That would mean $630 billion in new renewable capacity investments in 2030 alone — over three times what was built in 2012, and 35 percent higher than what BNEF predicted for 2030 a year ago. So not only does renewable energy’s future look formidable, it’s looking more formidable every year we project it.
After accumulating the latest data on economic prosperity, market trends, demand growth, technology development, and likely future policies, BNEF’s modeling program spit out three projection scenarios: the optimistic “Barrier Busting” scenario, the pessimistic “Traditional Territory” scenario, and the middle-of-the-road “New Normal” scenario.
The New Normal scenario is considered the most likely. It shows the investment requirement for new clean energy assets in the year 2030 at $630bn (in nominal terms), more than three times the investment in the renewable energy capacity that was built in 2012. This 2030 investment figure is 35 percent higher than that produced in Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s last global forecast a year ago, and the projection for total installed renewable energy capacity by that date is 25 percent higher than in that previous forecast, at 3,500GW.
In the power sector, the research company’s latest forecasts project that 70 percent of new power generation capacity added between 2012 and 2030 will be from renewable technologies (including large hydro). Only 25 percent will be in the form of coal, gas or oil, the remaining being nuclear.
Significantly, even under the Traditional Territory projections, renewable investments would be $470 billion in 2030 — over twice what they are now.
As Grist points out, things don’t look nearly as bright once you add back in already installed power. Totaling it all up, half the global power supply will still be non-renewable in 2030. And there’s still plenty of uncertainty built into BNEF’s projections — with a possible boom in natural gas for a China among the biggest question marks.
But the larger point is that the rise of renewables is driven by concrete changes int he structure of the energy market. “The news right now is dominated by stories of pain caused by overcapacity on the supply side of clean energy, and the lure of cheap shale gas,” said Michael Liebreich, BNEF’s chief executive. “But this is playing out against the falling costs of renewable energy and of all the technologies required to integrate it into our energy system, and falling costs win.”
Of course, they’d be winning even faster if we corrected the massively-distorting failure of both the United States’ domestic market and the global market to properly price in the future costs of carbon emissions.