Solar and wind energy's stunning cost falls to continue

Solar and wind energy’s stunning cost falls to continue

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BNEF says solar to continue “precipitous” cost fall, and solar and wind will be cheaper than coal and gas by 2027, beginning relegation of fossil fuels to role of expensive back-up to cheap renewables – until battery storage takes that market away too.

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GTM Research forecasts the U.S. solar market to surpass 100 cumulative gigawatts by 2021

The cost of solar and wind energy will continue their stunning falls over the next decade, and by 2027 will be cheaper than existing coal and gas plants in most countries in the world, according to a major new report by leading global analysts Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

In its annual New Energy Outlook, NEO2016, BNEF says solar energy costs, which have already fallen by 80 per cent since 2008, will fall another 60 per cent to an average cost of $40/MWh around the world by 2040. In some countries, that cost has already been beaten.

This “precipitous” fall, as BNEF describes it, means that solar will account for nearly half of all new capacity installed around the world in the coming decades. One third of this will be on rooftops, and it will be accompanied by huge growth in battery storage. By 2040, solar will supply 15 per cent of all electricity demand.

Wind energy costs will also fall another 40 per cent, mostly driven by improving capacity factors that will rise to 33 per cent in 2030 and 41 per cent in 2040. It will account for more than 20 per cent of all new additions.

Prices will remain low for coal and gas, because of falling demand, but wind and solar will still be cheaper than these fossil fuels by 2027 in most parts of the world. “This is a tipping point that results in rapid and widespread renewables development,” the BNEF report says.

That means that the role of coal and gas will change completely from the concept of “base load” to that of gap fillers.

“As natural gas and coal plants are increasingly idled in favor of renewables, their capacity factors will take a big hit, and lifetime cost of those plants goes up. Think of them as the expensive back-up power for cheap renewables.”

The signs of this have already started to emerge in Australia. In May, thanks to record amounts of wind generation, most wind farms operated at capacity factors of more than 50 per cent, more than many coal generators. And that is before the imminent deployment of huge amounts of large scale solar.

Indeed, Australia is cited as one of a few countries, also including Germany, Mexico and the UK, where wind and solar provide more than 50 per cent of demand (as it will already do in South Australia by the end of the year).

“With the increase in renewable generation comes a fall in the run-hours of coal and gas plants, contributing to the retirement of 819GW of coal and 691GW of gas worldwide over the next 25 years,” the report says.

“The fossil plant remaining on-line will increasingly be needed, along with new flexible capacity, to help meet peak demand, as well as to ramp up when solar comes offline in the evening.” This, of course, is already happening in South Australia.

That means that power systems will need to reward system services such as demand response, battery storage, interconnectors and control systems that work along with traditional firm capacity to help match supply with demand.

Around 336GW of this ‘flexible capacity’ is added in the OECD, and 938GW globally, to 2040, BNEF says. Much of this comes from battery storage.

bnef lithium battery

Small-scale battery storage, for instance, will become a $US250 billion market and the rise of EVs will drive down the cost of lithium-ion batteries, making them increasingly attractive to be deployed alongside residential and commercial solar systems.

“We expect total behind-the-meter energy storage to rise dramatically from around 400MWh (megawatt hours) in today to nearly 760GWh (gigawatt hours) in 2040.

EVs will make up 25 per cent of the global car fleet by 2040, providing 2,701TWh of additional electricity demand, to reach 8 per cent of world consumption.

In turn, cheaper batteries increasingly bring small-scale and grid-scale storage options into play. And that is further helped by the arrival of “socket parity” – where rooftop solar is cheaper than grid power for consumers. That already exists in Australia and many other countries but will world-wide

The report obviously has significant implications for Australia and for its current economic policy settings.

BNEF says the seaborne thermal coal trade – on which Australia relies for its coal exports – is already in structural decline and prices will not recover. It also says that there will be no “golden age” of gas because renewables and other flexible generation will be cheaper.

BNEF says on its trajectory for coal and gas prices is “significantly lower” than the 2015 edition did a year ago.

bnef energy forecasts

The forecasts (see chart above) show that solar will dominate new installations, accounting for 43 per cent of all new capacity additions out to 2040, or more than $US3 trillion. Solar and wind together account for 64 per cent of all new capacity additions, and flexible capacity – such as battery storage – is the next biggest contributor.

The amount of new coal capacity falls sharply after 2020, gas provides only 16 per cent of demand – well short of the “golden age” predictions of just a few years ago, and there are negligible amounts of new nuclear installations, due to its prohibitive costs.

The NEO 2016 is based on a combination of the project pipeline in each country, current policies, plus modelled paths for future electricity demand, power system dynamics and technology costs. It does not assume any further policy measures post-2020, to speed up decarbonisation.

But it says that decarbonisation will need to be more rapid to meet the 2⁰C scenario agreed in Paris, let alone the 1.5°C scenario.

On top of the $US7.8 trillion forecast in this report, BNEF says the world would need to invest another $US5.3 trillion in zero-carbon power by 2040 to prevent CO2 rising above the ‘safe’ limit of 450 parts per million.

(The full report is available only to clients of BNEF).

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  1. Brunel 4 years ago


    • Mark Roest 4 years ago

      And in a few years, US$10/MWh of battery storage capacity. 🙂

  2. Marcus 4 years ago

    yes, I saw an article here that gave a 2.99cents kWh, (Dubai bid) , so thats $29.90 MWh right?

    • john 4 years ago

      Correct however cost of build and lack of any taxes may have helped Dubai.

      • eliboston 4 years ago

        Why tax an energy source that reduces health costs? All clean renewable energy should not be taxed at least until we do not rely on any dirty sources of energy.

        Once you see a five year old wheezing for air during an asthma attack it becomes obvious that there should be no taxes paid by clean renewable energy because of the public health benefit. It is not only the prohibitive economics of fossil fuel extraction but also reduction of human suffering that is propelling the rapid advancement of fossil fuels.

