Solar power will become the world’s biggest source of electricity generation by 2035, accounting for almost 40 per cent of supplies, according to Norwegian renewables giant Statkraft.
The hydropower firm’s fourth annual assessment of global energy trends boosts solar predictions from last year’s report which envisaged photovoltaics would generate almost 30 per cent of electricity by 2040.
Solar production increased by 25 per cent last year, Statkraft said, faster than any other source. The tumbling production costs of PV panels, relatively short development time for projects and rising demand for renewables meant photovoltaics would dominate energy generation, Statkraft said.
The firm, which is fully owned by the Norwegian state, assessed what was required for energy-related emissions to fall sufficiently to hold global temperature rises within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. “A surprising finding in the report is the relatively small cost difference when steering towards 1.5°C instead of a 2°C pathway,” Statkraft said.
“If we aim for 1.5°C, the energy system costs will be well below 1 per cent of European GDP in 2050,” it said. The firm estimated the cost of a 2-3°C warming by 2100 would be between 5-10 per cent of global GDP.
Renewable sources would be increasingly attractive in transport, buildings and industry, resulting in energy-related emissions falling by 44 per cent by 2050, which was in line with a 2°C policy, Statkraft said.
Solar PV output would grow by 12.5 per cent a year while wind production would rise by 8.5 per cent, according to Statkraft. The International Energy Agency has forecast energy generated by photovoltaics to grow by between 10-12 per cent a year, while the wind energy sector’s contribution would rise between 6.6-8.9 per cent annually.
By 2050, Statkraft forecast that renewables would generate more than 80 per cent of global power as the lifetime costs for PV projects would fall by around 50 per cent and onshore wind by an estimated 40 per cent by 2050.
Statkraft forecast that electricity demand would more than double globally by 2050, growing by an average of 0.3 per cent annually amid the projected growth in population and economies.
Coal and oil demand faced being phased out entirely but natural gas would decline more slowly and be the main emitter by 2050, Statkraft said.
Henrik Sætness, Statkraft’s analysis chief, said the price of renewables were decreasing faster than most people anticipated. “In most countries, it is already profitable to install renewable capacity where new power is required,” the strategy boss said. “In areas with abundant sun and wind, building new renewable capacity will soon become more profitable than existing coal or gas power.”
Germany has been investing heavily in solar technology. Picture credit: Energy Reporters