New Report Praises Solar Progress

Government agencies can be pessimistic. For example, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected last year that coal’s share of the electricity generation mix would drop modestly from 28 percent to 22 percent by 2040. Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency projects that carbon emissions will continue to grow until 2040 and beyond as the age of fossil fuels appears “far from over.”

A new report by Bloomberg released in mid-June sees things a bit differently, however.

The Bloomberg report suggests that solar power will push coal and even natural gas powerplants out of business sooner than expected. Electricity from photovoltaic panels costs almost a quarter of what it did in 2009, and Bloomberg projects it will fall another 66 percent by 2040. Solar panels are already cheaper than new coal plants in the U.S. and Germany, and Bloomberg is projecting that solar will undercut coal in places like China and India in the next few years. The report projects that 369 gigawatts of coal projects that are already in the works will wind up being cancelled. Instead of a minor reduction in coal’s market share projected by the EIA, Bloomberg sees coal’s capacity being cut in half by 2040. In Europe, coal’s capacity will fall 87 percent, putting it on the brink of extinction.

For so long, wind and solar were trivial components of the country’s electricity mix. Together they generated about 1 percent of the country’s electricity in 2007, and solar in particular barely made a blip until 2012. Now they are pushing past 10 percent. Bloomberg says they will make up half the nation’s power by 2040. Wind and solar will also dominate future investments, as prices, changing preferences, and regulatory hurdles will slow down fossil fuel spending. Government projections have routinely underestimated the ongoing boom in wind and solar power, so hopefully they are wrong again.

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