Solar and wind power, with a big assist from batteries, will power nearly half the worldwide electricity grid by 2050, according to the New Energy Outlook 2019, the latest annual energy report from BloombergNEF.

BloombergNEF is the primary research service for Bloomberg, the financial, software, data, and media company. BNEF released the report last month.

The full report is available only to Bloomberg subscribers, but you can read a thorough Executive Summary here. BNEF's experts think deep declines in the costs of wind, solar, and battery technology will spur their rapid adoption worldwide. Wind or solar is already the least expensive option for new power-generating capacity in two-thirds of the world.

"Our power system analysis reinforces a key message from previous New Energy Outlooks: that solar photovoltaic modules, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries are set to continue on aggressive cost reduction curves," said Matthias Kimmel, the report's lead analyst. He was quoted in a BNEF news release.

"By 2030," Kimmel said, "the energy generated or stored and dispatched by these three technologies will undercut electricity generated by existing coal and gas plants almost everywhere."

BNEF's analysts foresee that solar will go from supplying 2% of the world's electricity generation today to supplying 22% in 2050. Wind will increase from 5% to 26%, the report says.

For other energy sources, the report forecasts this:

  • Hydropower will grow slightly.
  • Nuclear energy will stay flat.
  • Coal will collapse, except in Asia. By 2050, coal will supply 12% of world electricity needs, compared with 27% today.
  • Natural gas will stay about where it is, "supplying system backup and flexibility rather than bulk electricity in most markets."

Here's the outlook for the United States:

  • Renewable energy sources and natural gas will become the premier sources of power generation.
  • By 2050, renewables will supply 43% of electric power, and carbon emissions will be 54% lower than they are today.
  • "Coal and nuclear are pushed out by age and economics, such that by 2050 both technologies have almost disappeared from the electricity mix. We do not anticipate a US nuclear renaissance with current technology."

If you're an energy geek, then you'll find lots more food for thought in the seven-section Executive Summary. Don't have that kind of time? Then check out 10 highlights from the report, including the potential effect of decentralized technologies such as rooftop solar and home battery systems.