Cheaper batteries to drive wind and solar to 2050

WORLDWIDE: Cost reductions in wind, solar and battery storage will enable the two technologies to provide half of the world's electricity by 2050, according to a new report.

Acciona's experimental wind-battery system at Barasoain in Spain

Wind energy is expected to be 58% cheaper by mid-century, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), while the cost of solar PV is expected to fall 71%.

This will follow 77% and 41% cost reductions for solar and wind respectively between 2009 and 2018, BNEF pointed out.

These price drops will be compounded by batteries becoming increasingly cheaper, BNEF analysts claimed in its New Energy Outlook.

Lithium-ion battery prices have already fallen 80% since 2010, and BNEF expects the price of a Li-ion pack to fall a further 66% between 2017 and 2030.

This will enable intermittent renewable energy to be stored and discharged to meet shifts in demand and supply, boosting wind and solar’s combined share of worldwide electricity generation to 48% by 2050, BNEF explained.

Seb Henbest, BNEF’s head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, and lead author of the report, added: "The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

"The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear."

In total, BNEF expects $11.5 trillion to be invested in new power generation capacity by mid-century, with $8.4 trillion of this sum being in wind and solar.

A further £1.5 trillion will be spent on "other zero-carbon technologies such as hydro and nuclear", the analysts forecast.

Meanwhile, $548 billion will be invested in battery storage by 2050, with two-thirds of expenditure at grid level and the remainder behind the meter by households and businesses.

Overall, BNEF expects solar PV capacity to increase 17-fold and wind to grow six-fold.