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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New solar and wind energy projects are "undercutting the cheapest and least sustainable of existing coal-fired plants" worldwide, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) said in a report Tuesday.

Driving the news: The group finds that in 2021, roughly 1,200 gigawatts of coal-fired generation may have higher operating costs than the average price of new utility-scale solar.

  • It also finds that onshore wind has slightly higher costs but still undercuts about 850 gigawatts of coal by 2021.
  • That finding is part of a wider look at falling costs for a suite of renewables technologies and how they stack up to fossil generation.

By the numbers: Retiring the least competitive 500 gigawatts of coal plants and replacing them with solar and onshore wind would save $12 billion to $23 billion annually in power system costs, they conclude.

  • That would cut CO2 emissions by 1.8 gigatonnes, which is 5% of last year's global total, per IRENA, the roughly decade-old intergovernmental group that advises nations on renewables policy.

What they're saying: “We have reached an important turning point in the energy transition. The case for new and much of the existing coal power generation is both environmentally and economically unjustifiable," Francesco La Camera, IRENA's director-general, said in a statement.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 2, 2020 - Energy & Environment

The energy jobs that Gen Z wants

Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Axios Visuals

Members of Generation Z are far more interested in careers in renewable energy than nuclear power or fossil fuels, new Morning Consult polling shows.

Why it matters: The new data underscores a much-discussed problem facing the oil-and-gas and nuclear sectors: Attracting young talent.

In photos: D.C. and U.S. states on alert for pre-inauguration violence

National Guard troops stand behind security fencing with the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building behind them, on Jan. 16. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Security has been stepped up in Washington, D.C., and state capitols across the U.S. as authorities brace for potential violence this weekend.

Driving the news: Following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by some supporters of President Trump, the FBI has said there could be armed protests in D.C. and in all 50 state capitols in the run-up to President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration Wednesday.

15 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.