        Most mothers will rather pay double for electricity than sacrifice their children’s tender lungs to the Moloch of fossil fuels. As the Good Book says: “Do not permit any of your children to be offered as a sacrifice to Molech”

        I am with the mothers and so is the overwhelming majority once it become aware of the health cost subsidy maintaining artificially the economics of dirty fossil fuels. To be precise the US Army Corps of engineers calculated 3.7cents/KWh health savings from averted pollution in their EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) for Cape Wind, when it comes on line and generates 1,500,000 MWh/year.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          Health costs add between 9 and 15 cents per kWh to the price of coal-electricity in the US. Coal is a very expensive way to produce electricity.

          • eliboston 4 years ago

            Your numbers are correct coal is much dirtier and therefore much more unhealthy than oil and natural (really dirty fossil) gas.

            The US Army Corps of Engineers looked on the real impact that wind power would have on an hour by hour simulation of Cape Wind’s contribution to the grid during the 8760 yearly hours. 1,500,000 MWh/year is only 1% of New England’s electricity. It will take several Cape Winds to retire base load coal plants. The 3.7 cents/KWh is totally from displacing oil and natural gas generation. Given that natural gas has become less expensive than oil this 3.7 cents/KWh may shrink to only 1.2 cents/KWh. However this is with 15 year old assumptions. Offshore Wind has come dramatically down in price as wind turbines have become bigger and bigger (over 6 MW per turbine) and the tripod foundation is being manufactured through mass assembly to install thousands at a time.

            Dirty fossil gas as I call what others call natural gas, impact on asthma, bronchitis and cancer is measurable and indeed less than coal. However poisoning water and contributing to global climate change during fracking operations is worse than coal mining or at least as bad. Damaging underground aquifers and climate is also very expensive.

            I hope corrupt and incompetent politicians such as Trump allow the market put dirty energy out of its (and our) misery sooner rather than later. Trump wants to subsidize mountaintop removal but he cannot stop wind or solar. I do not think Trump has a snowball’s chance in hell to get elected but even if Lucifer intervenes personally and makes Trump president look at what happened to Wisconsin where the Koch brothers wasted their money to elect another corrupt incompetent, Scott Walker. All indications is that Wisconsin is following Iowa that already has 40% wind electricity, because the 800 pound gorilla market forces say so. The semi-senile Koch Brothers are irrelevant.

          • john 4 years ago

            In fact a transition is happening.
            The cost of delivered power from Renewable Energy sauces is becoming ever more cost effective.
            Because the cost of energy is Zero.
            So it only about the build and maintenance.
            One little aspect about the output result is ever increasing so ever more a reason to not question the way we will move.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            The Koch bros have announced that they are scaling back on their involvement in politics as their activities were damaging their businesses. They’ve declined to finance the Republican convention next month.

            I think Trump is having problems finding backers and it’s looking like he has far less money than he claims to have.

            At this point I’m not too worried about Trump. I think we’ve got a good chance of taking back a lot of seats in Congress and possibly some state offices as well if we can make a good get out the vote effort and Republican voters become discouraged with the short fingered vulgarian.

          • eliboston 4 years ago

            Have you seen a recent photograph of the Koch brothers? They look totally senile. I am not worried about them or Trump or other incompetent con-men.

            Fossil fuels are going belly up by 2025. No politician can fight market forces. Even if I am wrong it is not 2025 but 2027 as this article claims NO ONE in his and especially her right mind will pay more for a toxic alternative to clean renewables. Even if the evil doers prevent the health costs entering pricing of energy this article says clean renewables will be less expensive than dirty fossil fuels anyway. SO soon after this happens good bye dirty air.

            If you look at the cost of health, dirty aquifers, and ever increasing climate event costs the market forces will not be caught asleep.

            Hey it was market forces that proved wind turbines are beautiful as a study showed houses that got views of turbines appraised faster than before compared with near by neighbors who did not benefit from views of the newly installed turbines. But is really the beauty of clean air in children’s tender lungs that in my view is their GREATEST BEAUTY.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            “NO ONE in his and especially her right mind will pay more for a toxic alternative to clean renewables”

            tell UK that as they subsidies Hinkley C twice what wind will get (UK is phasing out wind subsidies all together in a few years)

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            “study showed houses that got views of turbines appraised faster than before compared with near by neighbors who did not benefit from views of the newly installed turbines. ”

            astonishing! do you have a link, here in Oz the anti-wind lobby (including our former failed Treasurer, Joe Hockey) are still actively pretending people don’t like the sight of wind turbines.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            wow, frankly I’ll believe those Koch brothers will stop giving to Heartland when Heartland closes it’s doors 🙂

          • neroden 4 years ago

            Trump seems to be blowing up his own campaign (thank goodness!) with intemperate remarks…. hopefully he’ll take down a lot of other Republicans with him!

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            I think Lucifer has his hands full with war-hawk and promoter of global fracking, HRC to be overly interested in Trump.

        • john 4 years ago

          You have absolutely no argument on that score with me.
          All I was saying is that the Dubai installation has lower cost due to no tax on the job old mate

          • eliboston 4 years ago

            I did not mean to sound critical. I just thought that it makes no sense to tax clean energy when the health impact is so significant. So I edited my post thanking you for the information.

            Either no tax for renewables or factor in the health cost for dirty fossil fuels. This idea actually came out of Nixon’s White House that wanted to tax pollution.

            Do you think this was the REAL reason Nixon was impeached?

            Deep throat turned out to be no liberal.

            Mark Felt was a run of the mill FBI right-wing Republican who was a favorite of controversial J. Edgar Hoover. Mark Felt was indicted in 1978 for approving break-ins of homes belonging to members of the radical group Weather Underground. Felt was convicted and later pardoned by President Reagan in 1981.

          • john 4 years ago

            In that context they are not taxing the system.

  3. eliboston 4 years ago

    I have been going around taking bets that there will be no more fossil fuels extracted on planet earth by 2025. My argument has been why would ANYONE pay MORE for energy that ruins their kids health?

    It is increasingly clear that wind has achieved parity if you calculate the health costs from asthma, bronchitis, and lung cancer per KWh of natural gas, coal, and oil electricity for at least a decade. Solar appears to have crossed this threshold recently.

