Fossil fuel dominance to end in 2050
Nearly half of the world’s energy will be supplied by wind and solar sources in 2050, with coal demand set to collapse everywhere except Asia and peak in the mid-2020s.
The predictions are published in Bloomberg NEF’s New Energy Outlook report, which describes the middle of this century as “ending the era of fossil fuel dominance” in the power sector.
It forecasts wind and solar to outstrip coal-fired electricity by 2032, and for zero-carbon sources to account for the two-thirds of power currently supplied by fossil fuels in 2050.
Global energy demand is set to rise by 62% during that time, partly thanks to a large increase in air-conditioning, but the intensity of electricity consumption per unit of GDP is set to fall 41% by then.
“Growth in power demand increasingly decouples from GDP,” the report states. “We move from two-thirds fossil fuels in 2018 to two-thirds zero-carbon energy by 2050.
“For wind and solar that’s ’50-by-50’, with these technologies supplying almost 50% of world electricity, ending the era of fossil fuel dominance in the power sector.”
The research combines expertise from over 65 market and technology specialists in 12 countries to provide a unique view of how electrical systems will evolve in the coming decades.
Solar energy is set to see the most growth, rising from 2% of the world’s electricity generation today to 22% in 2050, with battery technology helping to drive demand.
The report forecasts $13.3trn of investment in new power generation assets by 2050, with 77% of this going to renewables. Wind attracts $5.3trn, solar $4.2trn, and $843 goes to batteries.
Electric vehicles will account for 9% of the world’s electricity needs by 2050, with this rising to 24% in countries like the UK.
And more than two-thirds of today’s population is forecast to live in countries where solar and wind or both are the cheapest source of new electricity generation.
“Just five years ago, coal and gas dominated that picture,” the report states. “By 2030, new wind and solar ultimately get cheaper than running existing coal or gas plants almost everywhere.”
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM