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Renewable Energy Is Set To Overtake Coal, Per IEA

By The Daily Upside – Oct 14, 2020 at 9:08AM

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And solar is in the spotlight

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Time to grab your Ray-Bans.

Yesterday the International Energy Agency released its annual World Energy Outlook. 

Over the next decade, renewables are expected to overtake coal as the most common method of generating electricity.
Solar + Wind

Image Credit: Getty Images.

What To Know

In the so-called "Stated Policies Scenario," which assumes COVID-19 is gradually brought under control next year and announced energy policies are met, solar will lead the charge forward.

A few quick-hitter statistics:

  • Hydro-electric plants will continue to represent the largest source of renewable energy, but solar will account for 80% of the growth in global electricity generation.
  • By 2030, the combined share of solar + wind will rise to 30%, up from just 8% in 2019.

The Economics: While solar has its feel-good properties, the surge in popularity comes down to dollars and cents.  For utility-scale projects built this year, the average cost of electricity over the lifetime of the plant (known as the levelized cost of electricity), was between $35 to $55 per megawatt-hour in the world's largest markets.  A decade ago it was $300. 

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said, "I see solar becoming the new king of the world's electricity markets...based on today's policy settings, it's on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022."

The Fallout
Solar is throwing shade in coal's direction.  In most countries, solar panels are now a cheaper source of energy than coal or natural gas plants.

Over the last four years, 145 coal-burning units at 75 power plants have been idled in the U.S.  According to Bloomberg, it's the fastest decline in coal-fuel capacity during any four-year stretch.

The Takeaway: Overall, coal's share of the global power supply is set to fall from 37% last year to 28% by 2030.  By 2040, coal's share will fall below 20% for the first time since the industrial revolution.  The silver lining-more coal leftover for stockings.

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