Renewables major part of 2050 world energy mix: UN

May 07, 2011 by Marlowe Hood
Wind turbines are seen here at the Belwind wind farm, the first renewable electricity central in Belgium, near the port of Zeebrugge. Renewable power from the Sun, wind, water and biomass can and should generate a major portion of the planet's energy supply by 2050, according to a draft United Nations report obtained by AFP.

Renewable power from the Sun, wind, water and biomass can and should generate a major portion of the planet's energy supply by 2050, according to a draft United Nations report obtained by AFP.

Renewables have the potential to bring power to the world's poorest regions, boost for nations dependent on imports, and curb the that fuel global warming, the draft said.

The 30-page "summary for policy makers" -- boiled down from 1,500 pages -- is being vetted at a May 5-13 meeting of the 194-nation Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) in Abu Dhabi, and will be unveiled Monday.

"The final version is likely be substantially different in wording and perhaps somewhat in emphasis, but not a great deal in substance," said an industry representative participating in talks.

By far the most comprehensive UN assessment of the status and potential for the clean sector, the report weighs 164 separate development scenarios.

Six types of renewables accounted in 2008 for 12.9 percent of global : biomass (10.2 percent), hydropower (2.3), wind (0.2), solar (0.1), geothermal (0.1) and ocean (0.002).

Once traditional use of firewood and animal dung for cooking and heating is set aside, however, that percentage drops to about seven.

Coal, oil and gas together make up 85 percent, and nuclear energy two.

Boosted by some government policies, declining technology costs and rising fossil , "deployment of renewable energy has been increasing rapidly in recent years," the draft summary said.

The sector contributed, for example, nearly half of the 300 of new electricity generating capacity added worldwide in 2008 and 2009, with more than 50 percent installed in developing countries. Coal accounted for most of the rest.

Solar power towers are seen here in Sanlucar La Mayor, in Spain. Renewable power from the Sun, wind, water and biomass can and should generate a major portion of the planet's energy supply by 2050, according to a draft United Nations report obtained by AFP.

The report says there is virtually unlimited technical potential for renewables, with much of it coming from solar energy.

Drafted before the Fukushima plant meltdown in Japan undercut the so-called nuclear renaissance, the summary said renewables will likely make a higher contribution to low-carbon energy supply by mid-century than nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) combined.

Overall, a majority of projections reviewed show a "substantial increase" -- ranging from 3-to-20 fold -- "in the deployment of renewable energy by 2030, 2050 and beyond."

Many scenarios showed renewables reaching 200 to 400 exajoules (EJ) a year by mid-century in a world where total primary energy supply is forecast to be about 1,000 EJ, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

An exajoule is a unit of measure for energy.

Clean energy's share of future supply varies hugely across different forecasts, with the most ambitious envisioning a world in which it covers three-quarters of all energy needs.

But the continuing growth of renewables is not inexorable and faces many barriers, ranging from vested political interests to inadequate incentive structures for developing new technology, and fossil fuel subsidies.

"To achieve international climate mitigation targets that incorporate high shares of renewable energy, a structural shift in today's energy systems will be required over the next few decades," the report said.

It will also take a lot of money -- 1.4 to 5.1 trillion dollars for the coming decade, and another 1.5 to 7.2 trillion dollars for the period 2021-2030.

Tourists are seen bathing at the Blue Lagoon in Svartsendi, Iceland, next to the Svartsengi geothermal power station, near Grindavik. According to the UN data, six types of renewables accounted in 2008 for 12.9 percent of global energy supply: biomass (10.2 percent), hydropower (2.3), wind (0.2), solar (0.1), geothermal (0.1) and ocean (0.002).

Clean sources of power must play a critical role if the UN-backed goal of preventing average global temperatures from rising more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is to be met, the IPCC said.

Currently, use of fossil fuels in the energy system accounts for some 60 percent of all greenhouse gases.

UN climate talks have remained largely stalemated since the near collapse of the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, even as scientists warn that is accelerating.

"Renewable energy can help decouple development and rising emissions, contributing to sustainable development," the draft summary said.

Global cumulative CO2 "savings" between 2010 and 2050 will total 220 to 560 gigatonnes (Gt) off a projected accumulation from fossil fuel sources of 1,530 Gt over the same period, according to various scenarios.

The IPCC meeting has set aside four days to review every line of text in the summary.

Explore further: Fossil fuels at what price? EU analysis looks at energy costs

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Climate change panel: renewable energy to be key

May 05, 2011

(AP) -- The world's top scientific body concluded that renewable energy in the coming decades will be widespread and could one day represent the dominant source for powering factories and lighting homes, ...

IEA calls for scrapping $312 bln in fuel subsidies

Apr 06, 2011

The International Energy Agency is calling for 312 billion dollars in fuel subsidies to be scrapped in a bid to promote clean energy sources, according to a report presented in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

Renewables could bring job boon to Poland: Greenpeace

Mar 11, 2011

An ambitious switch from fossil fuels to green energy could generate up to 350,000 new jobs by 2020 in the Poland, the European Union's most coal-dependent member, Greenpeace said Friday in Warsaw.

'Radical' clean energy shift could save 4 tn euros: WWF

Feb 03, 2011

The environmental group WWF argued on Thursday that a radical, near total global shift to clean fuels within 40 years could yield savings of four trillion euros ($5.4 trillion) a year as well as tackle climate ...

Recommended for you

UK wind power share shows record rise

55 minutes ago

The United Kingdom wind power production has been enjoying an upward trajectory, and on Tuesday wind power achieved a significant energy production milestone, reported Brooks Hays for UPI. High winds from Hurricane Gonzalo were the force behind wind turbines outproducing nuclear power ...

Global boom in hydropower expected this decade

4 hours ago

An unprecedented boom in hydropower dam construction is underway, primarily in developing countries and emerging economies. While this is expected to double the global electricity production from hydropower, it could reduce ...

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

fuviss_co_uk
4 / 5 (1) May 07, 2011
stupid speculations....
they even don't know what technologies we will have in 2020, the world is changing exponentially, in my opinion this scenario could happen in 2030 or even faster, when we will see some breakthroughs is solar energy harvesting for example. Here on physorg we see some important breakthroughs almost everyday.
Quantum_Conundrum
2.5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2011
The COOLING trend continues...

For the past week's records across the U.S.:

High Temperatures: 122
Low Temperatures: 651
Lowest Max Temperatures: 581
Highest Min Temperatures: 104

Low/high: 5.336
Lowmax/high: 4.76
Low/highmin: 6.259
Lowmax/highmin: 5.586

The alleged global warming continues to cool entire continents.

Most of the high breaks are actually ties or 1 or 2 degree breaks, while many of the cold breaks are 4 to 7 degree breaks of the previous records.

Global Warming continues to cool the planet.
wwqq
1 / 5 (1) May 07, 2011
The US is 2% of the planet's surface. And when are deniers going to get tired of doing this: http://woodfortrees.org/plot...
Quantum_Conundrum
1 / 5 (2) May 07, 2011
When are alarmists ever going to get tired of this?

It was COLDER than it has EVER been in the past 130 years at 651 different locations in the past week in the U.S. alone.

The Maximum temperature was COLDER than it has EVER been in the past 130 years at 581 locations in the past week in the U.S. alone.

Whatever may or may not be causing any alleged warming elsewhere in the world, it is NOT a greenhouse effect.
lengould100
not rated yet May 09, 2011
As the article states, the technology essentially all exists now, only being hampered by bad organization, incentives and politics. (Google "Sargent Lundy Engineering NREL".)