2020 is the year for renewable energy! Here we have researched and will explain the paths that renewable energy will take in 2020 and the coming decade.

Natural gas and renewables are pushing out coal

In 2016, natural gas pushed out coal of the top position in the U.S. power sector. In 2018, natural gas fueled more than 60% of new electric-generating capacity and 35% of total U.S. electricity generation.1 In 2020, can we see both natural gas and renewables put coal to bed?

Last April, renewable energy supplied more power to the U.S. grid than coal2, indicating that a combination of natural gas and renewables are more than capable of pushing out coal from the energy sector altogether. This may take years to achieve, but we believe that 2020 is the year renewables make a huge impact on the energy sector.

Wind and solar dominate renewable growth

BloombergNEF’s New Energy Outlook 2019 has found that wind and solar power are the cheapest way to add new power in the majority of countries around the world, and will make up nearly half of the electricity system by 2050.3 Is 2020 the year things get kickstarted?

The global economy will become increasingly electrified in all aspects, including transportation and heating and cooling. New wind and solar farms can produce power cheaper than coal and gas plants that are already built around the world.3

EV sales are rising quickly

In Europe, 2020 is going to be the year of the electric car. New models are being launched from familiar automotive brands such as BMW and Fiat, and the number of models that are available will come in around 175 by the end of the year. It is estimated that UK EV sales will rise from 3.4% in 2019 to 5.5% in 2020.4

In the United States, more than 40 electric car models are available and 14 more are expected to be released later this year. From Tesla to Volkswagen to Rivian, 2020 will be an exciting year for EVs in North America.5 2019 was the year that EVs became more widely available and popular, and 2020 is the year they breakthrough into mainstream auto industries as a replacement for traditional combustion vehicles.6

Corporations continue to drive the growth of renewable energy

Companies like John Deere, Coca-Cola, BMW, Tesla, Toyota, American Airlines, Disney, Starbucks, Walmart, Nike, Siemens, Google, and many more have committed to reduce their carbon footprints.7 Walmart, for example, has been installing solar panels on the roofs of their buildings. In 2020 we can expect to see more large corporations moving away from traditional sources of energy and moving toward sustainable renewable energy. This dedication to reduce their carbon footprint may put pressure on other corporations and municipalities to meet carbon neutral targets sooner.

Increased opportunities for offshore wind sector because of government policy initiatives

Offshore wind farms have an opportunity to take off in 2020 due to U.S. government policy initiatives. The National Offshore Wind Strategy facilitates the development of the offshore wind industry in the United States. Offshore wind energy is an abundant, low-carbon, domestic energy source, and most farms are or will be located close to major coastal load centres, which provides an alternative energy source to long-distance transmission of electricity generation in these regions. Offshore wind farms will be able to produce energy at low, long-term fixed costs, which can reduce electricity prices and improve energy security by providing a hedge against fossil fuel price volatility.8 Government policies such as this are vitally important for renewable energy to continue to grow in the U.S. and North America, and we hope to see more government initiatives take place in 2020.

Renewables’ cost competitiveness

2019 saw the cost of renewables decrease significantly, allowing greater accessibility to clean energy for more people. The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released a report in 2018 that found wind power to be cheaper than any other source of power and predicts that all forms of renewable energy will be cost-competitive with fossil fuels by 2020.9 In 2019, IRENA released another report that found renewable power to be the cheapest source of electricity in many parts around the globe already. Prices are set to fall even more in 2020, extending the cost advantage of renewables even further.10

“Renewable power is the backbone of any development that aims to be sustainable”, said IRENA’s Director-General Francesco La Camera. “We must do everything we can to accelerate renewables if we are to meet the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement. Today’s report sends a clear signal to the international community: Renewable energy provides countries with a low-cost climate solution that allows for scaling up action.”10

Growth in energy storage

Since 2013, energy storage costs have decreased by 74%, and are projected to continue to decline by another 8% through the mid 2020s.11 In this new decade, batteries and battery technology are set to play an increasingly important role in bringing more electric vehicles and renewable energy to the market. Declining costs and breakthrough battery and energy storage solutions will dramatically change the global mobility market and the power grid over the next decade.12

The US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) is funding research by 10 organizations with one common goal — creating long term energy storage systems that cost $0.05 per kilowatt hour or less. Five of the projects are scheduled for completion in 2020 and the rest in  2021. After they are complete, ARPA-E plans to fund small scale field trials to determine which are commercially viable. Energy storage is a vital component of the transition to clean, zero emissions electricity.13