    The projection that by 2027 clean renewables with the cost of storing for later use, does not take into account that dirty energy health cost will not stay out of the pricing equation for ever. Also as market share shrinks dirty fossil fuels will face catastrophic collapse of increased capital expenditures for diminishing revenues.

    To sum up there is NOTHING CYCLICAL about the explosive acceleration of coal mining bankruptcies or the ridiculously low price of oil that is being pumped as if there is no tomorrow. Is it possible there is NO TOMORROW for fossil fuels? Are we witnessing the 800 pound gorilla market forces, pushing dirty energy out of existence as use of fossil fuels is sliding into the precipice of oblivion faster than you can say Paris Accord?

    And if I am off by a couple of years and loose a couple of cases of beer the day of clean air is in the unforeseeable yet so near future. The end of fracking that is more harmful in terms of global climate change is much closer than you think.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      It’s really not possible to get off fossil fuels by 2025. Take a look at cars, for example.

      In 2015 we manufactured about 90 million cars and trucks globally. The Tesla Gigafactory will produce enough batteries for 500,000 cars. We’d need to build about 180 Gigafactories over a ten year span in order to produce 90 million battery packs. That would be extremely difficult when you include all the lithium, cobalt and materials which would be needed.

      And if by some miracle we could produce enough batteries (and electric motors) so that every car and truck sold was an EV there would be the problem of the almost one billion existing cars that would need fuel. Once we reach 100% EV production it will take up to two decades to get those ICEVs off the world’s roads.

      • Megs 4 years ago

        There were lots of horses and carts and horseshoes etc left idle. In comes the new and people can just walk away. Old cars make good chook houses,

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          Chook houses is a new one to me. Haven’t heard that one before.

          Old cars sometimes get a second life as septic tanks. Or they did at one time.

          When affordable cars came along they were such an improvement over horses that the transition was quick. And you’re right, a lot of carts and stuff were simply left idle. My grandfather had a nice buggy they drove to church on Sunday. There was no market for it so he pulled it out into a pasture and set it on fire. The metal fittings were useful.

          But ICEVs are as functional as EVs. If you’ve got a paid off car there less motivation to send it to the crusher and then spend money on a new car. Even though it costs a lot less per mile to operate an EV the purchase outweighs the potential savings for years. Gasmobiles are likely to be sticky.

          • Megs 4 years ago

            Good one Bob 🙂 Hope I’m still around to see it all,

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            If that’s your current picture then I suspect we’re about the same age. I expect to see EVs reach purchase price parity with ICEVs (probably within five years). And I figure I’ve got a good chance at seeing EVs become the majority of new car sales (around 2030).

            If I’m still around after that point I’m not so sure I’ll understand what I see if I see it…. ;o)

          • Miles Harding 4 years ago

            Once EV prices get within throwing distance of ICEs, it’s going to make the decision for the majority of motorists viable. Most people I talk to are surpsrised to hear that a credible EV, such as the Tesla Model 3 won’t be dramatically more expensive than a comparable ICE sedan, or even cheaper if that sedan was made in Germany.

            Add to this, the possibility of the world oil market becoming under-supplied and chaotic as old mega-fields decline and the US shale oil experiment concludes and majority EV sales by 2030 sounds distinctly possible. Of course, it may take another 10 years for enough of the fleet to be changed to see a big diffierence in oil consumption and pollution.

            Something we rarely consider in these deliberations is non-oil resource availability. It is possible that critical resources may become difficult to obtain before oil field decline causes chaos. In this case, much less resource intensive transport will be mandated. This indicates that the EV of the future may look a lot like a bicycle – not very good for freezing 50km commutes, however.

          • Mark Roest 4 years ago

            Not really. As above, they can be converted to battery power. The more that are done, the cheaper it will be to do them.

          • neroden 4 years ago

            ICEVs are *almost* as functional as EVs… until the gas stations start closing. I’ve been trying to figure out when that will happen. Because once the gas stations close, suddenly ICEVs are totally non-functional.

            Gas stations already have poor economics and there are fewer every year. But when will this process accelerate and start giving ICE drivers range anxiety?

      • eliboston 4 years ago

        This is old thinking. Very old thinking.

        For you transportation = the isolation and unwealthy sitting for hours in cars.

        I just bought my ticket from Paris to Limoges 243 miles which is more than New York to Boston 226 miles. On super fast Amtrak, your travel time is cut down to 3 hours and 20 minutes on average. I will be in Limoge in 1.5 hours hours with no hassles and time wasted going to and from the airport for a flight that takes 1.25 hours. You can have your dirty gas guzzling cars. But you will be the only one. The mass market is moving away from the fossil fuel economy. I am taking bets.

        You seem to see the future as same old same old.

        New Urbanism in compact suburbs and in clean cities (no dirty air can you comprehend this?) the car will become obsolete for connoisseurs for people like me who loves Tesla’s acceleration. No more sprawling exurbia hotbeds of right wing politics where the miserable commuters drive many hours instead of making money or enjoying their families.

        The main reason that there will be no more fossil fuels by 2025 is not only the phenomenal growth of clean renewable energy. Conservation is the even bigger 800 pound gorilla that will turn oil into valueless dirty goo to be left undisturbed in perpetuity. Emerging disruptive technologies will make it possible to do a lot more with much less energy. And we will all breathe better and children will grow with clean healthy lungs.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          Geeze. Who put itching powder in your skivvies?

          Do you not do logic? There’s no way to make the transition off fossil fuels in 9 years. It would take a Herculean effort to get off within 20 years.

          • Mark Roest 4 years ago

            See above. Work smarter, not harder. Extremely good design will get the job done within 12 years or less.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            2016 + 12 = 2028. That’s after Eli’s unrealistic 2025.

            And I simply don’t find 12 years a remote possibility. There are countries that will just be getting started to transition off fossil fuels 12 years from now.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            There is a way, but it would involve so much political, economic and social disruption it wont happen. The BZE Stationary Energy Plan, Buildings Plan, Land Use Report and High Speed Rail Report addressed 10 year timeframes (remember this is the critical decade for climate action) and between the four of them dealt with the vast majority of GHG emissions (54% GHGs are from ag sector alone using proper accounting methodologies and that could be transitioned very rapidly to net zero emissions; infact addressing methane and other shorter lived GHGs would buy us a one-shot halt in temp rise; 40% reduction in methane 15 years of CO2 emissions at the current rate of consumption; 46% reduction by 2050 no CO2 emissions during that period b/c it’s effect on temp. anomaly is more immediate).

