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Renewable Energy is reaching a tipping point

Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2020, percentage shows the decreasee in cost since 2019. Image credit: IRENA

The IRENA Renewable Power Generation Costs report 2020 has just been published (June 2021) and it shows some very interesting data: in the ten years from 2010 to 2020 renewables have moved from a nice to have from an environment impact viewpoint to a must have from an economic viewpoint.

In the past decade renewable sources needed financial support to be competitive vs fossil fuel based power generation, it is no longer so .

2020 is marking a tipping point for several renewable sources: renewable power production is reaching a production cost around 0.2$ per kWh, and this is actually lower than the very best fuel fossil based electrical power production. in other words, pushing towards renewable power generation is no longer a cost but a saving!

In 2020 the renewable power generation has increased by 261 GW capacity reaching 2,799 GW (it was 754 GW in the year 2000). The cost of photovoltaic generation (for utility company) decreased 85% in the last 10 years. As shown in the figure, in the last year (2020 vs 2019) the cost decrease of photovoltaic has been 7%, off-shore wind farms – 9%, on-shore wind farms and concentrating solar power -16%.

Interestingly, in the last 10 years emerging Countries have increased their renewable power by 534 GW at a cost lower than equivalent fossil fuel power resulting in a saving estimated at 32 billion $ in 2021.

According to the IRENA report there are now some 800 GW of power produced using fossil (coal) fuels that are becoming un-economical and that makes sense to replace with renewable source (even taking into account the up-front investment).

The message is clear: expect to see a ramp up of renewable, particularly so as we have new technologies (UHVDC) that make transport of electrical power feasible over long distances (up to 3,500 km).

For more information refer to the World Energy Outlook 2020.  If you are interested in this topic, and have time to spare, look at the video below with the full presentation of the IEA.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.