As China considers an emissions cap and amid rising concern over smog in its large cities, the country’s plans to expand polluting coal power generation are under scrutiny. One Chinese energy expert told RTCC he hoped peak coal could come as early as next year.
However, BNEF forecasts coal will continue to dominate the Chinese electricity mix for the next ten years. China will add 1,000GW of renewable power generation capacity – mainly solar and wind – to its energy mix by 2030, researchers say.
The Asia Pacific region will account for more than half of net new power capacity to the end of next decade, according BNEF’s 2030 market outlook report, with China the largest single market.
Milo Sjardin, head of Asia Pacific for BNEF, says: “The period to 2030 is going to see spectacular growth in solar in this region, with nearly 800GW of rooftop and utility-scale PV added. This will be driven by economics, not subsidies ‒ our analysis suggests that solar will be fully competitive with other power sources by 2020, only six years from now.
“However, that does not mean that the days of fossil-fuel power are over. Far from it ‒ rapid economic growth in Asia will still drive net increases of 434GW in coal-fired capacity and 314GW in gas-fired plant between now and 2030. That means that emissions will continue to increase for many years to come.”
Worldwide, BNEF expects US$ 7.7trillion to be invested in power capacity, of which two thirds will be renewable.
Fossil fuels are still projected to provide the largest share of power generation in 2030, at 44% of global demand. Some 1,073GW of coal, gas and oil capacity will be added to the mix, mainly in developing countries.
Michael Liebriech, chair of the advisory board at BNEF, says: “This country-by-country, technology-by-technology forecast of power market investment is more bullish on renewable energy’s future share of total generation than some of the other major forecasts, largely because we have a more bullish view of continuing cost reductions.
“What we are seeing is global CO2 emissions on track to stop growing by the end of next decade, with the peak only pushed back because of fast-growing developing countries, which continue adding fossil fuel capacity as well as renewables.”
Gas surge in Americas
In the Americas, gas-fired plants are set to take the single largest chunk of investment – US$ 314billion of a total US$ 1.3trillion – as developers capitalise on the shale gas boom.
Coal’s share of capacity will fall from 21% to 9% as environmental regulations kick in, while renewables jump from 7% to 28%.
Michel DiCapua, head of Americas analysis for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says: “Two striking conclusions from our research: first, wind and solar will win bigger and bigger shares of the investment in new capacity as their technology costs go on falling; second, coal will be in rapid retreat, its share of generation in the Americas falling from 26% in 2012 to 17% in 2030.”
Europe phases out subsidies
In Europe, BNEF’s model suggests demand will grow by only 9 per cent to 2030, as energy efficiency improves.
Some 557GW of renewable power capacity will be built, researchers estimate. Renewables will account for 60% of capacity in 2030, up from 40% in 2012.
Solar and wind power will be increasingly viable without subsidies, BNEF says, with only offshore wind requiring continued support throughout the 2020s.
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