The future of electricity is not yet defined, with a number of paths available as the world seeks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. There is a choice for citizens, investors, companies, but above all for governments, how to proceed. At World Energy Outlook 2020, the Declared Policy Scenario (STEPS) assumes a steady recovery in economic activity and incorporates our assessment of all political ambitions and goals in place or announced around the world, including about 166 countries with policies to expand the use of renewables in power (REN21, 2020). The Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS) investigates accelerated clean energy transitions and what else would be needed to achieve the goals of climate, clean air and access to energy.
Electricity production is undergoing a profound transformation
Electricity production is being reshaped by the development of technology and by sustainability and energy security goals. Renewable energies and nuclear power combined generated more electricity than coal for the first time in 2019 and are on track to open up permanent leadership. The generation of electricity from renewable sources is expected to exceed that of coal-fired power plants by 2025 according to current policies and proposed in STEPS. Photovoltaic solar energy and wind power lead the growth of renewable energies, helped by falling costs, the wide availability of resources and strong political support.
The world is entering a new era and solar PV is the new king of electricity. According to stated policies, the generation of photovoltaic solar energy expands well over 4,000 TWh in the next two decades, more than coal generation has increased in the past 20 years. Solar PV becomes the main means of meeting the growing demand for electricity, one third of the total by 2030, while coal generation decreases globally. The growth potential is even greater. In the Sustainable Development Scenario, the global photovoltaic solar market takes off and increases by 8,000 TWh by 2040, equivalent to 12 times the global photovoltaic solar generation in 2019, or almost triple the total solar electricity ever produced in history.