Report: We Can Reach 100% Renewable Energy

A new report by a Finnish University says that we could achieve 100 percent renewable energy globally, if our governments would only act.

The “Global Energy System based on 100% Renewable Energy – Power, Heat, Transport and Desalination Sectors” report, is the work of Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) from Finland, and the Energy Watch Group (EWG) from Germany. EWG describes itself as an “independent, non-profit, non-partisan” group of scientists and lawmakers.

The report analyzes 4.5 years of research to look at whether it is possible for the world to move to a 100 percent renewable energy model. It looks at the four major sectors in the report’s title: power, heating, transportation and what is known as desalination, or removing mineral deposits from soil and water for, for example, agricultural purposes.

Currently about one-third of the world’s energy comes from renewables. To achieve a switch to 100 percent renewables by 2050 would massively outpace most global political plans, despite scientific data repeatedly underscoring the urgency of the climate change threat .

According to this new report however, our politicians are dragging their feet for reasons that aren’t related to how achievable this 100 percent renewable target is.

Mass Electrification for a Renewable Future

The report finds that it is possible to achieve 100 percent renewable energy globally across these four sectors by 2050. However, to achieve this, a number of things will have to happen.

Firstly, it says that we must achieve electrification in all energy sectors—including transportation—to make the 100 percent renewable goal viable. This will make electricity 90 percent of the world’s primary energy consumption by 2050.

At the same time, the report underscores that by this deadline fossil fuel use and nuclear energy will need to cease completely.

This might sound like a massive leap, but the report refers to mass electrification as “inevitable”, and, on the whole, that assessment seems right. Even at the highest levels of government in Europe, for example, it is readily acknowledged we need to electrify the transport sector, in particular, rather than rely on fossil fuels.

What will replace fossil fuels and nuclear energy?

The report breaks down the global primary energy consumption profile to answer this question. Solar energy will account for 69 percent of that total. Wind power at 18 percent, hydropower at three percent, bioenergy at six percent and geothermal energy at two percent will make up the rest.

An interesting part of this roadmap is that we will need to produce the bulk of our renewable energy in what the report calls a “decentralized” manner. To put it another way, we will generate the energy either within the local or regional vicinity, not at the national level.

This, in part, goes back to electrification’s advantage over fossil fuels. We have to ship or pipe fossil fuels around the country in order to mine, process and distribute it. In the case of gas and oil, this literally means traveling across seas and continents.

But How Will We Pay for It?

 

While it is true that electrification does require infrastructure—i.e. an electric power grid, electric lines etc.—the delivery method is already ubiquitous to our modern way of life. In terms of capture, processing and management, we do have to build new facilities, but for energy generation from solar and, to a lesser extent wind, they can be less site-specific. That creates efficiency savings in terms of both money and, potentially, climate impact, because these energy plants can be within the local area, generating energy for that local community.

The report also finds that this cost effectiveness translates into real-world savings, saying that 100 percent renewables will mean “energy costs for a fully sustainable energy system will decrease from € 54/MWh in 2015 to € 53/MWh in 2050″.

This would largely absorb any costs that come from transitioning to a renewable energy future.

Perhaps most importantly of all, this will also mean massive savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, taking us from 35.9 GtCO2 in 2015 to net zero by 2050.

What About Jobs?

One of the major sticking points for switching to renewables has been the idea that it will cost people their jobs. The report finds this isn’t the case.

While the switch would phase out nine million coal mining jobs by 2050, renewable energy sector jobs will replace them, and then some. A 100 percent renewable electricity system would create over 15 million new jobs and employ 35 million people globally.

“The report confirms that a transition to 100% renewables is possible across all sectors, and is no longer more expensive than the current energy system,” Hans-Josef Fell, President of the Energy Watch Group, said in a press release. “It shows that the whole world can make the transition to a zero emission energy system. That is why all political powers around the world can and should do much more to protect our climate than they currently envision.”

Getting Governments to Act Will Be the Hardest Part

You may notice that something has been missing in this report: carbon capture technology. The researchers do not envisage this in the global renewables strategy. That will please activists who believe that governments have used carbon capture as a crutch to keep using fossil fuels.

Of course, carbon capture could (and probably should) go alongside this changeover strategy, but the fact that it does not rely on carbon capture is eye opening.

The report readily acknowledges that there will be challenges on the national level that will require tailored responses. There will be no one-size-fits-all model because of the many variables, like geographic location and natural and economic resources. However, the group believes that, with a global roadmap in place, it is possible to create national-level roadmaps to help steer us to that carbon zero goal by 2050.

The major issue is: are our politicians willing to listen to this call for radical action?

Photo credit: Getty Images.

42 comments

Chad Anderson
Chad Anderson11 days ago

Thank you.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill16 days ago

thanks

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Tabot T
Tabot T19 days ago

Thanks for sharing!

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Toni W
Toni W22 days ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W22 days ago

TYFS

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Roslyn M
Roslyn McBride23 days ago

How short sighted of world governments not to act on this natural way to produce energy. Again money comes first,

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Lisa M
Lisa M23 days ago

Thanks.

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Lisa M
Lisa M23 days ago

Thanks.

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Thomas M
Thomas M23 days ago

thanks for sharing

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David C
David C24 days ago

thanks

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