Last year marked the first time solar and wind power became cheaper than coal — and 2017 might be an even bigger turning point for the green energy industry.
In December, the World Economic Forum released a report that found solar and wind energy have reached parity with, or dropped below, the price of coal in 30 countries.
"In an increasingly larger number of countries, it has become more economical to install solar and wind capacity than coal capacity," the report read.
Workers move a solar panel at Solgate Inc., a solar panel assembly plant in Toronto on Aug. 4, 2015. (Photo: James MacDonald/Bloomberg via Getty)
Some forecasts say in less than 10 years, renewables could be the cheapest option for everyone.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted on Monday that by 2025 solar energy will be, on average, the cheapest energy option globally.
Ten years ago, it cost US$600 per MWh to generate electricity with solar power, according to The Independent. Now, it costs only US$100 to generate the same amount of electricity, putting it on par with coal and natural gas.
"In an increasingly larger number of countries, it has become more economical to install solar and wind capacity than coal capacity." —World Economic Forum
In Canada, renewables are set to grow this year. Both Alberta and Saskatchewan announced plans to support renewable energy programs in 2017.
It's also becoming a more appealing option for consumers. The Financial Post reported that on a new house, it's much cheaper to install $10,000 worth of solar panels than the incremental cost of buying that same amount of energy from the grid.
A coal processing plant sits near a snowcapped mountain not far from Cadomin, Alta. (Photo: Gettystock)
But, it doesn't look like the world will be able to let go of coal just yet.
The fossil fuel doesn't require an alternative for when wind stops blowing or the sun dips behind a cloud, making it an attractive backup option.
“Wind and solar can only generate part-time, intermittent electricity. While some renewable technologies have achieved significant cost reductions in recent years, it’s important to look at total system costs," Benjamin Sporton, chief executive officer of the World Coal Association, told Bloomberg.
Ren21, a stakeholder network that assists in crafting global renewable energy policies, found that global investment in renewables was just US$285.9 billion in 2015. That's way less than the projected US$12.2 trillion required globally over the next 25 years, if the world is going to meet the Paris climate agreement's emission goals.