Renewable Energy Could Supply Most of World’s Energy Demand by 2050 – Special IPCC Report

Renewable energy could supply most of the world's power by 2050, new IPCC report saysThe Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation earlier this week in Abu Dhabi. Given proper policy changes and incentives from world governments, the report says, nearly 80 percent of global energy demand could be met by renewable energy sources by 2050.

The report 77 percent is the high-end, optimistic projection. On the low end is 15 percent, up only 2 percent from the current 13 percent renewables contribute to world energy demand. Key to which end of the scale becomes reality is policy measures taken:

“While the report concludes that the proportion of renewable energy will likely increase even without policies,” said the reports authors in a press release, “past experience has shown the the largest increases come with concerted policy efforts.”

Prepared by 120 scientists, the Special Report considers six of the most promising renewable energy technologies and their potential “integration into present and future energy systems.” The energy technologies include solar, wind, bioenergy (including sources such as wood scavenging in developing countries), geothermal, and ocean, notably excluding nuclear as a source of renewable energy.

The report’s authors see the growth of renewable energy, as defined in the report, far outpacing that of fossil and nuclear energy. Indeed, nearly half of new electricity generating capacity came from renewable sources between 2008 and 2009, and the pace of growth continues to rise.

The report also focuses on the potential of renewable energy sources to help spur sustainable economic growth, create jobs, and provide cheaper sources electricity to poor rural areas.

“Developing countries have an important stake in this future — this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live, yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment,” said Ramón Pichs Madruga, the report’s lead author.

Much rides on the policies governments adopt now and in the near future, but the report seeks to highlight the potential of renewable energy as a foundation for a sustainable future.

“The technical potential of renewable energy technologies exceeds the current global energy demand by a consider amount, globally, and in respect of most regions of the world,” the report concludes.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres made the following statement on the release of the IPCC report:

“This IPCC report is most significant because it underscores the irreplaceable potential of renewable energies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of people around the world. In Cancun, at the end of last year, governments agreed to limit the global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius at the most. They must reach their goal by making use of renewable energy sources on a very large scale.

It is also clear that ambitious national policies and strong international cooperation are together the key to the swift and extensive deployment of renewable energies in all countries. In developing countries, which will have the largest energy generation growth, that deployment depends in large measure on appropriate finance and technology being available.

In Cancun, governments agreed on new institutions to channel both funding and technology, and governments now need to make speedy progress on those new institutions. On their side, industrialized nations need to create the right policy conditions and incentives so that the development and installation of clean energy technologies also receive a major boost in their own energy mixes.”

Sources and further reading:
Environmental Expert

Greenwire (subscription required)

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Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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