According to IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2020, solar power is now the cheapest source of electricity. (Image Credit: American Public Power Association)

The global response to the coronavirus pandemic could drastically change the future of energy. According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2020, the world’s best solar power strategies provide the most affordable electricity in history. Currently, the technology costs less than gas and coal in most major countries. IEA’s scenario includes 43% more solar output by 2040 than expected in 2018, partly because solar power is 20-50% cheaper. 


While the transition to clean energy gains momentum, quicker and structural changes are required to reach net-zero carbon emissions. IEA expects renewable sources to take over while solar, which receives support from government policies and reduced costs, is used more often.


IEA predicts that coal demand won’t return to pre-pandemic levels, and as a result, it could account for less than 20% of energy consumption by 2040. The agency also says that oil demand could see a decline starting in 2030. As a result of the pandemic, IEA projects that global energy demand could drop by 5% in 2020. Meanwhile, oil and gas consumption should drop by 8% and 7%, respectively. 


As part of the Stated Policies Scenario, the coronavirus pandemic should be brought under control by 2021. Energy demand is expected to bounce back to its pre-pandemic level in 2023. However, the Delayed Recovery Scenario projects the economy could recover more slowly from the pandemic. Under this scenario, energy demand could rebound in 2025.


Both the Sustainable Development Scenario and Net Zero Emissions summarize the steps needed to reach the climate goals by 2050. In the first scenario, net-zero emissions can be reached by 2070, and in the second, the goal can be reached by 2050 through aggressive policies.

Renewables are expected to increase this year. Most of the growth is generated from solar, which is expected to continue in the upcoming years. As a result, solar is projected to be cheaper than coal and gas-fired plants.


Under the stated policies scenario, renewables could reach 80% of the growth in electricity demand over the next ten years. It could also surpass coal as the main source of energy generation by 2025. However, if more aggressive policies are put in place, renewables could have an even larger role in five years.



New utility-scale solar projects cost $30-60/MWh in Europe and the US. Meanwhile, it only costs $20-40/MWh in China and India. According to IEA, these prices are below the range of LCOE for new coal-fired power plants and in the same range as the coal plants’ operational cost in China and India.


By 2040, electricity generation from non-hydro renewables could reach 12,872TWh compared to today’s 2,873TWh, an 8% increase from last year.


Homeowners could benefit from using a solar-powered system. GoGreenSolar is selling a 5 kW solar power kit for $7,228. However, the 13 400-watt solar panels in the GoGreenSolar kit are installed in an Ironridge racking and mounting system secured to the ground. The company says it costs an additional $1,500 for the following: “Concrete, schedule 40 pipe, wire, conduit, fittings, breakers, AC/DC Disconnects (if required), junction boxes and a sub panel (if required).”


Hiring a contractor to install the system costs an additional $5,000. The entire system only costs $8,700 if the homeowner installs it. Everything costs $13,700 if a homeowner hires a contractor to install the solar power system. This price is set before the federal and local tax credit comes into play.


However, ground-mounted solar power systems need space. GoGreenSolar says 400 square feet is required for a 5 kW system. A 20 x 20 plot of yard space or 25 x 16 is sufficient for a 5 kW system. These systems are for those who have backyards that are big enough for the panels and racking system.


A UC-Berkley study discovered that a home solar power system installed on the roof increases a home’s value by $15,000. A 5 kW system that costs $13,700 could add more value to a home than the system’s price. If a homeowner installs the system, then it would increase the value by $6,300 more than the system’s cost. In this circumstance, there could be additional savings from incentives. When factoring in the increase in home value and savings from incentives, it might cost almost nothing to get the entire system. 


Last week, National Grid warned that Britain’s electricity would be in short supply after a series of unplanned power planned outages and low wind gusts. The electricity supply squeeze wasn’t expected to be as bad as last month. It was the second warning from the electricity system operator. The company issued a warning to the electricity market that its buffer of power reserves dipped below 500MW and that it may need help from power plants to prevent a blackout. The warning was later withdrawn.


The electricity supply squeeze came after National Grid left large areas of England and Wales without power. The blackout, which was the biggest in a decade, affected a million homes. A lightning strike was to blame for the power failure.


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