DNV GL, an accreditation and research group, sees Canada and the United States increasing population and wealth, yet still lowering total energy use by 30% while shifting toward almost 90% CO2 free electricity by the year 2050.
The group’s annual Energy Transition Outlook sees federal policies lagging in both countries, but local politics picking up the pace.
The analysis suggests that 24% of electricity in the two countries will come from photovoltaics by 2050, totaling just over 1.7 petawatt-hours that year. This will be generated by a total of 962 GWac of solar power, which by the late 2020s will start to be installed at 35 to 45GWac of capacity per year. This volume slowly increases to an AC capacity factor of 20% by the end of the period.
Wind power will head toward almost 50%, with onshore rising to 26% from today’s approximate 8%, and offshore growing from effectively 0% today (30MW total installed in Rhode Island) to 22% by 2050. Hydro and nuclear are expected to hold onto 8% of electricity generation each. The total amount of electricity from these five CO2 free sources is 88%, with gas fired generation pushing another 10% of the electrons into the power grid — and by the early 30s coal will head to 0%.
No seasonal storage was considered for the report – all battery capacity considered came from flow, lithium ion, pumped storage and EVs. Interestingly, standalone lithium ion is suggested as delivering only a small amount of electricity, while EVs and flow batteries offer multiple orders of magnitude greater energy storage services. Flow batteries are predicted to install almost 2,000GWh of capacity, with standalone lithium ion only 19GWh.
Globally, almost 12 TWac of solar power will be installed, with China being responsible for approximately 4.4 TWac, and India for another 2 TWac of that capacity. By this point, a full one-third of global electricity is projected to come from solar power. Sometime in the 2030s we’ll start installing 600 GWac/year, with solar power being 60% of all new electricity generating capacity (but not generation) installed per year.
Broader regional energy usage will still heavily be comprised of fossil emitting sources, with the majority of the declines in emissions coming from efficiency gains versus displacement from newer, cleaner sources. As a part of total energy use, electricity will come to supply 45% of it – up from just over 21% today, and of course 90% of this will be from CO2 free sources.
At that point, 50% of our emissions will come from transportation and a third from heating buildings.