            In a phrase “crony capitalism” here in Australia, in Europe, USA and even China in a way (crony socialism perhaps) are blocking the removal of civilisation and habitat destroying ways of doing things. Because the 1% have too much wealth and power. I agree with Naomi Klein to the extent that she says without changing that, it will be impossible to meet a climate action timetable that keeps us below 2º C. 1.5º C is a pipedream as lag from historical emissions will already take us to +1.5º C as a bare minimum.

          • eliboston 4 years ago

            Because Bob Wallace says so it is not so.

            What Bob does not like he thinks impossible. Well the dustbin of history is full with the likes like you. You are hallucinating if you think people will continuing harming their children’s lungs when there is a less expensive alternative?

            Of course you are ignorant of history when the US manufactured a quarter million bombers in less than four years each one with four turbines. This is a million turbines with inferior technology. If the threat is big enough you as it was in World War II the response is proportional. Of course for all 16 Republican candidates and their ilk global climate change is either a hoax or if it is real it is a threat to the economy if we do something about it. And as a fellow Republican leader Putin of Russia put it “Global Climate Change is good for us.”

            I recommend you buy some tobacco for your pipe. It is less hallucinatory.

      • Mark Roest 4 years ago

        Bob_Wallace, your heart is in the right place, and I have some reassurance for you. Those batteries will only cost about $360 billion per year (averaged). It may only take a third as many factories to cover them. The existing cars and trucks which are in good condition can be converted to battery power and with then last 2 or 3 times as long, reducing the number of cars needed for replacement. The revolution in vehicles as a service, and to some extent autonomous vehicles, will greatly reduce the number of cars that need to be on the road, so the freed-up battery manufacturing capacity can be used to convert electricity production to renewable energy, and set up smart microgrids everywhere. It really does all work out in the end.
        And most of that battery production will be at $100 per kWh or less. Combine that with the numbers Giles gives, and we will likely see payback in 3 years or less in much of the world — after which energy is virtually free!

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          I know Musk has said that the Gigafactory could produce 3x as many batteries as originally estimated. I’m not sure what that means. Could they cram 3x as many machines inside?

          We could convert existing cars and trucks to EVs but having been around people who did conversions, that’s not a cut and dried thing. Plus many of the people nursing a 20, 25 year old car have no money for a conversion.

          I’m very open to the possibility that things will speed up as we go along. In fact, I expect it. But not so much that we get every ICEV off roads and every coal and gas plant closed in less than ten years.

          • neroden 4 years ago

            In the same talk, Musk was talking about volumetric efficiency and wastes of space in factory design, so yes, he means they can cram 3x as many machines inside.

      • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

        adoption curves are getting steeper in general. for many people its about status and following the herd not usefulness and functional parameters (which EV will win on anyhow).

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          Nine years. Nine years. Think about that.

          All coal plants. All gas plants. All gas and diesel vehicles. All airplanes. All ocean freighters. All trains. All fueled heating systems.
          All gone in nine years. You really think we could do that job in nine years?

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            definitely not airplanes, but extensive HSR yes, China has laid out 30,000 km of HSR in less than ten years. it’s faster and more pleasant that air travel, Europeans prefer it.

            Stationary energy, it’s doable for sure in this country, will it happen, certainly not. Victoria the second largest state just set a 40% by 2025 target but it could have been way higher. BZE ZCA SEP

            Buildings, harder, as we’re talking about millions of individual titles in private ownership not less than 100 generation assets (here in Australia), but the Victorian LED replacement scheme changed over most households from Halogen DC lighting to LEDs in a few years. Standby power consumption reduced with a similar program to provide free master powerboards. We could do same with heat-pump offers for switching from gas, double glazing subsidies to prime the market and get prices down to European pricing at least (currently several fold higher in Australia). “Pink batts”, while an administrative bungle was a successful thermal rooftop program that transformed ?half our housing in a couple of years. Too many residences were excluded due to the mechanism design and greedy installers that just wanted the easy jobs (and in some cases did a bad job on those installs even). Redesigned to not see price gouging on insulation materials and quality installers only that could be extended to roofs, walls and subfloors. More PV, DSM and storage incentives. Ten years is actually a really long time, 2.5 terms of state level govt and 3 federally! BZE ZCA BP

            Land Use, as I said before reduce herd numbers in a couple of years, start farm based reforestation programs (assisted by govt) and manure management, dietary interventions and all the other measures in the LUR and yes easily could be done on the ground and not employing people already transitioning power sector but those already on the land and newcomers. And it would buy us time on CO2 emissions because methane and NO2 are so potent in the shorter term and effect global average temp anomaly more immediately. BZE ZCA LUR

            Transport, a tough one and who can say how fast autonomous vehicles will change the playing field forever. Apple transformed personal communications with the iPhone to the point where many of us can’t image life before it. How long ago was that? Apple have taken a massive billion dollar plus bet on autonomous EVs changing transport. Will they turn out to be correct? Who knows but they’ve played a lot of good shots in the last fifteen years that nobody outside the Apple fan club gave them any chance with. BZE ZCA HSR

            Better urban design and public transport can greatly reduce the need for private or autonomous vehicles, that does take time but ten years can see big changes. Walkable cities and bikes for the big win on local transport emissions.

            All up if it Australia declared a Climate Energy federally and in all states with legislation and executive powers to match, I’ve no doubt that in ten years Australia could get a lot of the job done. But it wont happen because FF own our major political parties, including the ALP. And even if that was not the case, political systems are inherently conservative and weighted towards protecting the status quo, which ironically will destroy the status quo. ‘For things to stay the same they must change a little…’ The Leopard.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago
          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            I don’t feel like watching an hour long video in order to guess what your point might be.

