Quantcast
Renewable Energy
iStock

100% Renewable Energy Worldwide Isn't Just Possible—It's Also More Cost-Effective

By Lorraine Chow

Transitioning the world to 100 percent renewable electricity isn't just some environmentalist pipe dream—it's "feasible at every hour throughout the year" and is more cost-effective than the current system, which largely relies on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, a new study claims.

The research, compiled by Finland's Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Berlin-based nonprofit Energy Watch Group (EWG), was presented Wednesday at the Global Renewable Energy Solutions Showcase, a stand-alone event coinciding with the COP 23 climate talks in Bonn, Germany.


The authors said that the existing renewable energy potential and technologies coupled with storage can generate enough energy to meet the global electricity demand by 2050.

The researchers estimated that the switch will bring the total levelized cost of electricity on a global average down to €52 ($61) per megawatt-hour (including curtailment, storage and some grid costs) compared to €70 (82) megawatt-hour in 2015.

"A full decarbonization of the electricity system by 2050 is possible for lower system cost than today based on available technology," said Christian Breyer, the lead author of the study.

"Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will," added Breyer, who is also a professor of Solar Economy at LUT and serves as chairman of EWG's Scientific Board.

According to the study, solar power and battery storage are critical parts of the transition. Falling prices will also lead to widespread adoption of the technologies. The researchers predict that the globe's electricity mix by 2050 will consist of solar photovoltaics (69 percent), wind energy (18 percent), hydropower (8 percent) and bioenergy (2 percent).

By following this path, greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector will come down to zero and drastically reduce total losses in power generation, the study found. Not only that, the renewable energy transition would create 36 million jobs by 2050, 17 million more than today.

"There is no reason to invest one more dollar in fossil or nuclear power production," EWG president Hans-Josef Fell said. "Renewable energy provides cost-effective power supply. All plans for a further expansion of coal, nuclear, gas and oil have to be ceased. More investments need to be channeled in renewable energies and the necessary infrastructure for storage and grids. Everything else will lead to unnecessary costs and increasing global warming."

This is the not the first time researchers have suggested that the planet's road to 100 percent renewables is possible. Earlier this year, Stanford University professor Mark Jacobson and 26 co-authors published a study and created clean energy roadmaps for 139 individual countries. The chosen countries emit more than 99 percent of all carbon dioxide worldwide.

Here are the key findings of the current study:

  • Existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage, can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050. The world population is expected to grow from 7.3 to 9.7 billion. The global electricity demand for the power sector is set to increase from 24,310 TWh in 2015 to around 48,800 TWh by 2050.
  • Total levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) on a global average for 100 percent renewable electricity in 2050 is €52/MWh (including curtailment, storage and some grid costs), compared to €70/MWh in 2015.
  • Due to rapidly falling costs, solar PV and battery storage increasingly drive most of the electricity system, with solar PV reaching some 69 percent, wind energy 18 percent, hydropower 8 percent and bioenergy 2 percent of the total electricity mix in 2050 globally.
  • Wind energy increases to 32 percent by 2030. Beyond 2030 solar PV becomes more competitive. The solar PV supply share increases from 37 percent in 2030 to about 69 percent in 2050.
  • Batteries are the key supporting technology for solar PV. The storage output covers 31 percent of the total demand in 2050, 95 percent of which is covered by batteries alone. Battery storage provides mainly diurnal storage, and renewable energy based gas provides seasonal storage.
  • Global greenhouse gas emissions significantly reduce from about 11 GtCO2eq in 2015 to zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, as the total LCOE of the power system.
  • The global energy transition to a 100 percent renewable electricity system creates 36 million jobs by 2050 in comparison to 19 million jobs in the 2015 electricity system.
  • The total losses in a 100 percent renewable electricity system are around 26 percent of the total electricity demand, compared to the current system in which about 58 percent of the primary energy input is lost.

The research was co-funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation and the Stiftung Mercator.

Reposted with permission from our media associate AlterNet.

