Renewable energy to attract two-thirds of power plant investments

Rows of solar panels operate during a dedication ceremony to commemorate the completion of the 102-acre, 15-megawatt Solar Array II Generating Station Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Jun 13, 2016, 12.41 PM (IST)
Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will attract two-thirds of all investment in power-generating plants between 2016 and 2040 in spite of persistently cheap coal and gas prices, a new report has found.

The forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the energy research unit of information company Bloomberg, expects some $7.8 trillion to be invested globally in renewables over the period, compared with $1.2 trillion for new coal plants - largely in India and other Asian emerging markets.

Gas will attract a relatively small $892 billion, the report said, despite a projected glut of the fuel leading to lower power generating costs.

"One conclusion that may surprise is that our forecast shows no golden age for gas, except in North America," according to report co-author Elena Giannakopoulou.

"As a global generation source, gas will be overtaken by renewables in 2027. It will be 2037 before renewables overtake coal," Giannakopoulou said.

While good news for helping decarbonise the world's electricity system, it is still not enough to meet the United Nations target to limit global warming below 2ºC.

Another $5.3 trillion in zero-carbon power investment by 2040 is needed to prevent carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rising above the limit of 450 parts per million, the report says.

Rising coal use in India and emerging Asia will push global carbon emissions five per cent above 2015 levels by 2040, to 700 megatonnes, it said.

In China, weaker growth and a rebalancing of the economy away from heavy industry, as well as more renewables, will mean emissions peak by as early as 2025.

For Europe renewables will dominate with a 70 per cent share in the continent's power mix by 2040, while the United States' share will jump from 14 per cent last year to 44 per cent.

A breakdown of renewable investments shows that of the $7.8 trillion overall, onshore and offshore wind accounts for $3.1 trillion, with solar taking $3.4 trillion and hydro-electric $911 billion.