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Renewable Generation to Match Coal Generation by 2040

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By Editors of Power Engineering

The continued rise in renewable generation will cause those sources to match coal generation by 2040, according a new international energy outlook from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Coal generation is expected to fall from 40 percent of electrical generation to 31 percent by 2040. Renewable generation is expected to increase by an average of 2.8 percent per year to 31 percent in the same time frame due to technological improvements and government incentives.

Wind and solar power are expected to represent over two-thirds of all renewable additions in 2040, with non-hydropower renewables increasing 4.9 percent per year. However, hydropower will remain king of renewable generation, even though its share will decline from 71 percent in 2015 to 53 percent in 2040 as resource availability and environmental concerns will begin to limit the number of new hydro projects.

Natural gas use will increase as well, by an average of 2.1 percent per year. Together, natural gas, coal and renewables will account for nearly 90 percent of all electrical generation, up from just above 80 percent in 2010.

Though nuclear’s share of generation will fall slightly, its generation is also slated to increase due to boosted electrical demand.

The world consumed just over 20 trillion kWh of electricity in 2010, with that demand growing to just under 35 trillion kWh in 2040.

Though coal is expected to remain the single-biggest source of generation in China through 2040, its share will fall from 72 percent now to 47 percent in 2040. Renewable generation in the country sill grow from 22 percent now to 34 percent, with wind alone expected to increase more than six-fold.

China will account for much of the world’s growth in nuclear generation, with nuclear growing from three percent of the country’s generation to eleven percent.  

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