Generating power from wind now as cheap as fossil fuels: Irena report

Cost has fallen by about a quarter since 2010, with the price of solar falling by about 73 per cent over the same time

Irena director general Adnan Amin says turning to renewables for power generation is not only an environmentally conscious decision but also a smart economic one. Silvia Razgova / The National
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The cost of generating power from onshore wind is now almost as cheap as fossil fuel.

That’s according to a new study by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena).

The report found that the cost of getting onshore wind power has fallen by about a quarter since 2010, with the cost of solar falling by about 73 per cent over the same time.

Onshore wind is being commissioned for as little as four US cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), compared with five to 17 cents a kWh for fossil fuels.

Solar electricity costs are also expected to reach these levels within two years.

The full report will be released on Saturday, to coincide with the first day of Irena’s eighth assembly in Abu Dhabi.

“This new dynamic represents a significant shift in the energy paradigm – with new power generation from onshore wind now almost universally cost-competitive with fossil fuels,” said Adnan Amin, director-general of Irena.

“These cost declines across technologies are unprecedented and representative of the degree to which renewable energy is, and will continue to, disrupt the global energy system.”

The main drivers of this reduction include advanced technology, more experienced developers of the energy and increased competition.

“Turning to renewables for new power generation is not simply an environmentally conscious decision, it is now – overwhelmingly – a smart economic one,” said Mr Amin.

“We expect the transition to gather further momentum, supporting jobs, growth, improved health, national resilience and climate mitigation around the world in 2018 and beyond."

More than a 1,000 people are expected to attend the two-day event in Abu Dhabi. The assembly is Irena’s supreme decision-making body where heads of state, 70 ministers, government officials and others meet to discuss advancements in renewable energy.

It also heralds the start of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which begins on Saturday and runs until January 20.

It is the largest event of its type in the Middle East and includes the Irena assembly, World Future Energy Summit, International Water Summit and the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

“At the Irena assembly, our global membership will set the direction of the agency in the coming years and chart a roadmap for the energy system of the future – a future that will be increasingly decarbonised, decentralised and digitalised,” said Mr Amin.

More than US$1 trillion has been invested in renewables across the world since 2013 and the industry accounts for about 10 million jobs worldwide.

Uruguay will preside over the session this year and its minister for energy said the world can learn from its experience as the country is now a sustainable energy pioneer.

“Just last year, 97 per cent of our electricity was generated by renewables,” said Carolina Cosse, Uruguay's minister of industry, energy and mining.

“This year marks our fifth without the need to import power, as well as increasing our exports to neighbouring countries. Our next challenge is to move forward on electric transportation and I believe Uruguay is ready to be the next regional platform where this technology can be developed and implemented."

Apart from the release of the renewable energy report, other highlights of the assembly will include the launch of the “global commission on the geopolitics of energy transformation”; a high-level ministerial event to improve the capacity of small states to develop renewable energy projects; and meetings on renewable energy policy, geothermal energy and sustainable development.

On Thursday, Irena held a legislators forum with the Federal National Council in Abu Dhabi to discuss renewable energy goals.

Irena will also hold an art exhibition called ‘Visions of Sustainability’ where sound artist Bill Fontana will present multimedia works on renewable energy. Sustainability advocate William McDonough and pilot of Solar Impulse Bertrand Piccard will also be talking at the event.


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