A major report from IRENA (the International Renewable Energy Agency) says that renewable energy will be cheaper than energy generated by fossil fuels in just two years.
The reports states:
Electricity from renewables will soon be consistently cheaper than from fossil fuels. By 2020, all the power generation technologies that are now in commercial use will fall within the fossil fuel-fired cost range, with most at the lower end or even undercutting fossil fuels.
Experts and researchers predict that by 2020 investments in renewable energy in recent decades will start to pay off, ultimately leading to lower prices in the energy market and savings that can effectively be passed onto consumers.
And renewable tech has come along in leaps and bounds over the past few years, which means that even now some forms of renewable, such as wind power in the UK, are on parity with, if not already undercutting fossil fuels on price.
IRENA is the leading agency for renewable energy. With 150 member countries; IRENA is able to use their substantial, data and research leveraged across member countries to evidence the reductions in renewable energy prices.
Since 2010 IRENA states that the cost of generating energy from wind power has fallen by over 23% whilst the costs of generating solar power has fallen by over 73% across the same span of time.
The report predicts that these costs will continue to fall over the next few years bringing the cost of renewable for wind and solar PV projects to be around $0.03 per kWh by 2020.
ANALYSIS of Renewable Energy
So why is renewable energy becoming so cost competitive? What are the implications both socially, across borders and within the current energy mix?
The investment in renewable energy infrastructure is starting to pay off. We have had an energy mix that has been traditionally dominated by the fossil fuel industry – but what does that mean in practice?
Fossil fuels are dirty, dangerous and require a huge amount of energy to extract and process them. If you begin to analyse the fossil fuel journey from ground to power station you can begin to see how the infrastructure and costs add up. Fossil fuels are often in inaccessible places like the North Sea, remote wildernesses or sparsely populated areas, whereas renewable tech can be located right where it is required.
Fossil fuels also have to be transported through an intricate network of pipes, refining plants, tankers and even trucks. All of this infrastructure, and costs, adds up. Additionally the huge machinery of the fossil fuel industry needs to be maintained by an army of engineers, miners, drillers, experts, scientists and the support staff they need to function.
And once you have taken the fossil fuel out of the ground and com-busted it for energy…. You need to do it all over again in order to maintain the continual supply of energy to meet our needs.
With renewable energy power generation; all you have to do is build and maintain the plant close to the people who need its energy. The energy does not need to be mined, dug up, transported or com-busted. It simply needs to be harnessed.
And fossil fuels are deadly, not just to the ecosystems and the environment that provides us with a home… but also to the very individuals that take them out of the ground.
A global average of 100,000 people are sadly killed every year (rising massively in China) in accidents related to the mining of coal compared to less than 440 deaths as a result of the installation of solar rooftops.
The gap between those figures is unbelievably astonishing.
And its because of these statistics that renewable energy is taking off across the world, developing and developed nations alike. Across the African continent \
Renewable Energy – A Disruptor?
In the age of disruption renewables are also set to dominate the energy agenda and fuel global politics in a way like never before.
The falls in price of renewable energy will challenges and unseat the traditional energy leaders who have ruled the energy market with a tight grip.
Middle Eastern countries will have to adapt in order to survive as their customers move to renewable power generation and these changes may have effect on international politics. Once renewable energy is cheaper, Governments and Corporations will change policy to ensure they, or their citizens, get the best energy at the best price.
The switch to renewable energy will act as a feedback loop which will speed up the development of renewable powered energy projects and the decommissioning process for coal or fossil fuel powered plants.
2017 saw the UK alone generated over twice as much of its electricity requirements from wind and solar as from coal. The energy mix is changing across the world and in the US last year over 95% of the new energy capacity that was added consisted of solar power.
Renewable Energy Storage
The growth of battery tech has also enabled renewable energy to meet the fluctuating demands of that society has.
Tesla is at the forefront of developing and commercialising large scale battery installations to help provide both security and power to communities around the world.
A recent and well publicised mega battery is already proving its worth in South Australia, by providing almost instant power security when traditional use fossil fuel power plants fail.
The development of battery technology, both for domestic and commercial use around the world presents the next technological hurdle for scientists to overcome. Large scale use of high energy density batteries will enable engineers to develop powerful battery packs that can power our next generation of planes, trains and automobiles.
So, in time, can the world be 100% renewable? This short film from Ted-Ed highlights some of the challenges, but with the right approach and commitment to this goal it’s a transition that can potentially provide jobs, improved health, cleaner environments and healthier ecosystems, and one that will help to mitigate the problems of climate change as we move forward into the 21st century.
About the International Renewable Energy Agency – IRENA
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organisation that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, and serves as the principal platform for international co-operation, a centre of excellence, and a repository of policy, technology, resource and financial knowledge on renewable energy. IRENA promotes the widespread adoption and sustainable use of all forms of renewable energy, including bioenergy, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, solar and wind energy, in the pursuit of sustainable development, energy access, energy security and low-carbon economic growth and prosperity. www.irena.org