5 Seismic Shifts Shaking Up World’s Energy Use, According to Bloomberg’s NEO

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Renewable energy is set to blow past fossil fuels in the next 25 years, attracting nearly two-thirds of the spending on new power plants, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). With rapidly decreasing costs, solar will be the top choice for consumers, particularly in developing nations, the report New Energy Outlook 2015 (NEO) projects. Worldwide, it expects solar to draw $3.7 trillion of the $8 trillion invested in clean energy, with only $4.1 billion spent on coal, natural gas and nuclear.

Small-scale solar is poised for major growth in the next 25 years, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Photo credit: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

The report outlined what it referred to as “5 seismic shifts” that will transform electricity generation in the next quarter century.

It found:

1. Solar, solar everywhere. The continuing decline in the cost of photovoltaic technology will fuel that $3.7 billion investment surge in both large- and small-scale solar. That growth will be pushed by a 47 percent decrease in the cost of solar thanks to conversion efficiencies, new materials and streamlined production.

Electricity capacity additions, in gigawatts. Source: BNEF

2. Power to the people. Of that amount, $2.2 billion will be invested in rooftop solar and other small-scale solar systems, allowing businesses and other users to generate and store their own electricity and giving parts of the developing world access to electricity for the first time.

3. Demand undershoots. Energy-efficient technologies in uses such as air conditioning and lighting will help decrease growth in global power demand from 3 percent to 1.8 percent a year.

This watercolor chart compares economic growth to energy efficiency. Each color represents a country or region. As economies get richer, growth requires less power. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

4. Gas flares only briefly. Natural gas will not transition the world from coal, and coal-to-gas will be primarily a U.S phenomenon due to the explosion of fracking, but developing nations will combine coal and renewable energy.

Natural gas won’t become the oft-idealized “bridge fuel” that transitions the world from coal to renewable energy, according to BNEF. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

5. Climate peril. Despite the increased investment in renewables, climate change will remain a threat, as enough older fossil-fuel power plants remain online and new coal-fired plants in developing nations cause carbon emissions to rise through 2029 and remain 14 percent above 2014 levels in 2040.

CO2 emissions from the power sector don’t peak until 2029. Source: Bloomberg New Energy Finance

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