A massive increase in the deployment of wind, solar and battery storage over the next decade is essential if the world is to meet its goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050 – the key to meeting the goals of the Paris climate target.
BloombergNEF says in its latest New Energy Outlook that more than three quarters of the effort to cut emissions in the next nine years falls to the power sector, and to the faster deployment of wind and solar PV in particular.
“There is no time to waste,” said BNEF chief economist Seb Henbest in a statement accompanying the report, which was released on Thursday (Australia time).
“If the world is to achieve or get close to meeting net zero by mid-century, then we need to accelerate deployment of the low-carbon solutions we have this decade – that means even more wind, solar, batteries, and electric vehicles, as well as heat pumps for buildings, recycling and greater electricity use in industry, and redirecting biofuels to shipping and aviation.”
The numbers are mind boggling. Deployment of wind power need to increase by more than five times the 2020 total to more than 500 gigawatts a yea out to 2030, solar PV needs to treble to 455GW a year, while battery storage needs to increase 26 times to 245GWh a year.
Other technologies are also needed. Electric vehicles need to increase 11-fold to 35 million vehicles a year, sustainable aviation fuels need to make up 18 per cent of aircraft fuel by 2030, recycling of aluminium and plastics need to double, and 18 million heat pumps will be needed each year.
And, of course, fossil fuel generation needs to reduce dramatically. Coal-fired power needs to be by 72 per cent from 2019 by 2030, requiring the retirement of 1,417GW of coal generators by 2030.
The deployment of wind and solar in BNEF’s core Green scenario over the longer term are even more staggering.
“Emissions reductions in the power sector are driven predominantly by new wind and solar, which provide between 59% and 65% of the cuts in BNEF’s scenarios,” it says.
“This requires a big step up. In our Green Scenario the market opportunity for renewables is staggering:
- Wind: 25 terawatts in 2050, or average of 816 gigawatts installed per year to 2050
- Solar: 20 terawatts in 2050, or average of 632 gigawatts installed per year to 2050
- Batteries: 7.7 terawatt-hours in 2050, or average of 257 gigawatt-hours installed per year
- Variable renewables account for 54% of electricity generation in 2030, then 78% in 2040, and 84% in 2050.
BNEF says it has also modelled other scenarios that take into account technologies such as carbon capture and storage and small modular reactors that are not ready for commercialisation, but feature in energy debates.
It says both these technologies need further development if they are to be brought to market in the next decade, and then they will need to be competitive with the core renewable and storage technologies featured in the “green scenario”.
BNEF did not supply detailed estimated costings for the scenarios, other than noting that the total cost of the energy transition will be somewhere between $US92 and $US173 trillion.
It says that in both its Green and Red (small modular reactors) scenarios, the demand for coal, oil and gas for combustion drop to zero by 2050, replaced by renewables, electricity and hydrogen.
Fossil fuels fare better in the Gray scenario, which assumes cost competitive CCS offers a way forward for coal in power generation and industry, and reverses some of the decline seen in gas from 2030. But it does little to support oil, predominantly used in transport, where CCS can barely play a role.
“In practice, we will probably see a mix of these solutions as each country pursues climate strategies that best suit them, considering their existing domestic economy, international trade and geopolitics,” the report says.
Country-specific climate pathways will be a focus of subsequent iterations of the New Energy Outlook.
“For the world to get on track, there will need to be an immediate, unprecedented acceleration in deployment of existing technologies, such as renewable energy and electric vehicles,” it says.
“More than three quarters of the abatement effort in this period falls to the power sector and the faster deployment of wind and solar PV.
“Another 14% is achieved via greater use of electricity in transport, building heat and to provide lower-temperature heat in industry. Greater recycling in steel, aluminum and plastics accounts for 2%, and growth of bioenergy for sustainable aviation fuel and shipping another 2%.”