Renewables could overtake coal in 15 years, says IEA

Climate change deal could transform global energy market far sooner than previously thought

Wind turbines behind a solar power park in Germany. We could be seeing a lot more of renewable energy sources in years to come, according to the IEA 

With pressure mounting on countries to agree to new climate change targets, there now seems to be a concerted effort to back renewable energy over traditional fossil fuel-based sources, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). If a deal is agreed this year, then the IEA predicts that renewables – led by solar power – could overtake coal, gas and nuclear power as the world’s main source of electricity.

Solar could account for as much as a third of global power generation by 2030

Solar power has been growing in use for the last couple of years, after a troubled period where much-touted companies collapsed and government subsidies in the US and Europe were cut. It is now seen as a commercially viable source of power, with China heavily backing the technology and bringing down costs as a result. According to the IEA, solar could account for as much as a third of global power generation by 2030, which would be up from the fifth of market share it has currently.

The IEA’s Energy and Climate Change report also highlighted how coal will likely remain a key component of the global energy mix in 2030, but would have slightly reduced its dominance. However, the report also calls for governments to phase out fossil fuel subsidies by 2030 in an effort to reduce the reliance of countries on polluting fuels.

The UN is pushing for stringent emissions targets to be agreed at a conference in Paris in December, and it is thought that most countries are keen to sign up to tougher goals. Previously, many states have been reluctant to meet targets that might have affected their economic development.

Maria van der Hoeven, the IEA’s Executive Director, said in the report that “time is of the essence” if the world was to mitigate the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions. “It is clear that the energy sector must play a critical role if efforts to reduce emissions are to succeed. While we see growing consensus among countries that it is time to act, we must ensure that the steps taken are adequate and that the commitments made are kept.”

The last year has seen a dramatic shift in the global energy market, with plunging oil prices exacerbated by an increase in production by the Saudi Arabia-led Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). As discussed in the latest issue of The New Economy, the are fears in Saudi Arabia that the rise of renewable energy means that it makes more sense to get produce as much oil as possible now, before it is no longer of any value.