            Seba’s got some sort of a short timeline for switching to EVs. But, IIRC, it’s not realistic. He does not include the time it would take to build battery plants for 90 million cars per year.

            We all, well many of us, would like to see the transition off fossil fuels to happen quickly but expectations need to be made with some common sense considerations.

      • hydrophilia 4 years ago

        Running numbers as you do does lead to your conclusions. But…

        The advent of self-driving cars might change that: right now cars only get used about 4% of the time and sit idle the remainder. If cars can get used my more people, bring utilization up to 50% or so, perhaps we can get by with 1/12 of the current number… and transition far faster.

        Perhaps the far more dangerous people-piloted cars will no longer be allowed on most roads…

        And I’m sure there are far more scenarios I haven’t mentioned…

        Exciting times!

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          We don’t have self-driving cars now and probably won’t for a few more years. Let’s say 3, just for argument’s sake.

          It’s 2016. Self-driving cars emerge in 2019. Like any new technology lots of people stand back and watch, only a relatively few early adopters jump in. Three or four years later people are starting to accept the safety of self-driving cars. Now we’re out to 2022 or 2023.

          That leaves only two years to get all the remaining ICEVs, including all the ones sold in 2022 and 2023, off the road so we can arrive at no more fossil fuels extracted by 2025.

      • JohnM 4 years ago

        Have a look at the saltwater powered car Bob. This is a very real technology that has so far been effectively ‘banned’ by those in control.
        But things have changed. This makes a very useful alternative for, say, shipping etc.
        When the clear imperative for urgent change is no longer denounced by the big FF’s (as they all go into ‘liquidation’) all kinds of things will happen. -Optimism helps a bit too 😉

  4. Peter Castaldo 4 years ago

    I don’t think they modelled the effect of autonomous electric cars hitting the road as electric deployment will be way more than they suggest. We would only need maybe 20% or maybe 5% of the number of cars to service all the trips required. That will totally kill petrol rapidly.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      Interesting point as to numbers of vehicles, although I guess their batteries will be shorter lived if cars are operational all day just like delivery vehicles. then the batteries will be reconditioned/upgraded sooner too.

      here’s prof Wills prediction for the different kinds of EVs. He compares BNEF predictions with his in this tweet:

      • Mike Dill 4 years ago

        The batteries will continue to get better, and will continue to last longer with new chemical additives. No need to worry about this non-problem.

        • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

          I think i said that using the word “upgrades” 🙂 CSIRO salts treatment for lithium electrodes for e.g. I like to think Flow will take the stationary chemical battery market in time if they catch a bit of market love to move onto a learning curve.

          not to forget HW units that can ramp their thermostat smartly according to ones import/export status and tariffs, that’s very cost effective storage especially if used for house heating in addition to showers, washing etc. Still waiting for someone to reverse engineer the Sandon serial interface.

          • Mike Dill 4 years ago

            I hope that you are correct and that flow batteries will come down in price enough to dominate the stationary market.

            As you note, precooling and preheating a house and preheating the water storage system is an excellent way to shift usage to utilize more of what you produce and use less of the grid at peak times.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            or something razzle dazzle graphene… who knows, this thing is only getting started.

  5. Island fisher 4 years ago

    Governments all over do not want to know about renewable energy, the major problem they have is how do they introduce a sun or wind tax and there is also the problem of who will fund their re election campaigns

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      Here in the US coal mines are going bankrupt and coal plants are being closed down. The coal industry is running out of money to spend on politics.

      At the same time the wind and solar industries are rapidly growing. I know they are now spending money on lobbying. I imagine they’re starting to donate to campaigns as well.

      Power is shifting. In multiple ways…..

      • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

        coal is mainly losing out to gas in USA though so far right, Bob? Some states like Texas big in wind but the shale oil and gas glut has hurt coal the hardest.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          Coal is losing out to natural gas but fossil fuels overall are losing out to renewables. Wind and solar have taken about a 5% market share from coal and gas.

          There should be a big bump up in 2016.


          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Coal, in the US, has taken a big hit in the last couple of years. And we’ve got a lot of coal plants scheduled to close in 2016 so the pain continues….

            eta: That red line is at 42%. The US EIA has been predicting that the US will be getting 42% of its electricity from coal in 2040.

            The EIA folks are out to lunch….

    • eliboston 4 years ago

      You are precisely correct.

      Dirty fossil fuels fracking, coal, and oil require HUGE concentrations of investment to bring them to market.

      Not so with wind and solar.

      You do not need a handful of Exxons $363 billion mega companies to control the economy like giant lung cancers to harness the wind.

      Much smaller companies such as Dong energy which is less than 5% of Exxon are big player in offshore installations. Thousands of tiny companies of the 2 billion variety or much smaller for onshore installations are not as efficient for buying corrupt politicians. Capitalism needs decentralization to prosper. With fossil fuels gone we will not only have clean air to breath but also much cleaner politics.

      • Mark Roest 4 years ago

        We need alliances in each country, supported by the great work Giles and others in RenewEconomy do, so we are politically and economically prepared and strong when fossil fuel companies or their supporters attack.

        • eliboston 4 years ago

          Brilliant idea. In Rhode Island we had a conference “From Local to Global “the Rhode Island Model for Harnessing Wind Power Worldwide” April 19 and 20 2007. I used to have all the PowerPoints on the Internet. I should post again because we had some really cool information that maybe of broader interest. If I find the time I will upload and provide the link to this article because it provides further explanation of why the winds of change are blowing so strong now.

          Back in 2000 we noticed that wind electricity had grown in Denmark at more than 10%! We called this the millennial event that everyone was speculating about that was going to radically change our lives in a bad or good way.

          In a quarter century it now appear we were correct. The unthinkable and the impossible is happening, fossil fuels are on their way out. The only question is will it take a little less or a little more than a decade.

      • Alastair Leith 4 years ago, Solar Citzens, GetUp! and others have a pollution free political campaign running for this federal election. Take home fact: $3.7m donated to Liberal, Labor and Nats since last election, in return $7.7b in subsidies for FF industries in 2016/17 alone.

        without the dirty money corrupting our political establishment there is no way we will get serious climate policies (on renewables or agriculture or industry or transport or built environment) from either side of mainstream politics.

