New Year’s Column The Decade of Expansion is Ahead of UsA Decade where Renewable Energy Became Competitive has Ended

Tomas Kåberger, Chair of Executive Board, Renewable Energy Institute

6 January 2020

in Japanese

Germany, pioneering renewable electricity deployment, for the first time produced more renewable electricity than electricity from coal in 2019. Wind power alone provided more electricity than lignite. Over the decade renewable electricity increased by 137 TWh, from 17 to 42% of electricity consumed. Fossil based electricity decreased by almost 100 TWh and nuclear decreased by 65 TWh, while the net export of electricity increased by 22 TWh to 37 TWh in 2019.

While the final global statistics is not yet available, it seems possible that global fossil electricity production did not increase. After nine months of 2019 the decrease of fossil electricity generation in Germany more than compensated the increases in China and India combined. In addition, the US saw a decrease of 50 TWh.

Global nuclear industry has seen an increase in electricity generated in 2019, but not likely enough to reach the peak generation of 2006. Old reactors have been permanently closed in the US, Russia, Taiwan, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland and Germany while new reactors have been connected to the grid only in Russia, China and Korea.

New reactor construction projects are even more rare: China, Russia and Iran all started one. Most remarkable is that the project in China is the first construction project started since 2016. As in the rest of the world, nuclear power in China faces economic competition from low cost renewable electricity.

Several countries in the world have seen solar and wind electricity offered at 15-20 USD/MWh. In Europe, new solar and wind power can now be built without subsidies simply outcompeting existing fossil and nuclear power at prices 30-45 USD/MWh.

As solar and wind electricity at these costs are not only cheaper than electricity generated by fossil fuels, but also cheaper per unit energy than oil and often fossil gas, electricity is beginning to substitute oil and gas in other sectors. 

In the transport sector electric cars and buses are increasing their market shares. In Norway, some months more than half of the cars sold are pure electric. Volkswagen now has set the target of selling 1.5 million electric cars by 2025.

Electrification is even more determined in areas where local air pollution is an issue. Shenzen in China has the entire bus fleet electric, and electric busses are gaining markets all around the world.

In the coming decade renewable electricity will continue to become cheaper and so will batteries and electrolysers. 

The roles of low cost batteries for electric vehicles and daily storage are easily understood. Electrolysers are used when electricity and water are used to produce hydrogen. The hydrogen is used directly to substitute fossil fuels, stored for later use or converted into other gases or liquid fuels to replace fossil fuels.

As the cost of renewable electricity is coming down towards one cent per kWh on average, the use of access capacity to produce fuels will become increasingly important.

By the end of the 2020s low cost renewable electricity may not only dominate the electricity generation, battery electric vehicles be taking over the transport sector and fuels produced from electricity supply industrial fuels and provide seasonal energy storage.

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