Solar Power Will Completely Phase Out Coal By 2050


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Solar power is on the up-and-up. W Joke khumkhur/Shutterstock

Thanks to the rapidly falling price tags on electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels, the global growth in the use of oil and coal may peak as soon as 2020.

According to the new report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative and Imperial College London, the combination of clean energy policies by the world’s nations and the lack of adaptability of the fossil fuel industry, means that these two highly polluting fossil fuels could see the end of the road sooner than many have predicted.


“Electric vehicles and solar power are game-changers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates,” Luke Sussams, senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said in a statement. “Further innovation could make our scenarios look conservative in five years’ time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more.”

By 2030, the researchers estimate that one-in-five cars on the road will have electric engines, and that the spread of solar power will stop the ascent of the already stumbling coal and oil industries in just a few years’ time.

Their data predicts that solar power will make up 23 percent of global power generation by 2040 and 29 percent by 2050. This will completely phase out coal, and will leave natural gas with just 1 percent of the market share.


The report notes that ExxonMobil currently predicts that all types of renewables will make up just 11 percent of the market share by 2040.


By 2050, coal will fall to half 2012 levels. Oil demand will remain flat from 2020 to 2030, whereupon it will quickly decline.

More than anything, this new report underscores that no matter how much certain governments or companies want to push them, fossil fuels are slowly dying out.

The economic and environmental risks of merely extracting oil and coal out of the ancient Earth is simply not worth it anymore, and even sizable conglomerates like Shell are moving towards clean energy and natural gas.

Governments across the world, recognizing this trend in the all-powerful market forces and taking into account the kind of planet they wish to leave for future generations, have made a dramatic switch to renewable energy in the last decade or so.


Compared to 2004, the global power generation capacity (excluding hydroelectricity) via renewable energy sources has jumped up a whopping 659 percent. Even back in 2013, about 19 percent of the world’s final energy consumption came from renewable sources.

The number of countries with clean energy policy targets has also risen from 48 to 144, and this number is now far greater than that thanks to the ratification of the Paris agreement.

The clean energy industry is booming, and providing far more jobs that those available in the fossil fuel sector. Importantly, China and the US – prior to Trump’s emergence as the new president – are the top-two investors in renewable energy, particularly wind and solar power.


Over time, assuming this trend keeps up, the two most prolific producers of greenhouse gases will find that their carbon footprint will begin to shrink in size – and no single politician is powerful enough to reverse this.


This new report implies that the energy revolution isn’t just imminent, but that it’s already begun, right under our noses – and it’s got the full support of the public. The future’s already here, and – although the planet is still warming far too rapidly – it is going to be a lot cleaner and greener than most of us thought it would be.

[H/T: Guardian]


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