Guest “so what?” by David Middleton
IEA World Energy Outlook: Solar Capacity Surges Past Coal and Gas by 2040
11/14/2019 | Sonal Patel
Solar photovoltaic (PV) could surge ahead of coal and gas and become the largest source of installed power capacity in the world by 2035 if countries pursue stated policies and targets, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its newly released World Energy Outlook 2019 (WEO2019).
The agency’s annual publication, which it issued Nov. 13, suggests a major shift toward low-carbon sources is inevitable. If countries pursue existing and already announced policies (a WEO2019 scenario that was formerly known as the “New Policies Scenario,” and which the IEA renamed the “Stated Policies Scenario” in the new report), the share of renewable generation—not capacity—could nearly double, from 26% today to 44% to 2040, and it will surpass coal as early as 2026. Combined, solar PV and wind generation’s share could surge from 7% to 24%.
Solar’s explosive growth is a key change from the IEA’s report from last year (WEO2018), and the agency attributes its optimistic projections to policy changes around the world.
Fossil-fired generation could fare much worse in the Stated Policies scenario, falling below 50% of total generation in 2040—down from two-thirds, where it has hovered for decades. Coal’s generation share, which grew fivefold between 1970 and 2013, could decline from 38% today to 25% by 2040. “In 2018, final investment decisions of new coal plants were at their lowest level in a century,” the report notes. Without additional efforts to develop carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS), “coal-fired power remains limited,” it adds.
However, natural gas-fired generation, which has tripled over the past 22 years, is set to surge nearly 50% by 2040, owing largely to the cheap shale gas supply. Yet, it will continue to hold about a fifth of the global generation portfolio by 2040, and its share could decline in Europe and Japan, the IEA suggests. Its role could also change to bolster a growing need for flexibility.
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts…”
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts,” we’d save the planet. Fortunately, the planet doesn’t need saving. The planet doesn’t even notice us.
There is little doubt that solar PV installed capacity will continue to grow and could surpass coal and natural gas by mid-century. That said, the solar PV electricity output is unlikely to even catch coal by 2050. Coal-fired and natural gas combined cycle power plants are capable of delivering 85-90% of their name plate capacity. Solar PV generally maxes out below 30%. 2,100 GW of coal-fired power plants, operating at 50% of capacity, will deliver more electricity than 3,100 GW of solar PV, operating at 30% of capacity.
Natural gas will continue to kick @$$…
At least in these tangentially United States.
However, the vast majority of solar PV installations are for no other purpose than complying with government diktats.
In the AEO2019 Reference case, natural gas combined-cycle’s value-cost ratio is closest to 1.0 throughout the projection, indicating that its value just covers its costs. Natural gas combined-cycle units account for the largest share of new power plants (43% of the utility-scale total from 2021 through 2050). Solar PV’s value-cost ratio is slightly less than 1.0, indicating that, on average, its value does not cover its costs, but capacity is still added. In some cases, these solar PV additions may be uneconomic, but they still occur to satisfy the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements in 29 states and the District of Columbia.US EIA
Solar PV value is not projected to reach parity with natural gas until the mid-2030’s.
This is why the vast majority of new power plant installations in the US will be natural gas-fired, through at least 2050.
Of course, energy consumption isn’t limited to electricity generation.
It will remain a fossil-fueled world
The US EIA’s International Energy Outlook 2019 actually projects renewables to become the leading primary energy source by 2050…
However, the forecast does not indicate a planet saving energy transition. It indicates that the world will consume more of just about everything.
There has never been an energy transition, nor is one likely in the future. We burn more biomass for energy now than we did when we started burning coal.
Renewables won’t be replacing anything. They’ll just be piled on top.
•Use of all primary energy sources grows throughout the Reference case. Although renewable energy is the world’s fastest growing form of energy, fossil fuels to continue to meet much of the world’s energy demand.
•Driven by electricity demand growth and economic and policy drivers, worldwide renewable energy consumption increases by 3% per year between 2018 and 2050. Nuclear consumption increases by 1% per year.
•As a share of primary energy consumption, petroleum and other liquids declines from 32% in 2018 to 27% in 2050. On an absolute basis, liquids consumption increases in the industrial, commercial, and transportation sectors and declines in the residential and electric power sectors.
•Natural gas is the world’s fastest growing fossil fuel, increasing by 1.1% per year, compared with liquids’ 0.6% per year growth and coal’s 0.4% per year growth.
•Coal use is projected to decline until the 2030s as regions replace coal with natural gas and renewables in electricity generation as a result of both cost and policy drivers. In the 2040s, coal use increases as a result of increased industrial usage and rising use in electric power generation in non-OECD Asia excluding China.US Energy Information Administration
About that Paris thingy…
However, it all boils down to one simple principle: