Climate Action

Wind and solar will reach 50% of global generation by 2050

Analysts are now predicting that wind and solar power will reach 50 percent of all electricity generation by 2050.

  • 21 June 2018
  • Adam Wentworth

Analysts are now predicting that wind and solar power will reach 50 percent of all electricity generation by 2050.

Steep cost reductions coupled with cheap batteries will make the drive towards renewable energy unstoppable.

65 researchers from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) pooled together data on the evolving cost of clean energy technologies across the world.

Their analysis shines a light on the vital role that falling costs in battery storage will have in the future. Lithium-ion batteries have already dropped in price by 80 percent since 2010, and this is anticipated to continue with the attending growth in electric vehicles.

BNEF sees battery capacity attracting $548 billion by 2050 with the majority taking place on the electricity grid level.

Seb Henbest, lead author of the study, said: “The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear.”

High levels of battery investment will be matched by an estimated $8.4 trillion for wind and solar by 2050. This will boost total renewable generation in major markets; 87 percent all electricity in Europe, 62 percent in China, and over 50 percent in the United States.

This astonishing growth will be to the detriment of coal-fired power, which could fall from 38 percent to 11 percent by mid-century.

Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at BNEF, said: “Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run. Beaten on cost by wind and PV for bulk electricity generation, and batteries and gas for flexibility, the future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables – coal gets squeezed out.”

These high projections for the power sector are still insufficient to limit global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius. However, BNEF’s work assumes that no new government policies will be put in place.