        • eliboston 4 years ago

          Bernie Sanders proved otherwise. No dirty money needed thank you. Bernie may or may not serve as our president but he will wind the war of clean environment and clean politics. (wind was a typo but left it because I liked it.)

          • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

            make it so! Bernie Sanders presidency would be unthinkably great. unfortunately unless Clinton gets charged before election I think it’s just a dream now. FF establishment stuffed us over once again.

          • eliboston 4 years ago

            If Bernie wins in 2016 I guarantee it will not be the same old same old Congress and by 2018 we will have both the Senate and the Congress to back Bernie. However even with Hillary will limp forward. It should be noted though that even if the red faced Trump, the thug, becomes president he can not resist the inevitable demise of dirty fossil fuels.

        • hydrophilia 4 years ago

          converting $3.7m to $7.7b?! THAT is a really great investment opportunity! Shareholders must be really pleased that their corporations can find such a great return!
          Too bad it damages the environment, distorts the economy, harms society, and influences politics.

      • eliboston 4 years ago

        I had edited this reply to Islander Fisher to say:
        ” you are precisely correct”
        Hmm I wonder why was the edit not saved?

  6. Heenan73 4 years ago

    I’d argue that these predictions are probably too optimistic; they’re assuming governments will make rational decisions. Not gonna happen.
    But it is clear that solar has won; costs are falling and will continue to fall, take up is not only continuous – by rising, year-by-year.
    The “real ” cost of solar energy is, of course, zero. But converting it to electricity has a maintenance free, 25-year life. Fossil fuels are highly labour intensive, systems have limited efficient life, and all rely on 300million years of processing.
    Wind is fine in theory, but is also maintenance heavy, even on land, and costs can only fall so far.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      Globally PV deployment doubles every two years (exponential) but in Australia it has been flat for the last four years (linear growth) by volume. System discrete numbers are down as are people employed in the industry, but the growing average rooftop installation size has hidden some of that decline.

      Onshore Wind is the cheapest grid supply of energy most places in the world today — with out without your “maintenance heavy” low marginal cost.

      • Heenan73 4 years ago

        Solar – and wind, for that matter – is being held back in many places by government inertia or government trying to make nuclear power look cost effective. Long term, it’ll sort itself out. Australia’s ‘flat’ growth is still inexorable growth.
        Onshore wind maybe the cheapest source at this time, but as solar continues to get more efficient – and cheaper to install – people will begin to look seriously at replacement costs for life-expired wind farms (and that cycle will be around soon!). Some may remain cost effective for a good while, but many won’t. Wind is an excellent transition source, but solar is the winner, long term (50-100 years).

        • wideEyedPupil 4 years ago

          yeah I agree PV learnungs curve is compelling. virtually free to apply to any building cladding product by ~2036 as spray or film is the trend line and seriously well credentialed futurist Ray Kurzweil has said as much.

          but wind and solar are complementary. so wind has storage and power2gas to compete with which should keep it going, especially in cold climates for a few decades yet.

        • solarguy 4 years ago

          Ah, but the wind blows at night, but the sun don’t shine then.

          • Heenan73 4 years ago

            NO!!! Don’t tell me that!!!! 😉

            Luckily, both transmission and storage are areas attracting a lot of research. progress with storage is amazing – and there’s decades to go before it becomes an urgent issue.
            Transmission – and a global movement of power from daylight to dark areas – is in it’s infancy. the sheer inefficiency of current methods means huge wastage, and therefore much more acreage of solar than would be ideal. Hopefully, that’ll change. Let’s face it, transmission has hardly been considered for the best part of a century! (Tweaks and bigger pylons don’t count!)
            the big change, of course, is in energy saving, and local storage. Once we get homes built with solar in the equation from Day 1, we’ll have homes that store the small amounts need at night. It’s the few remaining big users that will be a problem for some time to come.

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            thermal envelope remains the huge challenge for Australian built environment. Enormous amount of energy wastage compared with German buildings. BZE has a plan for our existing building stock to get it up to net zero emissions:

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          The Sun shines only during the day. The wind blows a lot more hours than the Sun shines and blows a lot at night when the Sun is not shining.

          While PV solar might become cheaper than onshore wind it’s highly unlikely that stored solar would be cheaper than wind.

          Onshore wind in the US is under 4c/kWh (unsubsidized) and dropping towards 3c. Some are speculating that onshore will reach or get very close to 2c/kWh. That leaves very little room for solar and storage.

          • Heenan73 4 years ago

            Solar will continue to get cheaper, as scale grows and technology improves. Granted, storage solar will have extra costs, but luckily the darkness need will continue to drop in absolute terms, and in proportion to the total power need. Local storage will be efficient and relatively cheap, while transmission costs from daylight areas will eventually start to fall.
            Solar panels have exceeded 25 years, but a conservative assessment based on 25 years is usually applied – and, arguably, replacement at 25 years is cost effective, as technology is moving so fast, with efficiency more than doubling in the past 10 years, and more advances in the pipeline.
            Costs will further decrease when architects get around to designing them into new build – but that’s probably 25 years away – architects care more for awards than functionality, alas.
            Possibly Australia will have a longer success story for wind than many countries, with plenty of room without resident objection. But it’s still a relatively labour intensive business, and always will be.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Solar prices will almost certainly continue to fall. As will wind prices. Solar may end up cheaper than wind but the difference between 2 and 2.5 cents or 2 and 3 cents is not sufficient to make stored solar competitive with ‘direct from the wind farm’ wind.

            Storage at the utility level will almost certainly be cheaper than behind the meter storage. Utilities can use technologies which would not be appropriate for homes and will have far higher purchasing power.

