By - Jim Vess

Renewable generation to provide 50 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, EIA says

Energize Weekly, October 9, 2019

The total share of electricity provided worldwide by renewable generation is projected to grow to nearly 50 percent in 2050, compared to a 28 percent share in 2018, according to the federal Energy Information Administration (EIA).

The bulk of that energy will be provided by hydropower, wind and solar with solar’s share growing the fastest and hydro the slowest, the EIA said.

Solar has seen the steepest declines in costs, and the EIA said it expects that trend to continue. The solar resource is also more widely distributed globally than wind or hydro, with predictable patterns.

“Resource availability, renewable policies, regional load growth, and declining technology costs drive EIA’s projected increase in global electricity generation from solar technologies,” the agency said.

China will see the most growth in solar sparked by an increased demand for electricity and a combination of favorable government policies and competitive technology, the EIA said. Other countries projected to have a strong growth in solar include India, the U.S. and western European nations.

“Wind power is still a relatively new technology, and the declining capital costs it experiences as a result of learning-by-doing effects are not as steep as solar technologies,” the EIA said. Still, there are good chances for the increased adoption of wind technology because many of the world’s best wind resources are not yet developed.

The EIA forecasts that wind, like solar, will benefit from renewable energy policies in China, India and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in Europe. The OECD’s member countries are 36 of the world’s most-developed economies.

“In China, wind is among the many sources meeting the country’s increasing demand for electricity,” the EIA said.

In 2018, the main renewable source of electricity generation was hydropower, but the EIA projects relatively little growth in hydro over the next 30 year, calling it a mature technology.

Hydropower plants have been built since 19th century. As a result, many of the best sites have already been developed, and the construction of new plants is both capital intensive and disruptive, often drawing challenges on social and environmental grounds.

The regions with the greatest hydroelectric generation growth in 2050 are areas such as China, Brazil and OECD Europe, which tend to have extensive and accessible hydropower resources.

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