Employees clean up solar panels that will be exported to Sudan at a factory on October 16, 2020 in Ji an, China’s Jiangxi province.
Deng Heping | Visual China Group | Getty Images
LONDON – Solar and wind energy could completely replace fossil fuels to become the world’s energy source by 2050, a new report said.
Released on Friday, the thinktank Carbon Tracker report also predicted that if wind and solar energy continued on their current growth trajectory, they would push fossil fuels out of the electricity sector by the mid-1930s.
Current technology has given the world the power to capture 6,700 petawatt hours (PWh) of energy from solar and wind energy, the researchers said – more than 100 times the amount of energy consumed globally in 2019.
Despite the potential to harvest large amounts of energy, only 0.7 PWh of solar power and 1.4 PWh of wind power were generated in 2019, according to the report.
However, its authors were confident that continued falling costs would likely drive exponential growth in solar and wind power generation. An annual growth rate of 15% would see solar and wind energy generate all of the world’s electricity by the mid-2030s and supply all of the world’s energy by 2050.
The report notes that the cost of solar energy has decreased by an average of 18% annually since 2010, while wind energy prices have fallen by an average of 9% annually over the same period.
Solar power has grown at an average annual rate of 39 percent over the past decade, nearly doubling capacity every two years, according to the report. Meanwhile, wind power has grown in capacity by 17% annually, with advances like better panels and taller turbines helping to cut costs.
Steam and exhaust gases rise from the RWE Weisweiler coal-fired power plant on February 11, 2021 near Inden, Germany.
Lukas Schulze | Getty Images News | Getty Images
However, skepticism persists about the likelihood of a so-called energy transition happening soon. Some climate scientists believe it is already “virtually impossible” to limit the planet’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels – a key goal outlined in the Paris Agreement.
Carroll Muffett, chief executive of the Nonprofit Center for International Environmental Law, told CNBC earlier this month that “integrated energy structures and continued support for the dying industry” were hampering progress in the transition. towards renewable energy sources.
And while many global companies are pledging to support efforts to slow climate change, others are doubling their fossil fuel funding.
Of the world’s 60 largest banks, 33 increased their lending to the fossil fuel sector between 2016 and 2020, according to a CNBC analysis of the Banking on Climate Chaos 2021 report.
Carbon Tracker researchers identified four key groups of countries based on their potential to harness wind and solar energy to meet domestic demand.
Low-income countries with low energy consumption in sub-Saharan Africa were described as “overabundant”, meaning they had the potential to generate at least 1,000 times more energy than their domestic demand.
Africa, in particular, had great potential when it came to implementing renewable energy infrastructure, the report said, with researchers saying the region could become a “renewable superpower.”
Those with the potential to harness at least 100 times more energy than required have been termed “abundant” countries. Australia, Chile and Morocco, which had well-developed infrastructure and governance, were classified as “abundant”.
China, India and the United States, which had the potential to produce enough to meet their domestic demand, were “full” countries, while Japan, South Korea and much of Europe were “short” when it came to exploit their renewable resources effectively.