The report observes that "[t]he history of energy scenarios is full of similar projections for renewable energy that proved too low by a factor of 10, or were achieved a decade earlier than expected." For example, the International Energy Agency's 2000 estimate for wind power in 2010 was 34 gigawatts, while the actual level was 200 gigawatts. The World Bank's 1996 estimate for China was 9 gigawatts of wind and 0.5 gigawatts for solar PV by 2020, but by 2011 the country had already achieved 62 gigawatts of wind and 3 gigawatts of PV.
In a case of possibly wishful thinking, Exxon in 2012 projected that the world will get just 16% by 2040 of its electricity from renewable energy. I would be glad to bet every member of the Exxon board of directors a Yuengling Lager or two that its strategic planners are way off.
By contrast, BP projects that renewable energy will provide 25% of the world's electricity by 2030. I am cautious bettor so I won't place a bet against the BP projection. But I also think it is too low. Why?
Projections consistently underestimate global public support for renewable energy, the sharp cost reductions achieved by especially the solar and wind industries, and increasing rates of energy efficiency. Solar in particular is now on a cost and deployment path that will make a mockery of most energy projections authored even in the last two years.
And then there is climate. At some point in the next two decades, carbon pricing will become a global reality. At that point, renewable energy, nuclear power, and carbon capture and storage technology will finally have an even playing field, and markets will move rapidly toward these technologies.