Solar and storage will transform global electricity in the next 25 years

Small-scale solar is set to really take off over the next 25 years as consumers and businesses make the most of being able to generate and store their own electricity.

That’s one of the predictions found in New Energy Outlook 2015, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s (BNEF) latest long-term forecast for global power, based on a detailed analysis of electricity demand, costs of generation and structural changes in the power transmission network.

Between now and 2040, BNEF anticipates a move from a utility-scale, centralised system to one that is increasingly distributed and focused on the consumer. Household and business decisions on solar PV and storage will drive many of the changes in the power system, according to the report.

The company says that the decline in the cost of photovoltaic technology will drive a $3.7 trillion (£2.4 trillion) surge in investment in solar, both large-scale and small-scale. Of this total amount, about $2.2 trillion (£1.4 trillion) is expected to be spent on rooftop and other local PV systems.

BNEF predicts that this small-scale solar boom will result in a 17-fold increase in the global capacity of rooftop, building-integrated and local PV soar, from 104GW in 2014 to nearly 1.8TW in 2040.

Meanwhile, the growing adoption of energy-efficient technologies in areas such as lighting and air conditioning will help to limit growth in global power demand to 1.8% per year, down from 3% per year in 1990-2012. In fact, among the OECD countries, BNEF expects power demand in 2040 to be lower than in 2014.

Jon Moore, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, commented: Last year’s forecast from BNEF identified the big share that renewables would have in power investment — that raised eyebrows at the time, but other energy forecasters have since piped a similar tune. This year’s report pushes our thinking further, with updated analysis on the slowing levels of demand we are already seeing, and on the proliferation of small PV systems.

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