Huge declines in the cost of solar and wind power over the last years unlocked an energy reserve that can meet world demand 100 times over with the current technology and most is already economic compared to fossil fuels, according to London-based think-tank Carbon Tracker's new report published Friday.
The report, entitled The Sky's the Limit, found that the solar power's economic potential has been unleashed by a dramatic drop in costs by an average of 18% every year since 2010. The solar power is growing faster than any previous energy technology at this size with an average annual rise of 39% in the last decade by nearly doubling capacity every 2 years.
Wind, following a similar trajectory, saw annually 17% capacity increase over the last decade.
The world has the potential to capture more than 5,8 million terawvatthours of electricity annually from solar alone while 900,000 teravathours from onshore and offshore wind with the current technology.
The total potential to generate 6,7 million terawatthours of electricity annually is already 100 times over the world's 65,000 terawatthours of energy consumption in 2019, the report said.
However, the world uses only 0.01% of the potential of solar and 0.16% of wind energy.
- Fossil electricity to be a thing of past by 2050
As the falling costs are driving efficiencies and advances such as better panels and higher turbines which reduce costs further, financial markets are waking up to the opportunity, said in the report.
Last year, clean energy companies raised more money through public offerings than fossil fuel companies for the first time, the report said.
Carbon Tracker said in the report that the key barrier to change is now political but growth is likely to continue as more countries recognize the potential and the opportunity is huge.
"By 2030, all the solar and over half of the wind is likely to be economic and these resources, at the current growth rates, will push fossil fuels out of the electricity sector by the mid-2030s while they could power the world displacing fossil fuels entirely and producing cheap, clean energy to support new technologies by 2050," forecasted in the report.
Economics, climate change and energy independence are seen as the main drivers of the change.
"We are entering a new epoch, comparable to the industrial revolution. Energy will tumble in price and become available to millions more, particularly in low-income countries. Geopolitics will be transformed as nations are freed from expensive imports of coal, oil and gas. Clean renewables will fight catastrophic climate change and free the planet from deadly pollution," Kingsmill Bond, Carbon Tracker’s energy strategist and report lead author, was quoted as saying.
- Africa with 39% of global potential could become superpower
The report identified 4 key groups of countries based on their potential to harness solar and wind resources relative to their domestic consumption.
The first category of superabundant includes countries with potential at least 1,000 times greater than demand which are mainly low income countries with low energy use in sub-Saharan Africa. Africa, with 39% of the global potential, could become a renewables superpower, the report said.
The category countries with abundant potential includes those which could meet at least 100 times greater than their demand like Australia, Chile and Morocco.
The third category named replete with potential at least 10 times greater than demand Countries like China, India and the US have enough renewable potential to satisfy their domestic needs, according to the report.
The countries in the stretched have the potential less than 10 times over domestic demand and Japan, Korea and much of Europe face tough political choices about how to tap their renewable resources mosty effectively, said in the study.
"The world does not need to exploit its entire renewable resource, just 1% is enough to replace all fossil fuel usage," Harry Benham, report co-author and chairman of thinktank Ember-Climate, said. "Each year we are fuelling the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilized sunshine in coal, oil and gas while we use just 0.01% of daily sunshine.”
By Nuran Erkul Kaya