Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are already as cheap or cheaper than traditional fuels in about half of G20 countries, and are soon to be the cheapest form of electricity in every G20 country, according to a new report from Greenpeace in advance of the upcoming G20 Summit in Hamburg.
Published this week, before the G20 leaders meet in Hamburg, Germany, for their annual G20 Summit, the new report by Greenpeace Germany highlighted the decreasing costs of renewable energy sources, and their cost-competitiveness with traditional energy sources like coal and nuclear. Specifically, Greenpeace Germany highlighted a report published earlier this year by the United Nations Environment Program and Bloomberg New Energy Finance that showed the average leveled cost of generating power from solar worldwide dropped by 17%, onshore wind dropped by 18%, and offshore wind costs fell by 28%. The report also highlighted the unsubsidized prices of renewable energy projects which are undercutting all other sources of new electricity generating capacity, such as “prices falling to nearly 26 €/MWh for a wind power project in Morocco and a bid of 24 €/MWh was made for a solar power plant in Abu Dhabi last year.”
The report, therefore, is an effort to substantiate these examples, and highlight the fact that “many G20 [countries] continue to favor fossil fuel and nuclear based power generation, which is economically unfounded.”
“There can be no excuses anymore,” said Greenpeace Germany energy expert Tobias Austrup.
“Climate protection increasingly makes economic sense across the G20 as renewable energy becomes cheaper than dirty coal and nuclear. Any G20 country that is still investing in coal and nuclear power plants is wasting their money on technology that will not be competitive in coming years. The G20 now has a responsibility to send a clear signal that accelerating the clean energy transition is not only the right thing to do for the climate, but also for the economy. Range of leveled cost of electricity (LCOE) median values inclusive of external and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission costs of different power generation technologies for the G20 in 2030. The median LCOE of the G20 in Figure ES-3 form the range of LCOE. External costs for nuclear power do not include the high socialized risk of limited liability insurance in the case of nuclear catastrophes.
The report, Comparing electricity production costs of renewables to fossil and nuclear power plants in G20 countries, was conducted by the Finnish Lappeenranta University of Technology, and commissioned by Greenpeace Germany. The report calculated the electricity generation costs of all G20 countries between 2015 and out to 2030 and found that wind farms already generated the cheapest form of electricity in 2015 across large parts of Europe, South America, the United States, China, and Australia. Further, the report concluded that due to significant technological innovation and progress leading and falling prices, solar energy in 2030 will be even cheaper than wind power in many G20 countries.
But even now, renewable energy across many G20 countries is already cost competitive with local grid prices, so it is unsurprising that by 2030 renewable energy will be far and away the cheaper option.
Unsurprisingly, however — for anyone who has paid even the slightest attention to these issues — there are still challenges to seeing this future come to pass without hindrance. Specifically, the report highlights the negative impact of subsidizing fossil fuels — highlighted in another report published this week in advance of the G20 Summit meeting in Hamburg. Specifically, this week’s report showed that G20 countries averaged $70 billion in public finance for fossil fuels, totaling $215.3 billion in deals for oil, gas, and coal, between 2013 and 2015. The Greenpeace report further highlighted a study from the International Energy Agency which showed that countries spent close to $500 billion on consumption subsidies for fossil fuels in 2014 — 90% of which came from G20 governments.
In the end, the report’s conclusions should be the definitive end for coal and other fossil fuel technologies, but entrenched interests across the world will continue to see coal and nuclear and other sources continue fighting for every scrap of financing and subsidies and years left to operate, further jeopardizing the planet’s chances of keeping global warming within the limits set out in the Paris Climate Agreement.