Global Renewable Energy Will Grow, But Will Not Totally Eliminate Coal Use

Global Renewable Energy Will Grow, But Will Not Totally Eliminate Coal Use
Solar panels Kevin Dooley / Flickr CC BY 2.0

Countries around the world will be spending $8 trillion in the next 25 years on renewable energy as more gets concerned and responsible on global warming and climate change, Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) said.


The London research group said in its annual forecast that investments alone on solar systems worldwide will surge $3.7 trillion between now and 2040. Over half of this will be in the form of rooftop and other local PV systems, which meant consumers and businesses will now be able to generate their own electricity and supply their own needs without going through an energy utility firm.

The solar panels, which are actually already rapidly getting cheaper, can help those without electricity access power for the very first time. Solar panels placed on rooftops will grow 17 percent to 1.8TW in 2040 from 104GW in 2014. The report said a 47-percent crash in the cost of solar projects per megawatt will enable this as conversion efficiencies improve and the industry moves to new materials and more streamlined production methods.

The BNEF analysis likewise showed household and business decisions on solar PV and storage will be the dominant force that will push many of the changes in the power system from a utility-scale, centralized system to one that is increasingly distributed and focused on the consumer.

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The report said global power generation between 2015 and 2040 will receive a $12.2 trillion investment, where 22 percent will occur in the OECD countries and majority, or 78 percent, will be in the emerging economies. Of that total figure, two-thirds will be put into renewables, $1.6 trillion into coal, $1.2 trillion into gas and $1.3 trillion into nuclear generation.

Despite the good news, albeit the seeming progress towards a decarbonized power system, “coal will continue to play a big part in world power,” Michael Liebreich, chairman of the advisory board at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said. With this, carbon emissions will continue to rise for another decade and a half, “unless further radical policy action is taken.”

The report said that in 2040, power-related emissions, instead of going down, will still be 13 percent higher compared to the present. This is because fossil fuels will still account for 44 percent of world generation even in 2040.

“Greater burning of coal by developing countries will more than offset the substitution of coal-firing by gas and renewables in developed economies. World emissions will then fall back, but only to 14.8Gt in 2040, still 13% above 2014 levels,” the report said.

Global electricity generation is projected to grow 56 percent between 2014 and 2040. As such, global power sector emissions will likewise jump to a peak of 15.3 gigatonnes in 2029.