Are renewables set to displace natural gas? (Energy Collective)

30 / JUL / 2017

Geoffrey Styles / The Energy Collective

Are renewables set to displace natural gas? (Energy Collective)

A recent story on Bloomberg News, “What If Big Oil’s Bet on Gas Is Wrong ?”, challenges the conventional wisdom that demand for natural gas will grow as it displaces coal and facilitates the growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Instead, the forecast highlighted in the article envisions gas’s global share of electricity dropping from 23% to 16% by 2040 as renewables shoot past it. So much for gas as the “bridge to the future” if that proves accurate.

Several points in the story leave room for doubt. For starters, this projection from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), the renewables-focused analytical arm of Bloomberg, would leave coal with a larger share of power generation than gas in 2040, when it has renewables reaching 50%. That might make sense in the European context on which their forecast seems to be based, but it flies against the US experience of coal losing 18 points of electricity market share since 2007 (from 48.5% to 30.4%), with two-thirds of that drop picked up by gas and one-third by expanding renewables. (See chart.)

It’s also worth noting that the US Energy Information Administration projected in February that natural gas would continue to gain market share, even in the absence of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which is being withdra wn .

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