Coffs Coast Business, Science/Environment

Energy firms urged to re-think coal as costs of renewables tumble.

Companies could save billions, says report, as well as curbing carbon emissions

Building new solar power projects would generate cheaper electricity than running most of the world’s existing coal power plants, according to a global renewable energy report.

By Jillian Ambrose

A solar power farm in California

New figures have revealed that more than half of the world’s coal plants could be undercut by the falling cost of new large-scale solar projects, which are now more than 80% cheaper to build than in 2010.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) has found that up to 1,200 gigawatts of the world’s existing coal capacity could cost more to run than the cost of new utility-scale solar plants.

If energy companies replaced only their most expensive coal plants with new solar power projects or onshore wind farms, totalling 500 GW globally, they could save up to $23bn (£18bn) every year and wipe out 5% of last year’s total global carbon emissions, according to Irena.

This global renewable energy boom would also stimulate $940bn in investment, or the equivalent of 1% of global GDP, as the world emerges from the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis.

 Francesco La Camera, the director-general of Irena, said renewable energy is “increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity” and offers “tremendous potential to stimulate the global economy and get people back to work”.

In under a decade the cost of large-scale solar power has fallen by more than 80% while onshore wind has fallen by almost 40% and offshore wind has declined by almost 30%. 

Coal – rapidly becomimg economically unviable according to IRENA

Irena’s latest figures have revealed that costs are continuing to fall. The cost of large-scale solar power fell 13% last year to a global average of 6.8 US cents per kilowatt hour, while onshore and offshore wind costs both fell by about 9% to 5.3 cents per kWh and 11.5 cents per kWh respectively. 

“Renewable investments are stable, cost-effective and attractive, offering consistent and predictable returns while delivering benefits to the wider economy. A global recovery strategy must be a green strategy,” La Camera said.

Irena has found that increasing investment in renewable energy could generate major economic benefits and spark global GDP gains of almost $100tn between now and 2050. 

“Renewables offer a way to align short-term policy action with medium- and long-term energy and climate goals. Renewables must be the backbone of national efforts to restart economies in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak. With the right policies in place, falling renewable power costs can shift markets and contribute greatly towards a green recovery,” said La Camera.

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First published at The Guardian Tuesday 2 June 2020. See; https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/02/energy-firms-urged-to-mothball-coal-plants-as-cost-of-solar-tumbles?CMP=share_btn_link

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