Knowledge for better food systems

IPCC report on renewable energy potential

A report by the IPCC finds that close to 80% of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies. It argues that the that the rising penetration of renewable energies could lead to cumulative greenhouse gas savings equivalent to 220 to 560 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtC02eq) between 2010 and 2050. The upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in greenhouse gas emissions from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million.
A report by the IPCC finds that close to 80% of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies. It argues that the that the rising penetration of renewable energies could lead to cumulative greenhouse gas savings equivalent to 220 to 560 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (GtC02eq) between 2010 and 2050. The upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in greenhouse gas emissions from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million. The findings of this 1000 page report are contained in a summary for policymakers of the Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN). The six renewable energy technologies reviewed are:
  • Bioenergy, including energy crops; forest, agricultural and livestock residues and so called second generation biofuels
  • Direct solar energy including photovoltaics and concentrating solar power
  • Geothermal energy, based on heat extraction from the Earth‘s interior
  • Hydropower, including run-of-river, in-stream or dam projects with reservoirs
  • Ocean energy, ranging from barrages to ocean currents and ones which harness temperature differences in the marine realm
  • Wind energy, including on- and offshore systems
Over 160 existing scientific scenarios on the possible penetration of renewables by 2050, alongside environmental and social implications, were reviewed, with four, chosen to represent the full range, analyzed in-depth. Key findings are as follows:
  • Of the around 300 Gigawatts (GW) of new electricity generating capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009, 140 GW came from renewable energy.
  • Despite global financial challenges, renewable energy capacity grew in 2009 – wind by over 30 percent; hydropower by three percent; grid-connected photovoltaics by over 50 percent; geothermal by 4 percent; solar water/heating by over 20 percent and ethanol and biodiesel production rose by 10 percent and 9 percent respectively.
  • Developing countries host more than 50 percent of current global renewable energy capacity.
  • Most of the reviewed scenarios estimate that renewables will contribute more to a low carbon energy supply by 2050 than nuclear power or fossil fuels using carbon capture and storage (CCS).
  • The technical potential of renewable energy technologies exceeds the current global energy demand by a considerable amount – globally and in respect of most regions of the world.
  • Under the scenarios analyzed in-depth, less than 2.5 percent of the globally available technical potential for renewables is used – in other words over 97 percent is untapped underlining that availability of renewable source will not be a limiting factor.
  • Accelerating the deployment of renewable energies will present new technological and institutional challenges, in particular integrating them into existing energy supply systems and end use sectors.
  • According to the four scenarios analyzed in detail, the decadal global investments in the renewable power sector range from 1,360 to 5,100 billion US dollars to 2020 and 1,490 to 7,180 billion US dollars for the decade 2021 to 2030. For the lower values, the average yearly investments are smaller than the renewable power sector investments reported for 2009.
  • A combination of targeted public policies allied to research and development investments could reduce fuel and financing costs leading to lower additional costs for renewable energy technologies.
  • Public policymakers could draw on a range of existing experience in order to design and implement the most effective enabling policies – there is no one-size-fits-all policy for encouraging renewables.
  • The Summary for Policy Makers (26 pages) is attached below. See here for coverage in The Guardian and here for the New York Times
     

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