A Turning Point in Decarbonisation?

Earlier this week, BloombergNEF’s lead solar analyst, Jenny Chase, radically marked up her solar generation forecast. 

Chase and BNEF now predict 707GW of solar generation will be installed per year by 2030. For reference, Germany’s total energy generation capacity is approximately 210GW.

Installed solar capacity by 2030 is forecast at 5.8TW, above the 5.3TW that BNEF estimates is required in the transition to net zero by 2050. Chase noted that “the price of new solar modules hits a new low every week due to oversupply.”

This is largely due to China turning up the dial on solar. Half of the world’s total investment in renewable energy production in 2022 was made in China.

Chase’s comments follow a public expression of positivity about the energy transition from the International Energy Agency last month. “Despite the scale of the challenges, I feel more optimistic than I felt two years ago,” said its executive director at the end of September.

One of Chase’s most striking insights is the problem of too much solar. “We don’t need a technology breakthrough,” she said this week. “Today, solar developers just need a grid connection and permission to sell electricity and they’ll be off building solar plants whether it’s a good idea or not.”

A notable downside to solar abundance is the reduced take-off for wind. Total wind generation remains below what BNEF predicts is needed for net zero by 2050. Zero-carbon energy incentives tend to treat different kinds of renewable energy the same. Whereas Chase argues there is more than enough solar on the way, but still not enough wind power.

Still, these are the right kind of problems to have, and net zero looks more achievable than ever. “Getting that last 10-30% of carbon out will be hard, and require some expensive solutions,” says Chase. “The first 70-90% is easy-ish but we’re getting on with it.”

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