SAN FRANCISCO – Renewables, led by solar power, will become the dominant source of the world’s electricity by 2030, according to a just-released analysis by the International Energy Agency.
The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2020 report says solar is now cheaper than coal and, along with wind, will make up 80 percent of the electric energy market by the end of the decade, effectively shoving coal off the global energy grid.
“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a news release. “Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.”
The falling price of renewables, combined with the drop in demand for fossil fuels due to the coronavirus pandemic and governments’ adoption of policies to mitigate the threat of climate change, are converging at a critical moment, the IEA said.
The report examines four scenarios, but in each, renewables “take starring roles . . . with solar centre stage.” Hydropower is still the largest source of renewable energy globally, but solar is the main source of growth, followed by onshore and offshore wind, the report said.
Many nations are rapidly moving away from fossil fuels, but under the Trump administration, the U.S. is stubbornly pursuing policies to prop up the dying coal industry.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump promised coal miners in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin he would bring back coal. According to The New York Times, the Trump administration has rolled back nearly 70 environmental regulations that included regulatory relief for coal plants. The most recent "success" was postponing the deadline for coal plants to comply with toxic wastewater rules adopted by the Obama administration.
Yet more coal plants have closed during the president’s first term than during the entire eight years Obama was in office. Last year, consumption of renewable energy outpaced coal for the first time since 1885, when the burning of wood was the main source of energy.
“After four years, President Trump has utterly failed to keep his promise to coal miners and their families, and today coal country communities are in worse shape than when he took office,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Coal is gasping its last breath, and the solar age is here.”
As the IEA report shows, the demise of coal is rooted in simple economics, with renewables becoming far cheaper to produce and deliver. Even abundant natural gas will see its market share plummet as solar and other clean, safe renewables surge.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action. Visit www.ewg.org for more information.