Fossil Fuel Electricity Could Be Dead & Buried By 2035: New Report

John Williams

07 May 2021

photo credit: Science in HD on Unsplash

According to the latest report by a U.K. think tank:

Solar and wind potential is far higher than that of fossil fuels and can meet global electricity demand 100 times over. The costs of renewables have reduced so rapidly in the last three years that fossil fuels could be pushed out of electricity generation altogether by 2035.

The report from London-based non-profit, Carbon Tracker states that current technology can capture over 6,700 PWh electricity yearly from solar and wind, while the current global demand stands at just 27 PWh.

The percentage share of land required to generate all energy from solar varies by country. Poor countries will be the greatest beneficiaries as they have the largest ratio of solar and wind potential to energy demand.

Carbon Tracker reveals, if we chose to get all our energy from solar power alone, the land required would take up just 450,000 km2—just 0.3% of the world’s total land area. This is less than the space taken by the fossil fuel industry.

As Mark Jacobson professor Stanford University shows in his book 100% Clean, Renewable Energy and Storage for Everything, when we bring wind farms into the equation along with other renewables that are producing an increasingly larger share of global energy capacity.

Required global energy output can be achieved with 0.17% of total land area for new infrastructure and 0.48% of total land area for spacing purposes, such as between wind turbines.

New Epoch

Carbon Tracker’s findings claim that the fossil fuel era is over. At solar and wind current growth rates of 15-20%, it says, fossil fuels will be pushed out of the electricity sector by the mid-2030s and entirely out of energy supply by 2050.

Kingsmill Bond, Carbon Tracker’s energy strategist and report lead author, said:

“We are entering a new epoch, comparable to the industrial revolution. Energy will tumble in price and become available to millions more, particularly in low-income countries. Geopolitics will be transformed as nations are freed from expensive imports of coal, oil and gas.”

These findings probably don’t come as a total surprise. The 2020 World Energy Outlook the IEA’s flagship publication found that solar PV is now consistently cheaper than new coal- or gas-fired power plants in most major countries and now the cheapest form of electricity ever seen.

The International Renewable Energy Agency states that in the last decade the cost of electricity from solar photovoltaics fell 82%, while the costs of offshore and onshore wind fell 29% and 39% respectively.

Abundance

Many world regions have There is access to abundant solar and wind energy in many areas of the world. Some areas of Africa have solar generation possibilities hundreds of times greater than their end use power needs.

The report states Africa, Australia, and South America have “huge technical potential compared to energy demand,” But at the moment, people are using only a fraction of the available renewable energy. The report comments that just 0.01% of the world’s solar potential is taken up and only 0.16% of wind potential is utilised.

Decarbonisation

The report helps bolster the case for the world’s energy decarbonisation plans, in particular President Biden’s 2035 vision to make U.S. electricity production carbon free.

Co-author of the report, Harry Benham, Ember chairman said:

“The world does not need to exploit its entire renewable resource—just 1% is enough to replace all fossil fuel usage. Each year we are fuelling the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilised sunshine in coal, oil and gas while we use just 0.01% of daily sunshine.”

Fossil Fuel Investment

The findings are also a clear reminder that as the potential of clean energy grows, fossil fuel investments are becoming an increasingly risky prospect. Carbon Tracker’s report last month shows that $640 billion investments in fossil fuel firms had lost $123bn of their value between 2012 and 2020.

Henrik Jeppesen, report author and US head of investor outreach, said:

“Investors have woken up to the fact that fossil fuel companies are no longer the growth stories they once were. Climate risk is now very much a material one that cannot be ignored and clean energy stocks are rapidly replacing the old order as the choice investment for a transitioning world.”