Continually falling costs and tightening emissions regulations are set to drive huge growth in global renewable energy capacity despite flagging support for subsidies in Europe and the U.S., says a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
The BNEF report projects global spending on new power generation will be around $7.7 trillion through 2030, representing about 5,000 GW worth of added capacity. Of that, approximately two-thirds—around $5.1 trillion—will be renewables. This will continue a trend that began in the 2010s, when global spending on renewable generation surpassed fossil fuels for the first time in 2011.
Coal, oil, and gas-fired generation will account for only 1,073 GW of the total, and of that, the lion’s share will be gas-fired. Abundant fuel supplies, low costs, and favorable emissions profiles are expected to keep gas competitive, but coal will suffer as capacity shrinks everywhere but Asia.
Solar power will lead new renewable installations worldwide and in every region of the globe through 2030, the report said. Solar will see the greatest growth in Asia, with new rooftop and utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) capacity in that region—around 800 GW—exceeding natural gas and coal combined.
Significantly the report projects that growth in solar after 2020 will be driven by economics rather than subsidies and regulatory support, as falling manufacturing costs will soon make solar PV fully cost-competitive with other generation.
Globally, solar and wind will rise from 3% of total generation to 16% by 2030, while fossil fuels fall from 64% to 46%.
BNEF’s analysis appears to diverge from that of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which projects that most new capacity in the U.S. through 2040 will be gas-fired. The EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook for 2014 projects around 87 GW of new renewable capacity (counting both utility and distributed generation) in the U.S. by 2040, while the BNEF report projects about $800 billion in spending on renewables across the Americas by 2030.
—Thomas W. Overton, JD, is a POWER associate editor.