Renewable energy production will reach 30 percent by 2024
“Renewable energy resources make up 26 percent of the world’s electricity today,” according to Earth.Org, and the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts this number will reach 30 percent by 2024. Ember, an independent energy think tank, cites even higher numbers, estimating that 38 percent of the world’s electricity was generated via clean energy in 2021. This is a trend Dave Jones, Ember’s Global Program Lead, sees growing in the coming decade.
Reasons for the leap are myriad, including a post-pandemic resurgence in energy need, falling technology costs, rising environmental concerns, and strains on our electricity grid. But perhaps the most compelling reason for sustainable power’s expansion, from a business standpoint, is the rising cost of its alternatives.
This comes on the heels of an already shifting post-lockdown economy—which has seen unexpected growth in oil demand posed against limited supply. As a result, in 2021 crude oil prices rose from nearly $70 per Brent Crude barrel to almost $130. Meanwhile, natural gas has gone from $2.50 to almost $6 per MMBtu, and coal prices have increased from just under $100 per ton to more than $400.
Against this backdrop, sustainable power production has seen rapid growth. In 2021, clean energy set records, and the IEA predicts 2022 will follow suit with solar and wind energy leading the way.
Utility-scale solar installations shatter annual record
As summarized in an article in Scientific American, the IEA projects “U.S. solar companies will install 21.5 gigawatts of utility-scale capacity this year, shattering the annual record of 15.5 GW set last year.” Even amid supply-chain restraints, Bloomberg NEF Solar Analyst Tara Narayanan predicts these issues will be overcome—with record solar installations in 2022. Notably, in Texas—a state whose reliance on coal long resulted in high greenhouse gas emissions—solar has already seen a boom between 2020 and 2021. And 2022? The IEA projects the Lone Star State will again lead the country in utility-scale solar installations.
2,000 offshore wind turbines by 2030
When it comes to wind power, the IEA plans for 7.6 gigawatts of additional wind power in 2022—with offshore turbines leading the way. According to Bloomberg NEF, “Offshore wind installations will top 10 gigawatts for the second year in a row.” Underscoring this trend, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently issued a request for proposal (RFP), which includes new opportunities for small and medium-sized turbine manufacturers to propose energy solutions. This comes in the wake of the Biden Administration’s January-announced goal: 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power, requiring the installation of approximately 2,000 turbines in the water by 2030.
Renewable energy makes financial sense
Aside from the obvious ways sustainable energy benefits our planet, reducing carbon footprint and greenhouse gases, renewable energy makes financial sense.
In a June 2021 press release, Francesco La Camera, Director General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said, “Today, renewables are the cheapest source of power.” La Camera went on to say, “. . . [T]hey meet growing energy demand, while saving costs, adding jobs, boosting growth, and meeting climate ambitions.”
Where solar was once more costly than gas and oil, that may no longer be the case. A recent article in Consumer Affairs offers these statistics from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory: “Electricity from fossil fuels costs between 5 and 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. Solar energy costs average between 3 cents and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour and are trending down.”
Wind and solar reshape the existing energy system
According to IRENA, “The cost of electricity from wind continues to fall, driven by declines in wind turbine prices.” IRENA attributes a steady decline (since 2010) to plant cost reductions and improvements in turbine technology—allowing more energy harvest from the same wind speeds.
The decline in cost for both solar and wind power, combined with other factors—including their alignment with the values of an increasingly socially-conscious population—will continue to mark the future of sustainable energy.
Though supply chain issues may cause interruptions in these trends, experts believe sustainable power production, across the board, will continue to expand.
Ember’s David Jones concurs, saying, “Wind and solar have arrived. The process that will reshape the existing energy system has begun.”