Employees clean solar modules that will be exported to Sudan on October 16, 2020 at a factory in Ji an, Jiangxi Province, China.
Deng Heping | Visual China Group | Getty Images
LONDON – Solar and wind power could completely replace fossil fuels and become a global source of electricity by 2050, a new report says.
The Carbon Tracker think tank report released on Friday also predicted that if wind and solar power continued on their current growth trajectory, they would displace fossil fuels from the electricity sector by the mid-2030s.
Current technology gave the world the ability to generate 6,700 petawatt hours (PWh) of electricity from solar and wind energy, the researchers said – more than 100 times the global energy consumption in 2019.
Despite the potential to generate enormous amounts of energy, according to the report, only 0.7 PWh of solar energy and 1.4 PWh of wind energy were generated in 2019.
However, the authors were confident that the continuing decline in costs would lead to exponential growth in the generation of solar and wind power. With an annual growth rate of 15%, the sun and wind would generate all of the world’s electricity by the mid-2030s and supply all of the world’s energy by 2050.
The report found that the cost of solar energy had decreased by an average of 18% per year since 2010, while the price of wind power had decreased by an average of 9% per year over the same period.
According to the report, solar energy had grown an average of 39% per year over the past decade and had almost doubled every two years. Meanwhile, wind power capacity had increased 17% per year, with advances such as better panels and taller turbines helping to reduce costs.
Rise in steam and exhaust gas from the RWE Weisweiler coal-fired power plant on February 11, 2021 near Inden.
Lukas Schulze | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Nevertheless, there is still skepticism about the likelihood of an imminent so-called energy transition. Some climatologists believe that it is already “practically impossible” to limit the temperature rise of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a fundamental goal set in the Paris Agreement.
Carroll Muffett, executive director of the nonprofit center for international environmental law, told CNBC earlier this month that “embedded power structures and continued support for dying industries” would thwart progress in the transition to renewable energy sources.
And while many global companies are pledging to help in efforts to slow climate change, others are doubling their funding for fossil fuels.
Of the 60 largest banks in the world, 33 increased their funding for the fossil fuel sector between 2016 and 2020. This emerges from a CNBC analysis of the Banking on Climate Chaos 2021 report.
Carbon Tracker researchers identified four key groups of countries based on their potential to use wind and solar energy to meet domestic demand.
Low-income, low-energy countries in sub-Saharan Africa were labeled “overabundant,” meaning they had the potential to generate at least 1,000 times more energy than their domestic demand.
Africa in particular has great potential in implementing renewable energy infrastructure, the report said. Researchers said the region could become a “renewable energy superpower”.
Those with the potential to use at least 100 times more energy than demand were labeled “abundant” countries. Australia, Chile and Morocco, which had well-developed infrastructure and governance, were classified as “abundant”.
China, India and the US, which had the potential to produce enough to meet their domestic demand, were “full” while Japan, South Korea and much of Europe were “stretched” when it came to using their renewable resources effectively use.