U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie and Solar Energy Industries Association indicates that more solar was installed in the first quarter of this year than in any other quarter in the U.S. With the 2.7GW installed in Q1, the report forecasts a 25% growth in 2019 over last year, with more than 13GWdc overall.
The largest share during the first quarter came from the utility sector, with 1.6GW coming on line, making up 61% of PV capacity installed. With 4.7GW of large-scale projects in the pipeline, 2019 should be a very strong year, with 46% growth expected over last year.
The residential sector in the U.S. experienced growth as well, but only 6%. The commercial, industrial and public sector was down, which was attributed to state-level policy reforms in strong markets including California, Massachusetts and Minnesota. Report authors indicate that new community solar mandates in New York, Maryland, Illinois and New Jersey will help reinvigorate the segment beginning in 2020.
Solar decrease in India
According to Mercom India Research’s newly released Q1 2019 India Solar Market Update, rooftop installations fell 33% in the past year, after four quarters of solid growth. The downturn was attributed to difficulty faced by installers in getting approvals due to general elections. The report estimates solar installations in India to reach 71GW by the end of 2022, which is nearly 30% lower than the 100GW target set by the government. Of course, with the right policies in place, the rate of installations could come closer to the target.
The great solar potential in Africa
The German Solar Association and the Becquerel Institute analyzed the solar markets in ten African countries and determined that the solar potential in Africa is large. At the moment only about 5GW is installed on the entire continent, and the report estimates a need for about 2000TWh of solar to fully decarbonize the energy consumption by 2040. The study identified many obstacles to achieving this, however. Inadequate grid infrastructure is one problem, but with off-grid solar and energy storage solutions, electricity can be brought in without expanding the electric grid. Government subsidy programs and international organizations are doing their part to expand solar in Africa, but smart business models are needed to help solar go mainstream in Africa, as it has in other parts of the world.
Working toward a cleaner world
Certainly more is needed in order to cap the increase in global temperature to two degrees, but the good news is that we have an increasing number of people around the world working on solutions. Eleven million people were employed in renewable energy worldwide in 2018, according to the report Renewable Energy and Jobs—Annual Review from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), up from 10.3 million in 2017. The good news is that the renewable energy supply chain is expanding to new areas. Whereas the markets used to be China, the United States and the European Union, emerging alongside China as key exporters of PV panels are East and Southeast Asian. Jobs also grew in the Latin American countries of Brazil and Colombia. While the solar industry employs the most people in the renewable energy workforce, all clean energy areas are making a difference. Renewables are beginning to help achieve climate goals, while they are also becoming a major economic driver across the globe, and that is very good news.