15 Oct Solar power likely to dominate the transition to clean energy says IEA report
Leading scientists worldwide believe that this decade is a critical time for nations to significantly accelerate the transition to clean renewable energy sources and tackle the current climate crisis.
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar energy now provides some of the cheapest electricity ever produced, and is likely to lead the rise in renewables over the coming years, based on existing conditions. The World Energy Outlook 2020 report published earlier this week explores the impact Covid-19 has had on our energy systems and provides insights and forecasts for the next decade. Scientists believe these next years represent a vital period for nations to convert towards renewables, a shift that they believe is necessary to control the climate challenge we face.
The pandemic has generated a 5% reduction in energy demands, while energy-associated carbon dioxide emissions have declined by 7% and energy investment experienced a further reduction by 18%, according to the IEA. One of the main scenario’s detailed by the IEA is based on policy goals and existing targets, with renewables taking a priority position, with solar being the focus. Forecasts suggest that renewable energy is likely to exceed coal as the primary means of producing electricity by 2025. The IEA highlights that solar energy is consistently cheaper than coal or gas fired power stations within many nations, with several solar projects providing some of the lowest electricity rates ever seen. The combination of solar and wind power is anticipated to rise to over 30% within the decade, rising from 8% in 2019. The IEA emphasises that studies clearly show that renewables was the only major energy source to continue growing during a turbulent year. If net-zero emission targets are adopted by 2050, it is likely the market will expand even quicker. Hydropower remains the dominant source in the renewable energy market, but it is solar that is experiencing the highest rate of growth.
Executive Director of the IEA Dr Fatih Birol believes that solar will become the leader in global electricity markets. Dr Birol explains that based on existing policy settings, solar is on track to make new records for deployment every year after 2022. Continued innovation in technology, combined with further support mechanisms have reduced financing costs associated with larger solar projects, which has also resulted in a decreasing output costs. The report highlights, however, that the growth of renewables requires an improvement of electricity grids. Without sufficient investment, grids could prevent a successful transformation in the power industry.
At present, global emissions are resurging at a lower rate than after the Great Recession in 2008, but there is little hope of a green and sustainable recovery. Despite the improvements in solar and wind, carbon emissions are anticipated to rise during 2021. Based on current trends, carbon dioxide emission will exceed 2019 levels within 2027 and continue to grow, according to the IEA.
The IEA believes that if the pandemic recovery happens in 2021, demand for coal will continue to decline. By 2040, coal’s share of the energy mix is forecast to drop below 20% for the first time since the Industrial Revolution. Studies show that demand for natural gas is continuing to rise, particularly in Asia
Oil continues to be volatile since the price of a barrel of oil dropped below zero during Covid-19. Dr Birol believes the phase of global oil demand growth will likely come to an end in the next decade, but points out that unless there is a major change in government policies, this rapid decline may not happen. Dr Birol explains that based on existing policy settings, a global economic recovery could see oil demand levels rising back to a similar figure before the pandemic.
Covid-19 has had a significant impact on communities in the poorest regions of the world. Years of increased access to electricity within Sub-Saharan Africa has now declined. The IEA report is urging for a major acceleration in clean energy investment to drive economic growth and jobs, and continue to reduce emissions. The IEA highlights that only several nations, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand and South Korea, along with the EU have adopted this approach.
Only accelerated changes to our structure in the way we generate and consume energy can transform the emissions trend for the long term. Dr Birol reiterates that Governments have the ability and the responsibility to take decisive action and accelerate the clean energy transition and put our world on a path to reach climate targets, including net-zero emissions.