Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s outlook shows renewables will be cheaper almost everywhere in just a few years.
Solar power, once so costly it only made economic sense in spaceships, is becoming cheap enough that it will push coal and even natural-gas plants out of business faster than previously forecast.
That’s the conclusion of a Bloomberg New Energy Finance outlook for how fuel and electricity markets will evolve by 2040. The research group estimated solar already rivals the cost of new coal power plants in Germany and the U.S. and by 2021 will do so in quick-growing markets such as China and India.
The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come.
“Costs of new energy technologies are falling in a way that it’s more a matter of when than if,” said Seb Henbest, a researcher at BNEF in London and lead author of the report.
The report also found that through 2040:
BNEF’s conclusions about renewables and their impact on fossil fuels are most dramatic. Electricity from photovoltaic panels costs almost a quarter of what it did in 2009 and is likely to fall another 66 percent by 2040. Onshore wind, which has dropped 30 percent in price in the past eight years, will fall another 47 percent by the end of BNEF’s forecast horizon.
That means even in places like China and India, which are rapidly installing coal plants, solar will start providing cheaper electricity as soon as the early 2020s.
“These tipping points are all happening earlier and we just can’t deny that this technology is getting cheaper than we previously thought,” said Henbest.
Coal will be the biggest victim, with 369 gigawatts of projects standing to be cancelled, according to BNEF. That’s about the entire generation capacity of Germany and Brazil combined.
Capacity of coal will plunge even in the U.S., where President Donald Trump is seeking to stimulate fossil fuels. BNEF expects the nation’s coal-power capacity in 2040 will be about half of what it is now after older plants come offline and are replaced by cheaper and less-polluting sources such as gas and renewables.
In Europe, capacity will fall by 87 percent as environmental laws boost the cost of burning fossil fuels. BNEF expects the world’s hunger for coal to abate starting around 2026 as governments work to reduce emissions in step with promises under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
“Beyond the term of a president, Donald Trump can’t change the structure of the global energy sector single-handedly,” said Henbest.
All told, the growth of zero-emission energy technologies means the industry will tackle pollution faster than generally accepted. While that will slow the pace of global warming, another $5.3 trillion of investment would be needed to bring enough generation capacity to keep temperature increases by the end of the century to a manageable 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the report said.
The data suggest wind and solar are quickly becoming major sources of electricity, brushing aside perceptions that they’re too expensive to rival traditional fuels.
By 2040, wind and solar will make up almost half of the world’s installed generation capacity, up from just 12 percent now, and account for 34 percent of all the power generated, compared with 5 percent at the moment, BNEF concluded.
Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world. In less than a decade, it’s likely to be the lowest-cost option almost everywhere.
In 2016, countries from Chile to the United Arab Emirates broke records with deals to generate electricity from sunshine for less than 3 cents a kilowatt-hour, half the average global cost of coal power. Now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Mexico are planning auctions and tenders for this year, aiming to drop prices even further. Taking advantage: Companies such as Italy’s Enel SpA and Dublin’s Mainstream Renewable Power, who gained experienced in Europe and now seek new markets abroad as subsidies dry up at home.
Since 2009, solar prices are down 62 percent, with every part of the supply chain trimming costs. That’s help cut risk premiums on bank loans, and pushed manufacturing capacity to record levels. By 2025, solar may be cheaper than using coal on average globally, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
“These are game-changing numbers, and it’s becoming normal in more and more markets,” said Adnan Amin, International Renewable Energy Agency ’s director general, an Abu Dhabi-based intergovernmental group. “Every time you double capacity, you reduce the price by 20 percent.”
Better technology has been key in boosting the industry, from the use of diamond-wire saws that more efficiently cut wafers to better cells that provide more spark from the same amount of sun. It’s also driven by economies of scale and manufacturing experience since the solar boom started more than a decade ago, giving the industry an increasing edge in the competition with fossil fuels.
The average 1 megawatt-plus ground mounted solar system will cost 73 cents a watt by 2025 compared with $1.14 now, a 36 percent drop, said Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis for New Energy Finance.
That’s in step with other forecasts.
The solar supply chain is experiencing “a Wal-Mart effect” from higher volumes and lower margins, according to Sami Khoreibi, founder and chief executive officer of Enviromena Power Systems, an Abu Dhabi-based developer.
The speed at which the price of solar will drop below coal varies in each country. Places that import coal or tax polluters with a carbon price, such as Europe and Brazil, will see a crossover in the 2020s, if not before. Countries with large domestic coal reserves such as India and China will probably take longer.
Coal industry officials point out that cost comparisons involving renewables don’t take into account the need to maintain backup supplies that can work when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow. When those other expenses are included, coal looks more economical, even around 2035, said Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association.
“All advanced economies demand full-time electricity,” Sporton said. “Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs.”
