NEO report: Solar to lead $3.7 trillion charge as renewables outstrip fossil fuels

solar panels and a placard

Trillions will be invested in renewables up to 2040

The way humans go about getting their electricity is set to change forever, according to an influential report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The New Energy Outlook 2015 (NEO) study, which was handed down last week, also found that solar energy would be at the vanguard of the change towards a more renewable future.

Solar will gain around US$3.7 trillion worth of funding and generate 14 percent of the world’s electricity by 2040, according to the report. With costs of photovoltaics rapidly decreasing, solar energy is set to account for a third of all new power capacity worldwide.

“Up to now, small-scale solar investment has been dominated by wealthy countries such as Germany, the US and Japan,” said Jenny Chase, chief solar analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“By 2040, developing economies will have spent US$1 trillion on small PV systems, in many cases bringing electricity for the first time to remote villages.”

But wait there’s more (as they say in the classics). The report claimed that, with more pro-active policy decisions from governments, zero-emission energy could make up to 60 percent of the world’s energy capacity by 2040.

The NEO report pulls no punches in its findings, citing “massive shifts” that are taking place to change the way humans go about getting their electricity. These include the plummeting price of solar energy which has driven a boom in household solar and will underpin an expected $3.7 trillion in new investment in the solar sector.

Other key drivers of support for solar are the improvements in energy efficiency, battery storage and growing awareness of climate change. With natural gas losing a great deal of its early promise as a (relatively) environmentally friendly alternative to coal and oil, the focus is shifting more towards solar as a viable alternative, said the NEO.

Concentrating on the changes to electricity the world is expected to experience in the near future, the NEO report looks at the evolution and revolution in the energy sector. The report takes into account the cost of wind and solar technology, battery storage, electricity demand and consumer dynamics among others.

Importantly the report expects battery storage to play a major role in energy consumption with this form of energy storage being adopted in increasingly large scale by 2025.

Yet despite these expected gains, the report still sees coal as playing a big role in energy consumption, to the detriment of climate.

“We will see tremendous progress towards a decarbonised power system,” said BNEF chair Michael Liebrich. But he added “coal will continue to play a big part in world power… unless further radical policy action is taken”.

Lead author Seb Henbest said this factor made it unlikely that global warming can be limited to 2 degrees Celsius, the agreed international goal to limit harmful climate change.

To sum up, the NEO report’s findings show that solar energy is to play a major role in the future of how we access energy. However without some seismic shifts in government policy in a number of countries, we are sailing very close to environmental disaster.

Sounds familiar?


  1. This is good news. It’s a pity our Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his cronies don’t share enthusiasm with the solar energy industry, I know people who refuse to have them on their roof because they are ugly or they don’t see the value because they are too old. I am glad my father installed panels on his roof when he was 80 years old! I have them but the biggest negative I see is the lack of accessibility to my tiles if I need to do maintenance on them or want access to the roof space. Lighter and removable panels would have been better. I guess they are still to be made.

    • Rich Bowden says

      Thanks for your comment Cheryl. Some great thoughts and proof that you’re never to old to install solar panels!

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