          • Heenan73 4 years ago

            Solar costs are falling, almost by the month. Wind costs cannot fall indefinitely, because of the fixed costs of installing, and the costs of maintenance; after a while, they’ll start to rise again, won’t they?
            Solar efficiency is improving rapidly, wind efficiency improvements – should they happen – will not reduce the fixed costs and maintenance costs.
            Indeed, winds biggest ‘progress proposal’ is double height towers that will demand even larger installation costs, and ever more complex turbines that will have ever increasing maintenance.
            Moving parts need maintenance. Get over it.
            I’m not talking about this year, or next. Think 10, 20 years, and solar will inexorably pull away.
            Energy is a long-term issue; looking at current prices seems to be distracting you from the bigger picture.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Wind Onshore

            $1.64 Installed Cost/Watt

            DOE 2014 Wind Technologies Market Report

            PV Solar

            $1.33 Installed Cost/Watt

            $1.54 With Tracking
            Greentech Media 4th Qtr 2015 Executive Summary

            The price of both wind and solar are falling. Solar with tracking has about a 30% CF while wind is starting to push over 50%. That extra output more than outweighs installed and operating cost differences.

            Wind PPAs are generally 20 to 25 years. Our first generation of wind turbines did not start piling up maintenance costs until they were closing on 30 years old. Newer technology should have a longer serviceable life.
            Tallers towers more than pay for themselves with higher production levels.
            “Moving parts need maintenance. Get over it.”

            The cost of maintenance is built into the 20 to 25 year contract price of electricity. You get over it.

            Solar will probably get a little cheaper than wind. I’ve already stated that. But there’s almost no way for stored solar to compete with wind. You seem unable to grasp that reality.

          • neroden 4 years ago

            An interesting point:
            Stored solar is likely going to be stored in batteries, or perhaps in pumped hydro. (Thermal solar is not competitive.)

            Now, the most likely types of batteries wear out according to the number of times they’re cycled. Not calendar life.

            So if you have a night when the wind is available, *and you have the stored solar power available in your batteries*, there is an incentive to leave the batteries full and use the wind. It saves you a cycle on your batteries. The power will still be there to deploy tomorrow.

            (Similarly, it becomes a good night to save the hydro reserve, so that you can use it later in a crisis.)

            There’s a sense in which wind power actually increases the competitiveness of batteries. By cycling less often, they last for more years.

      • neroden 4 years ago

        Hasn’t there been a concerted federal attack on solar power in Australia for the last three years? That probably accounts for the slowed growth rate. I’d expect it to pick up again if the COALition is thrown out of power.

    • eliboston 4 years ago

      Governments can only slow down the inevitable or maybe help a little. Market forces have been unleashed that make these prediction too timid.

      Government can help if we get Bernie Sanders elected. We may gain a year or two but if the red faced thug (wins with Lucifer’s help) we may loose a year before the last oil drilling and fracking company goes belly up.

      In ten years our children will grow their tender lungs in clean air.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      25 years is too short a life for solar panels. We’ve got plenty of data from 30+ year old panels and they are doing fine.

      Obviously wind farms don’t have heavy maintenance issues. They couldn’t and sell their electricity as cheaply as they do. We should soon be close to 3c/kWh for a 20 or 25 year PPA. Unsubsidized.

      • Heenan73 4 years ago

        Simply not true. Turbines – with there multiple moving parts – are prone to failure, especially offshore ones with salt added to the mix. There’s a huge industry around maintenance, running to tens of millions per year. Whole farms have needed clutch replacement, and you only have to look at them when the wind’s blowing; there’s always some 10% not moving. Compare that to solar’s virtually zero maintenance.
        That’s always the problem; you so rarely see whole life costs of nuclear, fossil or wind power, with true costs being buried among the complex subsidies and tax reliefs involved.
        Wind is doing well, and prices appear to be coming down – partly due to the sheer scale. But they can only come down so far with their overheads.
        Solar is only limited by technology, which is moving fast.

        • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

          Heenan, your claim does not hold water.

          Wind farms could not be contracting for <4c/kWh (unsubsidized) electricity delivery if maintenance costs were high. US onshore wind is closing on 3c/kWh and probably heading under 3c.

          There's no burying maintenance costs when we look at the unsubsidized cost. (And all US wind subsidies are tax "reliefs", tax credits.)

          Offshore nacelles use dehumidifiers to prevent salt damage to turbines.

          • Heenan73 4 years ago

            I’m not arguing prices, merely pointing out that wind has costs that solar does not. Simple fact. While solar technology advances rapidly, wind will hit a wall: it will always need maintenance (however much you deny it) and installation costs will always be high, regardless of efficiency gains. It really isn’t rocket science.

          • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

            Yes, operating costs for wind farms run a fraction of a penny more than that of solar farms.

            When you’re getting below 3c/kWh there’s not much room between you and that wall. Not a lot of room for someone else to squeeze in.

            And it’s not like wind and solar are direct competitors. They tend to show up for work at different times.

  7. eliboston 4 years ago

    I had posted that but now it seems it was not saved in a previous post when I discussed the issue that clean renewables deserve NOT TO BE TAXED because of their public health benefit, which is HUGE! I had pointed out that the idea of taxing pollution was not new. The Nixon White House had proposed taxing pollution and I had wondered rhetorically whether this was the TRUE reason that Nixon was impeached.

    Then I proceeded to speculate that after all Mark Felt the Deep Throat who played pivotal role in Nixon’s impeachment behind the scenes was no liberal. Felt was a Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent who retired as the Bureau’s Deputy Director in 1973. He fed all the needed information to the Washington Post that forced the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

    Felt was a run of the mill rightwing Republican. He may have been working for the Koch brother’s or their ilk. He was Hoover’s right-hand man for decades. He was the kind of felonious rightwinger who in 1980, was convicted for violating the civil rights of people thought to be associated with members of the Weather Underground Organization but was pardoned by President Ronald Reagan.

    Of course this is wild speculation. I wonder if Nixon ever had similar paranoid speculations. At any rate whether pollution is taxed or not and whether is by 2025 or 2027 fossil fuels will go belly up and remain valueless deep underground undisturbed for ever and ever.

  8. Ben Rose 4 years ago

    “…..the role of coal and gas will change completely from the concept of “base load” to that of gap fillers” is correct according to SEN’s modelling WA’s SWIS grids using our new SIREN Toolbox creative commons software

    The main finding of our study is that an 85% renewable SWIS electricity grid (2/3/ wind and 1/3 PV) with some behind meter battery storage and 14% of the energy supplied by gas fuelled OCGT’s, will produce electricity for the same price as a new coal/ gas grid like the current one (assuming a current price of $30 / t CO2e, the LCOE is $126/ MWh.

