Falling green energy costs 'to stop' fossil fuel growth

2017-02-04 08:37
Solar panels.  (AP)

Solar panels. (AP)

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London - Falling costs of renewable energy technologies could lead to a halt in the growth of global demand for environmentally harmful fossil fuels, according to a new report.

Released on Thursday, the report - co-authored by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the UK-based think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative, showed that cheaper electric vehicles and solar technology, and their increasing use globally could stop growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020.

The study said that growth in electric vehicles (EVs) alone could lead to two million barrels of oil per day (mbd) being displaced by 2025, which is the same volume that caused the oil price collapse in 2014-15.

"This scenario sees 16 mbd of oil demand displaced by 2040 and 25 mbd by 2050, in contrast to the continuous growth in oil demand expected by industry," it added.

By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050, when it could displace 25 million barrels of oil per day, according to the research.

"Our scenarios assume that EVs" could be cheaper than conventional ICEs (Internal Combustion Engines) by 2020, according to the research. 

Solar power costs plummeting

The cost of solar has fallen 85% in seven years, and the report finds panels could supply 23% of global power generation by 2040 and 29% by 2050, entirely phasing coal out and leaving natural gas with just a one percent share.

Luke Sussams, senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said that electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers "that the fuel industry consistently underestimates".

James Leaton, head of research at Carbon Tracker, added: "There are a number of low-carbon technologies about to achieve critical mass decades before some companies expect."

The power of low-carbon technology suggests that fossil fuels could lose 10% of market share to PV and EVs within a single decade.

"A 10% loss of power market share caused the collapse of the US coal mining industry and Europe’s five major utilities lost more than $100b in value from 2008 to 2013 because they were unprepared for eight percent in renewable power, of which solar PV was a big part," the report highlighted.

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