Could EVs and Solar Blindside Big Oil?
February 4, 2017
Falling costs of electric vehicles and solar panels could halt worldwide growth in demand for oil and coal by 2020, a new report has suggested.
A scenario that takes into account the latest cost reduction projections for the green technologies, and countries’ pledges to cut emissions, finds that solar power and electric vehicles are “gamechangers” that could leave fossil fuels stranded.
Polluting fuels could lose 10% of market share to solar power and clean cars within a decade, the report by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative found.
A 10% loss of market share was enough to cause the collapse of the coal mining industry in the US, while Europe’s five major utilities lost €100bn (£85bn) between 2008 and 2013 because they did not prepare for an 8% increase in renewables, the report said.
Big energy companies are seriously underestimating the low-carbon transition by sticking to their “business as usual” scenarios which expect continued growth of fossil fuels, and could see their assets “stranded”, the study claims.
Emerging technology, such as printable solar photovoltaics which generate electricity, could bring down costs and boost take-up even more than currently predicted.
Luke Sussams, a senior researcher at Carbon Tracker, said: “Electric vehicles and solar power are gamechangers that the fossil fuel industry consistently underestimates.
“Further innovation could make our scenarios look conservative in five years’ time, in which case the demand misread by companies will have been amplified even more.”
James Leaton, head of research at Carbon Tracker, added: “There are a number of low-carbon technologies about to achieve critical mass decades before some companies expect.”
The falling cost of electric vehicle and solar technology will halt demand growth for oil and coal from 2020, according to research published on Thursday, posing a threat to fossil fuel companies unprepared for the transition.
The Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and independent think tank Carbon Tracker Initiative analyzed cost forecasts for electric vehicle (EV) and solar photovoltaic (PV) technology, government policies and the impact on road transport and power markets, which account for half of global fossil fuel consumption.
“Fossil fuels may lose 10 percent of market share to PV and EVs within a single decade. This may not sound much but it can be the beginning of the end once demand starts to decline,” Carbon Tracker said in a statement.
A 10 percent loss of market share caused the collapse of the U.S. coal mining industry and Europe’s five biggest utilities lost more than 100 billion euros ($108 billion) in value from 2008-2013 because they were unprepared for renewable energy growth, it added.
The report said that electric vehicles could make up a third of the world’s road transport market by 2035 and that solar PV could supply 23 percent of global power generation by 2040, entirely phasing out coal and leaving natural gas with only a 1 percent market share.
Growth in the number of electric vehicles could lead to 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil demand being displaced by 2025, the report estimates.
That would be similar to the volume of oversupply that led to the 2014/15 collapse in oil prices. By 2040, 16 million bpd could be displaced, rising to 25 million bpd by 2050, it said.
The International Energy Agency has said that 2 million bpd of oil could be displaced by electric vehicles by 2040. Bloomberg New Energy Finance has forecast that such displacement could occur as early as 2028.