Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested.
A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “game-changers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded.
Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.
The cost of solar has fallen 85% in seven years, and the report finds panels could supply 23% of global power generation by 2040 and 29% by 2050, entirely phasing coal out and leaving natural gas with just a 1% share.
By 2035, electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport market, and two-thirds by 2050, when it could displace 25m barrels of oil per day.
Under such a scenario, coal and oil demand could peak in 2020, while the growth in gas demand could be curtailed.
It could also limit global temperature rises to between 2.4C and 2.7C above pre-industrial levels, while more ambitious action by countries than currently pledged, along with falling costs of solar and electric vehicles, could limit warming to 2.1C to 2.3C.
But the report shows that cutting carbon from the power sector and road transport may not be enough to achieve international climate targets, so emissions reductions from other sectors such as heating buildings and heavy industry will also be needed.