WindEconomics: Oil giant points to rapid wind growth

BP has just published the 2019 edition of its annual Energy Outlook. This shows renewables -- excluding hydro -- could become the largest power source by 2040, growing from its current 4% share of primary energy to just under 30% by 2040 under the report's "rapid transition" scenario.

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In the more cautious "evolving transition" scenario, wind contributes 13% to power generation by 2040, solar slightly less, and the remainder comes from geothermal and biomass. In the rapid-transition scenario — made possible if governments take measures to increase energy efficiency and curb emissions — the volume of wind energy almost doubles, from 1.23 to 2.15 billion tonnes of oil equivalent, or around 9,260TWh.

BP stresses that it is not trying to predict the future, but to suggest how world energy trends might evolve, subject to defined criteria. The oil giant’s rapid-transition projections for the growth of wind energy are slightly higher than the Global Wind Energy Council’s "advanced policies" scenario, which yielded the highest estimates for wind when reviewed in our October issue.

BP’s projections for wind are shown in the chart below. The rapid-transition figure for wind energy output of 9,260TWh/yr in 2040 corresponds to about 3,500GW of capacity. BP suggests this translates into a compound annual growth rate of 9.7%, which is less than the rates achieved recently.

The prospects for a much more ambitious energy transition in Europe have been explored by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) in Finland and the Energy Watch Group, a global network of scientists and politicians. They concluded that "a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy across Europe is possible — with zero greenhouse-gas emissions from power, heat, transport and desalination sectors before 2050". They also surmised that such an energy system would be more cost-effective than the existing one.


The transition to a 100% renewable-energy system requires significant changes to the transport system, moving away from oil and switching to electric and hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. This enables the energy needs for transport to be fed by wind and photovoltaics.

While BP sees wind and PV sharing the generation on roughly equal terms, LUT concluded that 62% of the supply and would come from PV and 32% from wind. The required wind capacity is 1,753GW onshore, plus 15GW offshore. PV capacity is 8,939GW.

As the PV capacity is more than five times that for wind, this suggests that generation costs from PV are seen to be lower than those from wind, this can be inferred from their installed cost projections (see chart, below). The report tabulates expenditure in five-year blocks, so the figures quoted are averages over the preceding five years.

The data suggest PV costs will fall rapidly from their 2015 level of €1,150/kW, reaching around €250/kW in the period 2045-50. Onshore wind falls more slowly, reaching €900/kW in the same period. These projections lie between the upper and lower bound estimates from a set of Cost trajectories to 2050, from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), issued by the Publications Office of the European Union. The LUT onshore wind costs tie in well with the JRC data, but the LUT offshore costs are higher.

LUT suggests the levelised cost of energy in the power sector will fall from around €80/MWh in 2015 to €56/MWh by 2050, while the levelised cost of heat will rise marginally from around €41/MWh in 2015 to around €47/MWh by 2025 and then drop to around €43/MWh by 2050. This takes into account the costs of the storage that is required; this covers about 13% of the electricity demand. The most favourable storage option was batteries. Heat storage is also required and the costs of this are also taken into account.

At a glance — This month’s report conclusions

BP Energy Outlook 2019 Reviews possible trends in world energy supply and demand to 2040, concluding renewables, especially wind, are likely to grow strongly.

100% Renewable Energy across Europe, LUT/Energy Watch Group, December 2018 Concludes 100% renewables is feasible and cost-effective, but with wind playing second fiddle to PV

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