Access to energy in developing countries

The IEA’s Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report has found that prices for long-term generation contracts at reduced levels are emerging in areas as diverse as Brazil, India, the Middle East, South Africa and the United States. As such, some countries and regions now have the potential to leapfrog to a development paradigm mainly based on increasingly affordable renewable power. This is especially true in Sub-Saharan Africa. Renewable energy can improve cost-effectiveness and policy momentum, and play a critical role in supporting economic growth and energy access across sub-Saharan Africa, and other developing countries.14

According to a new report produced by the IEA, IRENA, UNSD, and WHO; “ensuring affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all by 2030 remains possible but will require more sustained efforts, particularly to reach some of the world’s poorest populations and to improve energy sustainability”.15

Public action on climate 

In light of Greta Thunberg’s growth in popularity in 2019, we can expect more public action on climate change. More people are demanding governments take action against climate change, and move toward a cleaner, greener future.

References

1Saha, Devashree. (July 2019). Natural Gas Beat Coal in the US. Will Renewables and Storage Soon Beat Natural Gas? Retrieved from World Resources Institute:https://www.wri.org/blog/2019/07/natural-gas-beat-coal-us-will-renewables-and-storage-soon-beat-natural-gas

2Doan, Lynn; Eckhouse, Brian; Cannon, Christopher; and Recht, Hannah. (September 15, 2019). What’s Behind the World’s Biggest Climate Victory? Capitalism. Retrieved from Bloomberg.com: https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2019-can-renewable-energy-power-the-world/

3Scott, Mike. (June 24, 2019). Wind and Power Set to Dominate Power Mix by 2050, as Coal Continues to Decline. Retrieved from forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikescott/2019/06/24/wind-and-solar-power-set-to-dominate-power-mix-by-2050-as-coal-continues-to-decline/#21faf4c755b6

4Jolly, Jasper. (December 25, 2019). 2020 set to be the year of the electric car, say industry analysts. Retrieved from the guardian.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2019/08/26/101-companies-committed-to-reducing-their-carbon-footprint/#78e71058260b

5Berman, Bradley. (December 24, 2019). 2020 Electric Vehicles: The Big Breakthrough Year for EVs. Retrieved from insideevs.com: https://insideevs.com/features/342054/2020-electric-vehicles-the-big-breakthrough-year-for-evs/

6IEA. (May 2019). Global EV Outlook 2019. Retrieved from iea.org: https://www.iea.org/reports/global-ev-outlook-2019

7Morgan, Blake. (August 26, 2019). 101 Companies Committed to Reducing their Carbon Footprint. Retrieved from forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/blakemorgan/2019/08/26/101-companies-committedwalm-to-reducing-their-carbon-footprint/#78e71058260b

8Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (2019). National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States. Retrieved from energy.gov: https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/downloads/national-offshore-wind-strategy-facilitating-development-offshore-wind-industry

9Jungcurt, Stefan. (January 2018). IRENA Report Predicts All Forms of Renewable Energy Will be Cost Competitive by 2020. Retrieved from sdg.iisd.org: https://sdg.iisd.org/news/irena-report-predicts-all-forms-of-renewable-energy-will-be-cost-competitive-by-2020/

10IRENA. (May 2019). Falling Renewable Power Costs Open Door to Greater Climate Ambition. Retrieved from irena.org: https://www.irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2019/May/Falling-Renewable-Power-Costs-Open-Door-to-Greater-Climate-Ambition

11Environmental Defense Fund. (2019). Energy storage market booms, with more growth to come. Retrieved from edf.org: https://www.edf.org/energy/energy-storage

12Paraskova, Tsvetana. (January 6, 2020). 2020: The decade for energy storage. Retrieved from oilprice.com: https://oilprice.com/Energy/Energy-General/2020-The-Decade-For-Energy-Storage.html#

13Hanley, Steve. (January 5, 2020). Energy Storage 2020: It’s not just about lithium-ion batteries anymore. Retrieved from cleantechnica.com: https://cleantechnica.com/2020/01/05/energy-storage-2020-its-not-just-about-lithium-ion-batteries-any-more/

14IEA. (2015). Renewables lead to world power market growth to 2020. Retrieved from iea.org: https://www.iea.org/news/renewables-to-lead-world-power-market-growth-to-2020

15The World Bank. (May 2019). More people have access to electricity than ever before, but the world is falling short of sustainable energy goals. Retrieved from worldbank.org: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2019/05/22/tracking-sdg7-the-energy-progress-report-2019