Could solar become the "king" of the world's energy market? | Gustavo Fring / Pexels

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), solar energy is now cheaper than coal.

The IEA is an autonomous intergovernmental organization working with governments around the world to implement effective energy policies for a “secure and sustainable energy future for all.”

In the majority of countries around the world, solar photovoltaic (solar PV) generation is increasingly affordable. And, according to the IEA, it’s now consistently cheaper than new coal or gas-fired power plants. The group has said that “solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen.”

In its recent World Energy Outlook 2020 report, IEA highlighted the historically cheap electricity now provided by solar. It also predicted that the next decade could see 80 percent of global electricity demand growth met by renewables.

“I see solar becoming the new king of the world’s electricity markets,” Dr. Fatih Birol, the IEA Executive Director, said in a press release. “Based on today’s policy settings, it is on track to set new records for deployment every year after 2022.”

The report explores a variety of potential scenarios and outcomes for the coming years. It specifically highlights the international response to the COVID-19 pandemic as an important way to reshape the future of energy. Well-designed energy policies will support climate goals and planned reductions in carbon emissions. Solar and other renewables are central to a green recovery.

“If governments and investors step up their clean energy efforts in line with our Sustainable Development Scenario, the growth of both solar and wind would be even more spectacular,” added Birol. “And hugely encouraging for overcoming the world’s climate challenge.”

Achieving Net-Zero

The report’s Sustainable Development Scenario shows how the world can achieve its sustainable energy objectives in full and on time. In order for the global community to achieve net-zero C02 emissions by 2050—as per the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change target—renewables must meet around 75 percent of all global electricity demand by the year 2030. Today, renewables meet just 40 percent of global demand.

“Despite a record drop in global emissions this year, the world is far from doing enough to put them into decisive decline,” said Dr. Birol. “Only faster structural changes to the way we produce and consume energy can break the emissions trend for good.”

The report notes that individual behavioral changes will also play an important role in the reduction of CO2 emissions. These adjustments include: working from home where possible, reducing air travel, driving slowly, and minimizing the use of appliances such as tumble-dryers and air conditioners.