The world’s electricity system will fundamentally change by 2050 because of inexpensive renewable and battery technologies. Renewable energy sources, including solar and wind, will generate half of the world’s power by 2050, according to recent report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), a research organization devoted to the clean energy sector.
The 150-page BNEF report compiles research from more than 65 analysts from around the world and includes in-depth, country-by-country power system modeling. The report predicts that lithium-ion battery prices will continue to decrease as electric car manufacturing continues its upward trend through the 2020s.
The research organization’s June report states that reliance on renewable energy sources will continue to grow in the next 33 years, but coal will only account for about 11 percent of electricity generation by 2050. Currently, coal generates about 38 percent of electricity generation.
The report also cites investment in battery technologies to top $548 billion by 2050. Of that battery investment, one-third will be spent on residential batteries, while the other two-thirds devoted to grid installations.
“The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining,” says Seb Henbest, head of Europe, Middle East and Africa for BNEF and the report’s lead author. “The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear.”
The report cites the decreasing price of solar plants, which is projected to fall by 71 percent by 2050. Wind energy costs are also expected to drop by 58 percent within the next three decades. In addition, less expensive batteries paired with wind and solar systems make renewables energy more affordable, too.
Gas-fired facilities will be either dedicated peakers or run at lower capacity than run around-the-clock. Also, after 2040, gas use will likely decline significantly in Europe while growing in China and India.
Global carbon emissions could peak by 2027 and then may decline by about 2 percent per year afterward, according to the BNEF report.