    However it will never be economic to replace all fuelled generation with even the cheapest form of storage (pumped hydro) as the additional storage needed is so large that it would increase the LCOE to over $500 / MWh
    Ben Rose, co-programmer of SIREN toolbox

    • Mike Dill 4 years ago

      I think your study fails to understand the continued rapid fall in the cost of batteries. While I may be an exception, I expect to have 100kWh of batteries in my cars by 2020 or sooner, and about 20kWh of fixed storage to capture some of the extra from my solar panels.
      With limited V2G, in 99.5% of the situations this will be enough to take my household ‘off-grid’. If I curtail my demand when necessary, this will cover 100% of my usage.
      Yes, there is a need for something to cover about 1% of the time to reduce the amount of electrical storage. I disagree that fossil fuel is the only economic alternative.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      Economic is not an objective term to be used as an absolute, it necessitates assumptions about the costs and benefits one requires from the solution. Dispatchable energy from some kind of storage will attract a premium rate to fill the gaps. We need to go 100% RE so it will become ‘economic’ in some form or another, either through a large overcapacity of variable generation, linkages to dispatchable sources (say Kimberly tidal or the NEM) or through power2gas conversion. By the time we get to 85% on the SWIS, lets say by 2029 for arguments sake just behinds the Greens policy scenario SEN modelled, I expect solarPV to have sailed down the cost curve by 75-80% (assuming 20% reduction every two years based on global deployment rate of a continuation of two year doublings). There’s going to be a lot of momentum in the PV and battery storage market at that point and overcapacity everywhere behind the meter.

      The French government commissioned a very expensive and detailed study of future scenarios for their supply mix and found that 95% RE was same cost as BAU with 75% nuclear and 25% hydro (with coal in Germany filling gaps it must be said). 100% RE wasn’t much more on top of the 95%, they were assuming one of the many power2gas technologies in existence become available at a large scale to cover for the variability in wind and solar, which is reasonable.

      Modelling is very, very sensitive to the costs and learnings assumptions built into the equations as I’m sure you’ve discovered programming SIREN, Ben. I recall Australian CST expert Dr Lovegrove explaining how a small fraction of a percentage difference in a learnings curve assumption in an AEMO report including CST (and finding it too expensive) had been difference between it being ‘economic’ or not, and of course he was saying they erred on the side of underestimating the technology.

      I’m interested that you mentioned there’s only 1/3 PV, 2/3 wind and no CST with storage in the 85% scenario you mentioned, Ben. Thermal storage can cover weeks of generation outage if the total volume of the storage vessels is large enough. It loses only 1º C a day.

  9. Miles Harding 4 years ago

    I am glad to see the required pace of decarbonisation made an appearance in this article.

    The story I see here is that a purely technology and price driven trajectory is a long way short of what is needed to avert very damaging climate change. I feel that it is safe to say that in this will result in the loss of the great barrier reef and may cross tipping points that send the climate back to where it was in the cretaceous, ending the reign of the human race.

    What we are not seeing is credible policy designed to beat the clock. In Australia, it looks as if the two major parties have decided that the environment is so toxic that they have both avoided any mention of it in the election campaign.

  10. Ben Rose 4 years ago

    Hi Alastair,
    SEN’s 85% scenario for WA includes only the cheapest renewables – using BREE’s 2025 estimates – wind (assumed LCOE $85/MWh) and rooftop PV ($65/MWh); a lot cheaper than CST with 6 hours of MS storage, at 169/MWh.
    A relatively small amount of behind the meter battery storage (8000 MWh) is included and the assumed cost to the grid is only a nominal subsidy of $40/ MWh. This is much less than its actual LCOE of about $1200 per MWh but the additional cost would be paid for by the consumers owning the batteries and it would be economic for them to do so as they avoid network charges.
    I suggest you read the Study report
    There are 5 other scenarios costed, including two with 100% RE that include 1200 MW of CST with 6 hours of MS storage. The LCOE of these is $160 and $165/ MWh. They include bio-liquid fueling of the OCGT’s and biomass co-firing of the MS storage or a small amount of biomass steam thermal.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      I suspect that wind estimate is far off base.

      Unsubsidized onshore wind in the US is now under $40/MWh and dropping fast. I expect that when the 2015 numbers are released we’ll find that wind has dropped close to $30.

      Predicting $85/MWh in 2025 seems totally out of line.

      • juxx0r 4 years ago

        They’re a government funded department there to give solid data to the governments policy of doing SFA, they’re not there to provide accurate numbers. Much like the EIA.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      THanks for the details, Ben. Yes, I must read the SEN report, along with finishing the Renew Australia, ISF/GetUp! 100% Plan full report and a few others at some point — I had forgotten some of the details I picked up at the launch.

      Regards BREE, all i can say is that they’ve been wildly inaccurate for years in their forward estimates from what I’ve been told and seemingly an instrument of a fossil economy looking to justify it’s own existence.

  11. Ben Rose 4 years ago

    Bob Wallace,
    Yes I think wind is likely to be much cheaper than the 2013 BREE (Australian Govt) estimate of $85/ MWh by 2025, that we used in our Study. The latest Australian report by CO2 CRC shows a range of $60 – 80 in 2030. They also show CST being in a range from $80 – 140, which is a lot cheaper than BREE’s estimate of $165 that we used. Problem is their report shows no details of their modelling. We will update our estimate when more detailed estimates are published.

    • Bob_Wallace 4 years ago

      $60 to $80 in 2030? That’s like the bizarre EIA estimates for 2020 which show the cost of wind and solar doubling over what they are today.

      Australia can purchase the same hardware and software used for US wind farms. Installed AU prices might lag US prices a few years but not 30 or 40 years.

      • neroden 4 years ago

        Bob, did you remember to do AUD$ to USD$ translation? AUD$60 == USD$44. This is still too high because that’s the *current* price of wind, but at least it’s not way higher than the current price.

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