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Romm writes: "The staggering drop in the cost of clean energy has already upended the global power market over the past two decades - and that trend will only continue for the next two decades, according to new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF)."

Solar energy power station. (photo: iStock)
Solar energy power station. (photo: iStock)

Forget Coal, Solar Will Soon Be Cheaper Than Natural Gas Power

By Joe Romm, ThinkProgress

17 June 17

Renewables to capture three-fourths of the $10 trillion the world will invest in new generation through 2040.

he staggering drop in the cost of clean energy has already upended the global power market over the past two decades — and that trend will only continue for the next two decades, according to new analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).

As a result, renewables will capture the lion’s share of the $10.2 trillion the world will invest in new power generation by 2040, BNEF projects in its annual New Energy Outlook 2017 report.

(photo: ThinkProgress)

Despite years of plummeting prices for renewables, BNEF projects that over the next two decades, the cost of solar power will still drop another two-thirds, onshore wind costs will be cut nearly in half, and offshore wind costs will drop a stunning 71 percent.

Here’s how this will profoundly transform power markets in the years ahead:

  • By 2023, solar and onshore wind will be competitive with new U.S. gas plants.

  • By 2028, solar will beat existing gas generation.

  • Solar and wind will make up nearly a half of installed capacity and over a third of global power generation by 2040. That’s a four-fold jump in wind capacity and a 14-fold jump in solar from today.

(photo: ThinkProgress)

Deep penetration of renewables will be assisted by continued price drops in lithium-ion batteries and explosive growth in electric cars: “This will help renewable energy reach 74 percent penetration in Germany, 38 percent in the U.S., 55 percent in China, and 49 percent in India by 2040.”

BNEF concludes that despite President Donald Trump’s vocal support for the coal industry, “economic realities over the next two decades” work against it, and U.S. coal power generation is “forecast to see a 51 percent reduction in generation by 2040.”

Here’s another key conclusion: “Gas is a transition fuel, but not in the way most people think.” Other than in the Americas, where cheap gas is plentiful, gas plants won’t act as a replacement for “baseload coal,” but will “increasingly act as one of the flexible technologies needed to help meet peaks and provide system stability in an age of rising renewable generation,” BNEF predicts.

With total renewable investment over the next two decades projected to be $7.2 trillion versus $1.5 trillion for fossil fuel power, it’s clear where the biggest high wage job growth will come from.

Literally every day we see headlines making the economic case for investing in new clean energy rather old dirty energy — yet Trump’s policies and proposed budgets try to drag us back into the 20th century. If only we had a president who understood business. your social media marketing partner


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+17 # ER444 2017-06-17 15:10
Our President only understands "Trump". Self centered Narcissist.
+14 # Wise woman 2017-06-17 18:30
We will keep on producing alternative energy despite trump. His days are numbered and so are the planet's if we decide otherwise which most today believe is unthinkable. I first learned about solar power 40 years ago. The shame is, no one else did.
+11 # MidwestDick 2017-06-17 22:59
You weren't the only one. Jimmy Carter solarized the White House. Reagan had the panels pulled down.
+11 # mashiguo 2017-06-18 00:47
Forget Trump
Solarizing the entire country would have been cheaper than the Iraq war.
Reagan took solar panels off the white house.

Solar has always been cheaper, both short term and long term than any other form of energy.

When will US have the balls to do something about it?
When they have the balls to elect representatives instead of republicrats.
+1 # wcandler1 2017-06-18 06:39
3,447 GW in 2040 from coal and natural gas versus 3,667 today, and this is good news? This from a leading energy publication.... I really think no one understands the problem. Peace.
+9 # Texas Aggie 2017-06-18 07:12
Those who claim to be in love with the "free market" don't seem to understand how it works. The drug war is a bust because there is a market and someone is going to satisfy the demand. The war against renewable energy is a bust because there is a demand for energy and that demand brings down prices by increasing competition and by increasing economies of scale.

Fossil fuel has gotten so big that there are no more economies of scale, and because it is a monopoly, there is no more competition within the industry. The only competition is from the outside which has destroyed the demand for coal and is weakening the demand for oil. Furthermore the fossil fuel industry has become so dependent on government favors that they've lost the ability to adapt to new technologies outside they're own little bailiwick.
-5 # 2017-06-18 11:49
You err. I am an advocate for free markets and I am not at war with alternative energy sources and I certainly do not approve the War on Drugs. I am opposed to taxpayer subsidies and I am opposed the our government's refusal to include some externalities in the levelized costs of solar and wind energy. What I am concerned with is consumer costs. State governments are forcing the grid owners to buy expensive solar and wind energy (in the extreme, off-shore wind energy is currently costing about 5 times as much as coal energy). And these coercive purchases cause problems since the grid owners must be able to meet all demand even on cold windless nights or on hot foggy days. Solar and wind cannot be viable technologies until a suitable battery for storage is developed. Until then, we need to have traditional power plants open and operable to meet 100% of our maximum demand on our coldest and hottest days.

I recommend eco-warriors consider geo-thermal (which is reliable and produces no greenhouse gas emissions) but like lemmings the ecowarriors seemed obsessed with toxic solar panels, intermittent energy availability, high costs, and mining disasters caused by getting the materials for solar panels and wind turbines. So sad.

Lee Nason
New Bedford, Massachusetts
0 # newell 2017-06-18 16:08
What if big oil does not want to leave hydrocarbons in the ground and sells it very, very cheap. Think they are going to just sit on it?
+1 # draypoker 2017-06-21 06:50
Oil companies are not sovereign bodies able to do whatever they want. There are national and international laws governing their activities. As carbon in the atmosphere affects every part of the planet, regulation of oil and coal should be worldwide.

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