How renewables could kill fossil electricity by 2035: new report
Solar and wind power has the potential to meet 100 times the global demand for electricity, and the costs of these renewables are collapsing so quickly that fossil fuels could be completely excluded from electricity generation. by 2035, according to a report by a UK think tank.
The report, from Carbon Tracker, a London-based nonprofit, reveals that solar and wind have the potential to generate thousands of petawatt-hours (PWh) of electricity per year, while current global demand is growing. electricity is only 27 PWh. In addition, Carbon Tracker shows that if humans chose to get all of their energy from solar energy alone, the necessary land would occupy only 450,000 km2, or only 0.3% of the total land area of the world, and less than the space currently occupied by the operations of the fossil fuel industry.
This option should not be necessary, as wind farms and other renewables are also producing an increasing share of the world’s energy capacity. As Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson shows in his book 100% clean and renewable energy and storage for everything, global energy demand could be met by using 0.2% of the area available for solar power and 0.5% for the spacing between onshore wind turbines.
Carbon Tracker uses the results to claim that “the era of fossil fuels is over”. At current growth rates, he says, solar and wind power could exclude fossil fuels from global electricity markets by the mid-2030s and, by 2050, replace fossil fuels entirely.
“We are entering a new era, comparable to the industrial revolution,” said Kingsmill Bond, senior Carbon Tracker strategist and author of the report. “Energy will drop and become available to millions more, especially in low-income countries. Geopolitics will be transformed as nations are freed from costly imports of coal, oil and gas. Clean renewables will fight catastrophic climate change and free the planet from deadly pollution. “
The results shouldn’t come as a total surprise. Last year, the International Energy Agency found that solar power was now the cheapest electricity “in history” in most major countries. The International Renewable Energy Agency says the cost of electricity from solar PV has fallen 82% over the past decade, while the costs of onshore and offshore wind have fallen by 39% and 29 % respectively.
Yet today, people use only a fraction of the renewable energy they have. The report notes that only 0.01% of the world’s solar potential is used, and only 0.16% of wind potential is exploited. While many parts of the world have access to abundant solar and wind power, in some areas these resources are overabundant: Sub-Saharan African countries, such as Namibia, Botswana, and Ethiopia, have 1,000 times solar potential. higher than their electricity consumption. . Indeed, Africa, Australia and South America have “enormous technical potential in relation to energy demand,” the report says.
The report helps strengthen the case for global energy decarbonization plans, including President Joe Biden’s plan to make U.S. electricity generation carbon-free by 2035.
Harry Benham, co-author of the report and chair of the Ember climate think tank, said: “The world does not need to harness all of its renewable resource – only 1% is enough to replace all fossil fuel consumption. Each year, we fuel the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilized sun in coal, oil and gas while we only use 0.01% of daily sunlight. “
The findings also serve as a reminder that as the economic potential of renewables increases, investing in fossil fuels becomes an increasingly risky prospect: Last month, Carbon Tracker released a note showing that $ 640 billion in investments in fossil fuel companies had lost $ 123 billion in value. between 2012 and 2020.
You can download the Carbon Tracker report “The Sky’s the Limit” here.