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Solar Shines in BNEF’s Latest New Energy Outlook

June 19, 2017

By Peter Bronski

Last week Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) released the 2017 edition of its perennially anticipated New Energy Outlook (NEO), an annually updated long-term economic forecast for the world’s power sector. More than 65 analysts contributed to this year’s edition. The NEO accounts for both average and peak demand, deploying least-cost technologies to meet that demand. The result, as BNEF notes in the NOE preamble, highlights “the changing fundamentals of renewable and conventional energy, how these may shape the future energy landscape, and what opportunities and risks may arise for market participants.”

At least one thing is abundantly clear. Renewable energy technologies, and especially solar PV, shine in this year’s report. A few highlights:

Renewables claim 72% of global investment. BNEF forecasts $10.2 trillion in new power generation capacity through 2040. Of that, 72% goes to renewables, especially wind and solar. Solar garners $2.8 trillion in investment, growing an average 2.3% annually. In the Americas, solar investment outpaces that of wind.

Solar and wind account for half of installed capacity. By 2040 solar and wind will together account for 48% of global installed capacity and 34% of generation, compared to 12% and 5% respectively today. Installed solar capacity grows 14x, bolstered by batteries and other sources of flexibility that enable higher percentages of renewables on the grid.

Solar’s levelized cost drops an additional 66%. Solar PV’s levelized cost of new electricity will drop 66% globally by 2040, such that a dollar will buy 2.3x as much solar then as it does today.

Consumer-driven solar PV becomes more prominent. Rooftop solar will become much more prominent in the global energy mix by 2040, though the degree varies widely by country, from 24% of electricity generation in Australia to 5% in the U.S.

Solar and wind outcompete coal. By 2030 solar PV and wind energy undercut existing coal plants on an operational basis in some countries, prompting accelerated renewables deployment and, in tandem, hastening the already-in-motion ongoing decline of coal (where fuel switching to natural gas is having a profound impact). In the U.S., power sector coal consumption drops 45% by 2040 as coal plants retire and are replaced by cheaper natural gas and renewables.

U.S. power sector 2030 emissions 30% below 2005 levels. By 2030, U.S. power sector emissions will be 30% below 2005 levels, coming very close to fulfilling the Clean Power Plan’s 32% target, even in the absence of federal policy. Similarly, the U.S. pledge in the Paris international climate accord targeted economy-wide emissions reductions of 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

To download the full executive summary of BNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2017, click here.

Image credit: iStock | yangna

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