INTERNATIONAL – The rise of renewable energy is likely to help the world stay on track for the goal of limiting climate change to within 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels, but only until the year 2030, according to a new report presented here on Wednesday.
The 121-page "New Energy Outlook 2019" report, the latest annual publication on the topic from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, was presented at the Rome headquarters of the Italian electricity giant Enel.
The report says that amid falling prices for wind and solar power, there are reasons for optimism when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to keep global climate change to within 2 degrees Celsius -- the maximum level scientists say will permit the world to avoid the most severe impacts from a changing climate.
According to Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, wind and solar energy will make up nearly half of the world's total energy mix in 2050, compared to only around 10 percent today.
At the same time, fossil fuel use will decline from around 65 percent of the worldwide energy mix today to 31 percent by 2050. That trend will keep the world on the pathway toward keeping global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius until 2030.
For this target to remain within reach new investments and technological advances will have to be made. The phase-out of coal will be a major step forward, Giannakopoulou said.
"Coal use is still on the increase in Asia, led by India, but it's use is collapsing everywhere else and our prediction is that demand for coal will peak in 2026," she said. "At the same time, renewable energy will make big gains: they are already the cheapest source of energy in two-thirds of the world and by 2030 they will be cheaper than coal and even cheaper than natural gas in almost every major market."
Giannakopoulou said that globally 13.3 trillion US dollars will be invested in energy production between now and 2050, mostly in transmission and distribution. Of this amount, she said, 2.9 trillion US dollars are expected to be spent in China, more than in any other single country over that period.
Today, wind and solar power make up around 18 percent of Europe's energy mix and around 10 percent each of China and the United States. Buy 2050, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that these figures will increase to 80 percent for Europe and 47 percent and 34 percent, respectively, for China and the United States.
According to Andreas Gandolfo, lead author of the European section of the "New Energy Outlook 2019" report, Italy is headed toward two separate renewable energy booms: the continent is expected to add 330 gigawatts of wind power in the ten-year period starting in 2025, and another 700 gigawatts of solar power over a 15-year period starting in 2035. "Countries are moving at different paces but the overall trend predicts the two main renewable energy sources to go through their separate periods of rapid growth," Gandolfo said.