Solar and wind to account for a third of global electricity by 2030

Not so long ago solar photovoltaic and wind power were just accounting for less than ten percent of the global electricity production. But on this particular element of the energy transition, things are moving faster and faster. Indeed, according to new research by the Rocky Mountain Institute, these two energy sources will account for a third of global electricity generation by the end of the decade. These are truly good news. According to the RMI press release :

The forecasts see solar and wind supplying over a third of all power by 2030 (up from around 12% currently), while the major cost declines over the past 10 years are expected to continue with solar and wind roughly halving in price again by 2030.

Complementary research from Systems Change Lab shows eight countries, ranging from Uruguay to Denmark to Namibia, are already proving this is possible, having scaled up solar and wind at rates faster than what’s needed globally to limit global warming to 1.5°C, based on IEA scenarios.

This exponential growth has put the electricity system at a global tipping point — where the transition away from fossil fuels has become hard to reverse, suggesting fossil fuel demand has peaked in the electricity sector and will be in freefall by the end of the decade.

The COP28 goal to triple renewables capacity by 2030 is now within reach, provided further barriers are removed, including grid investment, streamlined permitting, improved market structures, and greater storage.

(…) By 2030, solar and wind is forecast by RMI to supply over a third of all global electricity, up from around 12% today. Based on the forecasts, this would see solar and wind generate 12,000-14,000TWh by 2030, 3-4 times higher compared with 2022 levels. It would also surpass recent calls running up to COP28 for a tripling of total renewable energy capacity by 2030.

Meanwhile, fossil fuel demand for electricity will be in steep decline, according to the RMI analysis, down as much as 30% from the 2022 peak by 2030, as renewable electricity further outcompetes hydrocarbons on cost.

All this is good news but one should not forget that electricity generation is the easiest sector to decarbonize and that fossil fuels are still 82% of the global energy mix with transportation, industry, buildings and so on. Much more needs to be done decarbonize these sectors.

Image credits : Nicholas Doherty on Unsplash.

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