Even so, solar’s plunge in price is starting to make the technology a plausible competitor.
In China, the biggest solar market, will see costs falling below coal by 2030, according to New Energy Finance. The country has surpassed Germany as the nation with the most installed solar capacity as the government seeks to increase use to cut carbon emissions and boost home consumption of clean energy. Yet curtailment remains a problem, particularly in sunnier parts of the country as congestion on the grid forces some solar plants to switch off.
Sunbelt countries are leading the way in cutting costs, though there’s more to it than just the weather. The use of auctions to award power-purchase contracts is forcing energy companies to compete with each other to lower costs.
An August auction in Chile yielded a contract for 2.91 cents a kilowatt-hour. In September, a United Arab Emirates auction grabbed headlines with a bid of 2.42 cents a kilowatt-hour. Developers have been emboldened to submit lower bids by expectations that the cost of the technology will continue to fall.
“We’re seeing a new reality where solar is the lowest-cost source of energy, and I don’t see an end in sight in terms of the decline in costs,” said Enviromena’s Khoreibi.
The duties punish Chinese manufacturers of solar panels for allegedly selling them in the 27-nation EU below cost, a practice known as
Benchmark oil fell US$1.44 on Friday to US$91.53 per barrel in New York. Brent crude, which is used to price international varieties of crude, was down US$1.42 to US$106.38 in London. A decline would be the first after seven straight gains.
The main focus for traders was Spain, where the government predicted that the country’s recession will extend into next year and the region of Valencia said it needed help from the central government to pay its bills. But Germany was also a concern as finance officials there said growth in Europe’s strongest economy likely slowed somewhat in the second quarter. Meanwhile, in the UK, the government said it had to borrow more than expected last month.
Europe’s lengthy battle with a massive government debt crisis has affected industries in other countries, such as the U.S., that do business there. It also has cut demand for oil and other energy products.
Oil had risen about 10 per cent since July 10 on concerns that renewed tensions between the West and Iran could result in a disruption of oil supplies from the Persian Gulf.
“After the long run-up in prices we’ve had the last 10 days or so, I think (events in Europe) kind of reminded people that the demand picture is still not very rosy,” said Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research.
Meanwhile, natural gas prices hit the highest level since early January as businesses and consumers cranked up air conditioning systems to stay cool in the hot weather. Natural gas rose three cents to US$3.01 per 1,000 cubic feet.
The price of natural gas fell below US$2 for the first time in more than a decade in April after a production boom boosted inventories. At the same time, a mild winter kept demand in check. The cheaper prices prompted many utilities to switch to natural gas from coal to fuel their generators.
In other energy trading, heating oil fell 3 cents to US$2.91 per gallon and wholesale gasoline prices fell 3 cents to US$2.91 per gallon.
PRIME Minister Portia Simpson Miller has reiterated her administration’s commitment to the integrated use of renewable energy to develop the economy and eradicate poverty.
The prime minister gave the assurance at last Wednesday’s opening of the joint University of Technology (UTech)/German Embassy Sustainable Energy Conference and Exposition at the institution’s Main campus in St Andrew
“The choices we have to make are very clear. The current level of energy consumption is unsustainable,” she said, noting that the introduction of LNG as a part of a short to medium-term plan to diversify the energy supply mix is proceeding apace.
Simpson Miller told the gathering of stakeholders in the energy industry, ministry officials and members of the diplomatic corp at UTech’s Alfred Sangster auditorium that a small developing country such as Jamaica cannot expand its productive capacity, attract business and ensure the well-being of its people, with the unprecedented increases in the cost of energy annually.
“Next to debt-servicing, the cost of energy represents our greatest outflow of foreign exchange, and the outlook is for this to worsen,” she said.
She said the Government has set itself a very ambitious goal to see renewable energy sources making up 30 per cent of the national energy mix by the year 2030.
“We have embarked on a clear path for introducing and encouraging the development of the renewable energy sector,” Simpson Miller noted.
She said that she will also be closely monitoring energy consumption in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) under the Public Sector Energy Efficiency and Conservation Programme, which is in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, and is currently underway.
Under the programme, government ministries and agencies will have set targets by which they will be required to reduce their consumption. The OPM was one of the first government buildings to be retrofitted.
Germany’s Ambassador Edward Seaga Germany Government Inter-American Development Bank jamaica Office of the Prime Minister Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica Portia Simpson Miller Renewable energy Sustainable energy West Bengal University of Technology
Rooftop panels, which could last for 25 to 30 years, will now pay for themselves in just six or seven years, claim advocates. Until recently, the pay-back period was up to 20 years.
The cost of solar cells has fallen by as much as 49.5 per cent since the start of 2011, according to the PVX spot market index, which tracks the monthly wholesale costs of the industry.