Bloomberg New Energy Finance has just published its 2017 New Energy Outlook, and the future looks rosy for renewables. That's welcome news considering the gloomy scenarios painted by some energy observers after President Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
In fact, the news is so good that it's a little hard to believe -- and sure enough, there is some bad news in the new report. But first, let's get to the good stuff.
That level of objection to Trump Administration policy should not be a surprise, considering that the U.S. is (still) a democracy, and the current occupant of the White House lost the popular vote by a significant margin.
In other words, the Trump withdrawal did nothing to hold back American leadership on the granular end of the scale. If anything, the president has handed the U.S. business community a golden opportunity to promote the strength of the corporate social responsibility movement along with capitalism, innovation, and other conventional aspects of the U.S. economic sector.
Now, let's turn to that report.
Solar Power Will Kill Coal Sooner Than You Think
According to the report, the cost of solar will compete with new coal power plants in those countries by 2021 -- and solar is already competitive with coal in the important German and U.S. markets.
The effect on global fossil fuel emissions is expected to be significant:
The scenario suggests green energy is taking root more quickly than most experts anticipate. It would mean that global carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuels may decline after 2026, a contrast with the International Energy Agency’s central forecast, which sees emissions rising steadily for decades to come.
The cost of offshore wind farms, until recently the most expensive mainstream renewable technology, will slide 71 percent, making turbines based at sea another competitive form of generation.
Energy storage provides more opportunities to introduce solar and wind on a distributed generation basis in addition to utility scale operations.
Investment in mobile energy storage -- aka electric vehicle batteries -- is also part of the rapid fossil emissions reduction scenario.
Bloomberg does not particularly highlight the emergence of renewable hydrogen as an energy storage option for both mobile and stationary uses, but that could also become a factor if R&D continues apace.
That's somewhat problematic considering the mounting evidence that fugitive methane emissions occur all along the natural gas supply chain. Gas storage facilities and air quality and water quality impacts related to drilling operations are a particular cause for concern, as are earthquakes and other unforeseen consequences of the shale gas boom.
BNEF’s conclusions about renewables and their impact on fossil fuels are most dramatic. Electricity from photovoltaic panels costs almost a quarter of what it did in 2009 and is likely to fall another 66 percent by 2040. Onshore wind, which has dropped 30 percent in price in the past eight years, will fall another 47 percent by the end of BNEF’s forecast horizon.
That promise was already known to be an empty one among energy analysts, and judging by the latest opinion polls it looks like the general public has also begun to realize that most if not all of the Trump campaign was smoke and mirrors.
Trump has doggedly pursued pro-coal rhetoric during his tenure in the White House, but his own Energy Secretary is a dedicated champion of renewables. The "mystery" grid study notwithstanding, Energy Department research dollars continue to flow into advanced clean energy technology.
Meanwhile, power companies have continued to announce new coal plant shut-downs.
Here's Bloomberg on the topic:
Capacity of coal will plunge even in the U.S., where President Donald Trump is seeking to stimulate fossil fuels. BNEF expects the nation’s coal-power capacity in 2040 will be about half of what it is now after older plants come offline and are replaced by cheaper and less-polluting sources such as gas and renewables.
That's bad news for coal miners, but it's a good opportunity for the private sector to roll up its sleeves and find ways to bring new jobs to communities that are left holding the short end of the stick.
Although the world’s power sector emissions reach a peak within a decade, the rate of decline in emissions is not nearly enough for the climate. A further $5.3 trillion investment in 3.9TW of zero - carbon capacity will be needed place the power sector on a 2°C trajectory.
The survey includes any company of any size that uses energy. It's designed to help promote more efficient national policies for clean energy investment, and to showcase best practices and models for success.
Image (screenshot): via Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes. She is currently Deputy Director of Public Information for the County of Union, New Jersey. Views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect agency policy.