A says that 50 percent of the world’s energy will come from solar and wind by 2050.
In 2015, wind and solar made up only 7 percent of global electricity generation. BNEF, then, is proposing that these energy sources will grow by a full order of magnitude over the next 30 years. This is unprecedented for any other energy technology.
The group bases the ambitious predictions on two factors: one, that solar and wind power will get dramatically cheaper over the next few decades, and two, that cheap battery storage will allow more wind and solar plants to be built.
According to the BNEF analysis, building a new solar plant in 2050 will be approximately 71 percent cheaper than today, and the cost of a new wind farm will be 58 percent cheaper. Coupled with cheap battery storage, this will make wind and solar extremely attractive to utilities in the future.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that wind and solar are already extremely cost-effective. In many parts of the U.S., it costs less to build a new wind or solar plant than to continue running a coal or natural gas plant. The consequences of even cheaper renewables will therefore be dire for fossil fuels: coal is projected to decline to only 11 percent of global electricity generation, down from 38 percent today.
This is good news for those worried about the world’s dependence on fossil fuels, but unfortunately even 50 percent renewables by 2050 may not be enough to mitigate the effects of climate change. Unless the increase in renewable electricity sources comes with an increase in electric vehicles and industrial carbon capture sources, this shift might not make much of a difference for the climate.