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
A warming climate and expanding industrial fishing threaten the Antarctic Ocean and its iconic creatures such as penguins. Antarctica Bound / Flickr

Campaign to Create World's Largest Sanctuary in Antarctic Ocean Gains Momentum

Greenpeace's ship Arctic Sunrise is on its way to Antarctica, where the crew on board will be the first humans ever to visit the seafloor in the Weddell Sea.

The three-month expedition will aim to further the case for a massive ocean sanctuary.

Keep reading... Show less
Nearly all dairy cows live in factory farms, which make up 99 percent of farms, and they spend their lives almost entirely indoors. Shutterstock

Don't Be Fooled by These 5 Misleading Dairy Ads

By Rachel Krantz

For most of my life, I genuinely believed the false advertising used to sell dairy. When I learned the truth—that nearly all cows used for dairy are kept inside, locked up, forcibly inseminated, and hooked up to painful milking machines—I was heartbroken. How had I never put two and two together: that for humans to consume cow's milk, mother cows must have their calves taken?

I had been duped by dairy brands, whose misleading ads have never been regulated, despite truth-in-advertising laws. This discrepancy prompted a 2003 lawsuit involving the "Happy Cows" campaign, but the case was thrown out over a technicality. "The state's false advertising law simply doesn't apply to the government," explained Mercy For Animals lawyer Rachel Faulkner. The 'Happy Cow' ads were run by the California Milk Advisory Board, a marketing arm of the California Food and Agriculture Department.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Seed Phytonutrients' bottles on display at Ecologic's factory in Manteca, California. David Elliott

The Story Behind the Beauty Industry’s Most Eco-Friendly Packaging

By Annie Tomlin

Here's a sobering fact: The average American generates 4.4 pounds of trash daily, a whopping 30 percent of it packaging. Some people might read that statistic and vow to be stricter about recycling. Julie Corbett took things a tad further.

Keep reading... Show less
Health

New Film Deftly Indicts Public Health Regulators

By Katie O'Reilly

It started with a text from Mom. In January 2014, documentarian Cullen Hoback received word from his mother that a chemical spill had left 300,000 West Virginians living in a swath of coal country known as "Chemical Valley"—so dubbed because it houses the nation's largest concentration of chemical plants—with foul-smelling drinking water. The source was a rusting tank owned by a chemical company with the you-can't-make-this-stuff-up name of Freedom Industries, and the substance leaking into Chemical Valley's waterways was MCHM, a detergent from coal.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Philip Rozenski / iStock

America Needs a Plastics Intervention. Now’s the Time.

By Jeff Turrentine

Deep in our hearts, we know that the global addiction to plastic is wholly unsustainable. It's why so many of us make a real effort to significantly curtail our use of plastic bottles and bags, clamshell packaging, straws, disposable utensils and the like.

Keep reading... Show less

Iranian Tanker Leaves Massive Oil Slick, Worries Mount Over Environmental Damage

Experts have expressed concern about the potential environmental aftermath of a stricken Iranian oil tanker that exploded and sank in the East China Sea on Sunday.

The Sanchi—carrying 150,000 tons, or nearly 1 million barrels, of condensate oil—collided with the CF Crystal on Jan 6. The tanker caught fire and burned for more than a week before sinking. Iranian officials said all 32 crew members on the tanker were killed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

Norway Is Banning Fur Farming

By Conor Sneyd

Norway is introducing a total ban on fur farming, according to a statement released by the Norwegian animal rights organization NOAH this weekend. The country is currently home to 300 fur farms, which breed and kill 700,000 minks and 110,000 foxes every year, so this is truly a massive victory for animals.

Keep reading... Show less
China Plus News / Facebook

‘I’m Freezing and Shaking’: China’s Winter Heating Crisis, Mapped

By Emma Howard

While people in Beijing enjoyed the benefits of a record air pollution drop this winter, those in the provinces were left unable to keep warm, cook or sleep for lack of heating.

Reports on the heating crisis that was triggered by the government's anti-pollution drive have largely focused on the areas surrounding Beijing, but mapping of social media data by Unearthed now shows that people were complaining of the cold more than 1,000 kilometers (approximately 621 miles) away.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!