Global energy industry at ‘tipping point’ for coal, wind & solar: BNEF

The global energy industry is experiencing two major tipping points that mean coal will never be great again, and the age of wind and solar has arrived.

Speaking at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s annual get-together in London last week, founder Michael Liebreich said the first tipping point – which were are living now – is where new wind and solar become cheaper than new anything else.

“That means that anything you have to retire is likely to replaced by wind and solar,” he says (if economics rather than ideology were a factor). “That tipping point is either here or close everywhere in the world.”

The second tipping point – the crossover between new wind and solar and existing coal and gas plants – “is really interesting,” he says.

“It’s when wind and solar are cheaper than existing fossil fuel plant. Suddenly your addressable market is not just incremental demand and replacements, it is everything.

“No one is going to make coal great again in the US. It can’t beat cheap gas, it can’t beat cheap renewables, it can’t beat cheap energy efficiency.” Even in China, new wind and solar will beat existing coal.

Below are the graphs Liebreich used to illustrate this. They utility-scale PV and onshore wind very nearly beating new coal in China, and already doing so in the US, where the main competition comes from relatively cheap local gas.

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Giles Parkinson