Solar power will be ‘new king’ of energy markets, agency claims

The growth of solar and wind power — both burgeoning industries in Ireland — could be “spectacular”, with the former becoming the “new king” of global electricity.

That was one of the conclusions from the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its annual outlook for 2020, which said the response to the Covid-19 crisis can reshape the future of energy, but that it was now up to governments to follow through with action.

Strong growth of renewables needs to be paired with robust investment in electricity grids over the next decade, the report on global energy output said.

Energy-related carbon emissions are set to drop by 7% this year, global energy demand is set to drop by 5%, and energy investment by 18%, the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2020 said.

Solar power will become the new king of the world’s electricity markets, IEA executive director, Dr Fatih Birol, said.

Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022. 

“If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our sustainable development scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular — and hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge,” Mr Birol said.

According to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), wind energy is currently the largest contributing resource of renewable energy in the country, and it is both Ireland’s largest and cheapest renewable electricity resource.

In 2018, wind provided 85% of Ireland’s renewable electricity and 30% of total electricity demand, and is the second greatest source of electricity generation in Ireland after natural gas.

Ireland is one of the leading countries in its use of wind energy and was in third place worldwide in 2018, after Denmark and Uruguay.

However, without further investment, electricity grids will prove to be a weak link in the transformation of the power sector, with implications for the reliability and security of electricity supply, the IEA said.

Global emissions are set to bounce back more slowly than after the financial crisis of 2008-2009, but the world is still a long way from a sustainable recovery, the IEA said.

“Despite a record drop in global emissions this year, the world is far from doing enough to put them into decisive decline. The economic downturn has temporarily suppressed emissions, but low economic growth is not a low-emissions strategy — it is a strategy that would only serve to further impoverish the world’s most vulnerable populations,” said Mr Birol.