Monday, 14 July 2014

Renewable Energy Output to Expand Substantially Over Next 10 Years

Proponents of renewable energy are thrilled by a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) suggesting that renewable energy output will expand substantially over the next 10 to 15 years.  BNEF projects that are as much as 60% of the expected US $7.7 trillion investment in new power plants through to 2030 will go to plants utilising renewable sources.  The report says renewables are poised to become significantly more competitive with fossil fuels thanks to more efficient technology and lower production prices.

If the Bloomberg publication is correct then it could mean as much as US $5 trillion invested in worldwide renewables over the next 15 years.  Furthermore, if new power plant production creates the expected 1,100 GW of additional capacity over that period, renewable energy power plants should have a combined capacity of 3,000 GW.

BNEF is convinced that renewable energy projects will outpace new fossil fuel plants by 7-to-1 by the year 2030.  Even though coal capacity currently stands at 64%, as opposed to 34% for renewables, the report projects a day when there will be greater balance between the two.  It turns out that levelling the playing field ultimately comes down to production costs.

Making Renewables Cheaper

To date, one of the biggest obstacles to large-scale renewable energy use has been the cost.  It has been extremely expensive to design and build new projects in relation to how much energy these produce.  Nevertheless, as time has gone by, the costs associated with building new plants operating on renewables has dropped.  BNEF sees no reason why that trend will not continue.

According to a study by the US Energy Department, the cost of producing renewable electricity has fallen some 99% since the late 1970s.  That has certainly made the transition from fossil fuels to renewables somewhat easier however, here's the catch: worldwide renewable energy efforts are supported by government subsidies.  Renewables are still not strong enough to stand on their own in the commercial environment.  Until they can, they will not be able to compete with fossil fuels at the same level.

So where does that leave us?  It leaves us in a position of having to continue to develop renewable energy sources and delivery systems while simultaneously continuing to build new fossil fuel power production, including clean coal.  We cannot simply allow fossil fuels to languish in the hope that renewables can adequately replace them.  Co-existing is not a solution everyone likes, but it is the only reality that makes sense.

There may come a day when renewables are capable of replacing fossil fuels 100% however that day is far from arriving.  Moreover, until then, proponents of both types of energy production will have to continue working together to supply the power needs of the global community.  The most important thing is to continue providing cheap, reliable energy that is capable of carrying us into the future – a future that is more dependent than ever on energy to drive modern technology.

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