BNEF Report: As Prices Fall, Renewables Rise Worldwide

A new report from BloombergNEF (BNEF) predicts about half of the world’s power will come from renewable resources, including solar and wind, by 2050. The group’s New Energy Outlook 2019, released June 18, noted the trend will be driven by falling prices for solar, wind, and battery storage, along with trillions of dollars of investments in renewable energy projects.

BNEF said hydro and nuclear power will provide more than 20% of the world’s power by mid-century, but global coal-fired electricity production will continue to plummet, with its share of worldwide power generation dropping from 37% today to 12% in 2050.

The BNEF report said wind, solar, and battery storage will enable the power generation industry to meet its share of emission cuts required by the Paris climate agreement, at least until 2030, but other technologies will be needed to continue that trend, according to Matthias Kimmel, the report’s lead analyst.

“To get emissions where we want them to be, we need something else,” Kimmel said.

Geothermal and Fuel Cells

Those other renewable power sources could include geothermal, fuel cells, and systems that capture energy from the world’s oceans, though the report said it’s unclear whether any of those technologies would be economical on a large scale. BNEF also noted other low-emission generating systems could be developed over the next decade.

The report predicted global power demand will rise 62% by 2050 from today’s levels. Investment in new power generation projects to cover that demand will reach $13.3 trillion during the period, with investments in renewables accounting for about 77% of that total, including $5.3 trillion for wind power, and $4.2 trillion for solar.

The group said solar and wind power already are the cheapest power generation sources in two-thirds of the world, and would “undercut commissioned coal and gas almost everywhere” by 2030.

BNEF in a news release said new power generation technologies could help ensure the power sector is in line with efforts to keep global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6F).

Europe Leads Move Away from Coal, Gas

The report noted that Europe would receive 92% of its power from renewable resources by 2050. It said the U.S. would receive about 43% of its power from renewables by mid-century. The report said China and India, two countries still building new coal-fired power plants, would have about two-thirds of their power generation from renewables, mostly solar and wind by 2050.

BNEF noted that “Coal continues to grow in Asia, but collapses everywhere else and peaks globally in 2026. Gas-fired power grows just 0.6% per year to 2050, supplying system back-up and flexibility rather than bulk electricity in most markets.”

Darrell Proctor is a POWER associate editor (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).