Renewables now at tipping point says Liebreich

The founder of industry research group Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), Michael Liebreich, believes renewables are close to or already at a tipping point where they will be chosen in preference to fossil fuels.

Speaking at the organisation’s conference in London, Liebreich forecast that clean energy will capture 86% of the $10.2 trillion (£7.6tn) investment in power generation by 2040.

He said the falling cost of wind turbines and solar panels meant renewables would now be more economical than fossil fuels in many countries.

Liebreich said: “One of the reasons those offshore wind costs have come down to be competitive without subsidies is because these turbines are absolute monsters. Imagine a turbine with a tip height that’s higher than The Shard.”

Two tipping points

Liebreich predicted two “tipping points” at which renewables would be more attractive than coal- and gas-fired power stations.

“The first is when new wind and solar become cheaper than anything else,” he explained.

“At that point, anything you have to retire is likely to be replaced by wind and solar.

“That tipping point is either here or almost here everywhere in the world.”

He said it would be cheaper to use solar panels in Japan than build a coal-fired power station by 2025 and that wind power will be cheaper than coal in India by 2030.

‘Nobody is going to make coal great again’

The second tipping point will come when its more expensive to operate existing gas and coal plants than to replace them with renewables, a scenario that could be achieved in Germany and China around 2025.

Liebreich added: “This is going to happen.

“Coal is declining in the United States. Nobody is going to make coal great again.”

> Download the summary of BNEF's New Energy Outlook report