How the world can get to 100% renewable energy

How the world can get to 100% renewable energy

The person who most accurately predicted the renewable energy boom says the world can phase out all fossil fuels by the middle of the century.

The scenario outlined in the latest Greenpeace Energy [R]evolution report would mean the world would stay within the IPCC’s 1,000 gigatonne “carbon budget” and prevent the worst catastrophes of climate change from happening.

It envisions global emissions peaking at the end of this decade, a return to 1990 levels in 2030, a 60% reduction by 2040 and near zero emissions in 2050 (discounting non-energy sectors such as steel).

According to lead author Sven Teske, not only is it possible to completely decarbonise the global power sector by 2050, it can be done at no extra expense because of all the fuel cost savings.

Heating is more complicated, but still feasible since there’s a huge number of potential efficiencies. Considerable capital would have to be devoted to developing renewable heating technologies such as enhanced geothermal and solar arrays.

Decarbonising transport is tricky as well, but can largely be achieved by growing and electrifying public transports like trains, as well as encouraging the uptake of ever-improving electric vehicles.


Development of CO2 emissions by sector under the 100% Energy [R]evolution.


Greenpeace, 2015

And with this clean energy global infrastructure in need of constructing, there would be many millions of jobs going, as many as 9.7 million working in solar PV alone in 2030.

This analysis arrives less than three months before the UN is due to meet in Paris to hash out a global agreement on climate change. The report says a strong deal – in which country commitments are reassessed every 5 years – is integral to getting to 100%.

It follows a report released by consultancy Demand Energy Equality that details how the UK can get 80% of its energy from renewables by 2030.

What 100% means

There’s a pretty well-known scientific consensus that any more global warming than two degrees celsius will trigger the most extreme consequences of climate change.

To wit, the IPCC has said that any more than 1,000 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions will ensure we cross that threshold.

And according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), should the world continue with “business-as-usual”, it will use up that “carbon budget” by 2040, and annual emissions will increase 56% by the middle of the century.

But the Energy [R]evolution report, which Teske has previously characterised as a “work plan”, has a detailed scenario in which the global energy transition is achieved in the next 35 years.


World development of electricity generation under the IEA “current policies”and the Energy [R]evolution case.


Greenpeace, 2015

Source: Energy desk Greenpeace

Date: October 2015

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