IPCC report confirms strong growth for renewables


An experts' group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that 77% of the world’s energy supply can come from solar, wind and other renewable energy sources by 2050 if governments put in place the necessary policy support.


The new study will feed into the IPCC work for its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) planned for 2014.


More than 120 energy and climate experts reviewed more than 160 existing scenarios and roadmaps on the development of six renewable energy technologies:  solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, biomass and ocean energy. They concluded that renewables will continue to grow and take a serious part of the energy market by mid-century.


The Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN), of which a Policymakers Summary was presented in Abu Dhabi on 9 May, describes four in-depth scenarios for the future penetration of renewable energy.  In the most optimistic scenario renewable energy will meet 77 percent of the world’s energy demand by 2050, amounting to about 314 of 407 Exajoules per year. These 314 Exajoules are equivalent to three times the annual energy supply of the United States in 2005.


That said, the report also foresees huge global costs for this low-carbon path with investment needs ranging from $1,300bn to $5,100bn to 2020, and $1,400bn to $7,100bn from 2021 to 2030. It is clear that this will be an enormous challenge in times of important budget deficits and austerity policies. Although the IPCC proves it is technically feasible, will policymakers have the political will to push renewables (also considering the strong lobbying power of the oil sector)?


The IPCC study has also not taken into consideration how the new “golden age of gas” (shale gas development in the US and elsewhere) could impact these investments for renewable energy.


Another controversial point in the report is that the IPCC includes traditional biomass (the use of wood for heating and cooking) as a renewable energy source.


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