A new global renewable energy report has suggested that switching to solar energy could save companies billions, in addition to slashing carbon emissions.
The data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows that over half of global coal plants could be undercut by new large-scale solar projects. This is due to the falling cost of building solar projects, which are now over 80% cheaper than in 2010.
According to IRENA, new utility-scale solar plants could cost less to run than up to 1200 gigawatts of existing coal capacity worldwide.
If new solar power projects or onshore windfarms replaced the most expensive coal plants, upto £18bn could be saved each year by energy companies according to IRENA. Additionally, the equivalent of 5% of 2019’s global carbon emissions could be eliminated too.
As the world emerges from the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, $940bn in investment could also be stimulated by the global renewable energy boom - equivalent to 1% of GDP globally.
The director-general of IRENA, Francesco La Camera, said that renewable energy is ‘increasingly the cheapest source of new electricity’ and has ‘tremendous potential to stimulate the global economy and get people back to work’.
In less than ten years the cost of large-scale solar power has plummeted by over 80%. In the same time period, the cost of onshore and offshore wind have fallen by almost 40% and 30% respectively.
Costs are continuing to fall according to IRENA’s latest figures. The average cost of large-scale solar power fell to 6.8 US cents per kWh last year - a fall of 13%. Average onshore wind costs fell by 9% to around 5.3 cents per kWh, and the average cost of offshore wind also fell by 9% to 11.5 cents per kWh.
“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,” said La Camera.
Research from IRENA shows that increased investment in renewable energy could potentially spur gains of almost $100tn for global GDP by 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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