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.



8 Responses to “Could EVs and Solar Blindside Big Oil?”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Kammen is worth listening to—–give us more.

    What he and the Guardian and Reuters pieces say is a bit misleading and bright-sided in spots, though—-look at all the “could” and “may” caveats.. As Kammen says, renewables have been terrific in the best case applications, but are not yet cheap enough everywhere to replace fossil fuels until prices drop even more, and there’s no guarantee of that happening at a fast enough rate to save us. Projections of success 5, 10, 15, 20 years into the future are racing (and actually even denying) the ACTUALITY of record temperatures and strange doings with ice.

    Latest “projections” actually show a small increase in coal use in the US, and use of the natural gas that is the real cause of coal’s decline is staying steady too. The Pussy Grabber’s Destroy America First energy plan is NOT going to help.

  2. Canman Says:

    … 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.

    Where did they learn their arithmetic — from Jethro Bodine?

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Could be, in that their gazintas and cumzoutas are far-fetched. I suspect that some of these “look into the future” types also rely on a Magic 8-Ball.

  3. Tom Bates Says:

    The electric cars need to get the energy from someplace not in Bizarro land. That cannot come from solar as they will be recharged mostly at night when you get home unless of course you up the entire grid to deliver power to the parking lots which will cost trillions of dollars, tens of trillions of dollars. A third of the world transport market in the USA is 253 million/3 roughly 80,000,000 at a $10,000 for the charging station and upgrade to the power grid only comes to 800,000,000,000 for the USA alone. The cost of the solar and storage is extra. Since the efficiency of the grid is not 100 percent a lot of energy is needed to recharge those cars. Solar average power output is about 37 percent with present installations when the sun is shining. To get the power than requires at least three times that in solar grids. Throw in the power loses and you most likely need 5 or 6 times the power the cars consume when recharging.

    • redskylite Says:

      Fortunately there are other non carbon producing technologies that continue unabated at night. Nuclear, marine, geothermal and wind to name four of these beauties. Then there is Musk and Panasonic and megafactories doing there bit. So this should address you concerns and you should be very happy me duck.

      A look at the new battery storage facility in California built with Tesla Powerpacks

      East of LA, a natural gas peaker plant surrounded by fields of cows got a new, futuristic neighbor. Under a maze of transmission lines, a 20MW battery storage facility made of nearly 400 closet-sized batteries sitting on concrete pads now supplies 80MWh to utilities.

      SoCal utility will buy 80MWh of battery storage from Tesla after methane leak
      The project is an anomaly not just because it’s one of the largest energy storage facilities on the grid in California today, but also because it was built in record time—the project was just announced in September when regulators ordered utility Southern California Edison to invest in utility-scale battery storage, a year after a natural gas well in Aliso Canyon, California, sprang a leak and released 1.6 million pounds of methane into the atmosphere.

    • andrewfez Says:

      A lot of the cost of a curbside charger is in the retro-fit (digging a trench, piping and repairing what you tore up). So if you’d actually build the lot with chargers in mind, it would be cheaper. And the prices come down with economies of scale. 5 parking garage chargers cost $4k per charger; duel station curbside ones are $6k per charger; and personal use chargers for home are like $1.2k or a lot less if you do it yourself.

      The ChargePoint station near where I live charges 30 cents per kwh and the electricity (at retail) costs about 15 cents. It can charge about 4kwh/h, so it makes 60 cents per hour. So you’re thinking at this point it has a low ROI (invest $6k, make $16k over 15 years @ $3/d), but what ChargePoint does is charge you $25 up front to preload your account, then you use that towards charging. All they have to do is find 240 people that might want to use the charger and that pays for the thing up front. Then as they draw all the way down their preloads, their credit cards get charge another $25. A certain % will never use the full $25 so they pretty much just give that away to ChargePoint. You can see where I’m going with this…

  4. redskylite Says:

    It is difficult to project forward, because you have to estimate the mass will to embrace the technology. This is where governments (especially local governments) can make a difference by offering low tax options and encouraging early adoption. Manufacturers of mixed technologies also could put their new technology projects forward a bit more.

    Climatecrocks generally promotes the serious manner of what is happening in the field of human encouraged climate change, there is also NASA, NOAA, NSIDC, ESA, Potsdam and a host of other respected Scientific institutions. Then there is the United Nations and the IPCC. All supported by the best Universities and seats of knowledge and learning. There is also a 97% consensus amongst climate scientists and oceanographers.

    Patiently, we need to change consumerism everywhere and grab onto the new technologies. It really shouldn’t be so difficult as wider choice emerges.

    Maybe we need to stimulate the imagination more and show how attractive and beneficial the new products are. Cut through the old stick in the muds, who want to keep the old technologies and models we built our society on. Time to let go of it. Sooner we see the death of petroleum and coal the better.

    Sunlight-powered purifier could clean water for the impoverished

    One-tenth of the world’s population lacks clean water. Now, researchers report they have developed a cheap solar still, which uses sunlight to purify dirty water up to four times faster than a current commercial version. The raw materials cost less than $2 per square meter. The technology will “allow people to generate their own drinking water much like they generate their own power via solar panels on their house roof,” says Zhejun Liu, a visiting scholar at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo and one of the study’s co-authors.

    Solar stills have been around for millennia. Most are simple black-bottomed vessels filled with water, and topped with clear glass or plastic. Sunlight absorbed by the black material speeds evaporation, which is trapped by the clear topping, and funneled away for drinking water. Most pollutants don’t evaporate, and so are left behind. But much of the sun’s energy is wasted in the slow heating of a full vessel of water. Even the best stills need to be about 6 square meters in size to produce enough water for a single person for a day.

  5. […] understandable. A mass-uptake of electric vehicles could flatten the world’s demand for oil as early as 2020, displacing approximately 25 million barrels per day of oil by 2050. Oil giant British Petroleum […]

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