Cost-slashing innovations are underway in the electric power sector and could give electricity the lead over fossil-based combustion fuels in the world's energy supply by mid-century, according to Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).
When combined with a global carbon price, these developments can catalyze emission reductions to reach the Paris climate targets, while reducing the need for controversial negative emissions, a new study finds.
"Today, 80 percent of all energy demands for industry, mobility, or heating buildings is met by burning - mostly fossil - fuels directly, and only 20 percent by electricity. Our research finds that relation can be pretty much reversed by 2050, making the easy-to-decarbonize electricity the mainstay of global energy supply," said Gunnar Luderer, author of the new study and researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research as well as professor of Global Energy Systems Analysis at the Technical University of Berlin.
For the longest time, fossil fuels were cheap and accessible, whilst electricity was the precious and pricier source of energy, Luderer said. He stated how renewable electricity generation - especially from solar photovoltaics - has become cheaper at breath-taking speed, a pace that most computer simulations have so far underestimated.
"Over the last decade alone prices for solar electricity fell by 80 percent, and further cost reductions are expected in the future. This development has the potential to fundamentally revolutionize energy systems. Our computer simulations show that together with global carbon pricing, green electricity can become the cheapest form of energy by 2050, and in the long-term supply up to three-quarters of all demand," Luderer explained.