Renewables are set to overtake coal this decade as the world’s favorite fuel to generate electricity, the International Energy Agency says. Solar photovoltaics are now cheaper than plants fired by coal and natural gas in most nations, the Paris-based researchers concludes in its annual report on global energy trends. Those cheaper costs along with government efforts to slash climate-damaging emissions will increasingly push coal off the grid and give renewables 80% of the market for new power generation by 2030, the IEA says.
The findings mark a profound shift away from fossil fuels in the world’s energy supply at a time when governments everywhere are looking for ways to rein in the greenhouse gases blamed for global warming. While hydro-electric plants will continue to be the biggest source of renewable power, solar is catching up quickly because the cost of manufacturing and installing panels has come down so much.
“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, says in a statement with the report on Tuesday. “Based on today’s policy settings, it’s on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.”
The IEA’s projections are based on what it calls the Stated Policies Scenario, which assumes Covid-19 is gradually brought under control next year and the global economy returns to levels seen before the outbreak. The scenario includes currently announced policy intentions and targets that the IEA considers to be backed up by detailed measures for the plans to be enacted.