Concentrating solar power (CSP) installations concentrate energy from the sun’s rays to heat a receiver to high temperatures. This heat is then transformed into electricity – solar thermal electricity (STE). From a system perspective, STE offers significant advantages over PV, mostly because of its built-in thermal storage capabilities. CSP plants can continue to produce electricity even when clouds block the sun, or after sundown or in early morning when power demand steps up. Both technologies, while being competitors on some projects, are ultimately complementary.
Geothermal energy can provide heating, cooling and base-load power generation from high-temperature hydrothermal resources, aquifer systems with low and medium temperatures, and hot rock resources. Each geothermal source is unique in its location, temperature and pool depth, and various geothermal technologies have been developed to best specific resources.
Ocean power accounts for the smallest portion of renewable electricity globally, and the majority of projects remain at the demonstration phase. However, with large, well-distributed resources, ocean energy has the potential to scale up over the long term.
Last updated Jan 7, 2022
Geothermal power generation in the Net Zero Scenario, 2000-2030
Much more effort is needed to put geothermal electricity production on the Net Zero trajectory
Geothermal electricity generation increased an estimated 2% in 2020, falling below average growth of the previous five years, with a capacity increase of about 200 MW. This technology is not on track with the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 Scenario, which requires 13% annual increases in generation over 2021-2030, corresponding to average annual capacity expansions of about 3.6 GW. Policies to help reduce costs and mitigate predevelopment risks are needed to increase geothermal-based power generation.
More effort and investment in R&D and commercialisation are needed for marine technologies
Electricity generation from marine technologies increased an estimated 33% in 2020. However, marine power’s is not on track with the Net Zero Scenario sustained annual growth of 33% through 2030, which is not expected to be achieved in the years ahead. Such generation growth would require an average 1 GW of capacity additions annually until 2030.
While advanced marine projects of 10 kW to 1 MW for power generation have been deployed (in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, China and Denmark), these demonstration and small commercial projects remain expensive because the economies of scale necessary for significant cost reductions have not yet been realised.
Marine technologies hold great potential, but additional policy support for RD&D is needed to enable the cost reductions that come with the commissioning of larger commercial plants.
Capacity additions of CSP are well below Net Zero requirements
In 2020, almost 200 MW of CSP capacity were added, a 66% decrease from 2019 and below the average of the previous ten years. All capacity additions were commissioned in China, and overall CSP generation remained similar to 2019, at 14.5 TWh. China, Morocco and South Africa have been responsible for the bulk of capacity additions in the past five years, and they are expected to continue leading deployment in upcoming years, along with the United Arab Emirates.
To achieve Net Zero power generation of 204 TWh from CSP in 2030, average annual generation growth of 31% is needed from 2020 to 2030. As this corresponds to about 6.7 GW of new capacity every year, CSP deployment is not currently aligned with the Net Zero Scenario.
Much more effort is therefore needed to support R&D, recognise CSP’s storage and flexibility capabilities, reduce its costs and increase the scale of the industry.