Renewable Energy

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 ()

Trump Administration Offers 77 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to Oil Industry

The Trump administration is holding the biggest offshore oil and gas lease auction in U.S. history Wednesday, offering all 77 million acres of unleased, available federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The sale comes as administration officials seek to rescind drilling safety rules approved after the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, reduce royalties paid by oil companies, and expand offshore drilling into every ocean in the country.

Keep reading... Show less
Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Mitchell Resnick

Pruitt to Restrict Use of Scientific Data in EPA Policymaking

In the coming weeks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt is expected to announce a proposal that would limit the type of scientific studies and data the agency can use in crafting public health and environmental regulations.

The planned policy shift, first reported by E&E News, would require the EPA to only use scientific findings whose data and methodologies are made public and can be replicated.

Keep reading... Show less
Mity / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

20% of U.S. Diets Responsible for Almost Half of Country’s Food-Related Emissions, Study Finds

If you've been deliberating about going vegetarian, a study published Tuesday in Environmental Letters might give you the final push.

Keep reading... Show less
Sea Shepherd small boat assists the Liberian Coast Guard to chase down the F/V Hai Lung. Sea Shepherd

Notorious Toothfish Poacher Arrested by Liberian Coast Guard, Assisted by Sea Shepherd

A notorious Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish poaching vessel, famous for plundering the Antarctic, was arrested on March 13 in waters belonging to the West African state of Liberia by the Liberian Coast Guard, with assistance from the marine conservation group Sea Shepherd.

The F/V Hai Lung, known to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) by its previous name "Kily," was transiting through Liberian waters when it was boarded and inspected by a Liberian Coast Guard team working alongside Sea Shepherd crew on board Sea Shepherd's patrol vessel M/Y Sam Simon.

Keep reading... Show less

7 Must-See Films at the 42nd Cleveland International Film Fest

It's that time, again!

EcoWatch is proud to be a media partner of the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), now celebrating its 42nd year. This year, EcoWatch is honored to be sponsoring Anote's Ark. This documentary spotlights Kiribati, a small remote island facing devastating effects due to climate change.

Keep reading... Show less
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: 'We have approved Bayer's plans to take over Monsanto because the parties' remedies, worth well over €6 billion, meet our competition concerns in full.' EU Commission Twitter

EU Approves Controversial Bayer-Monsanto Merger

The European Union approved Bayer's takeover of Monsanto, a major hurdle in the $66 billion merger that would create the world's largest integrated seed and pesticide conglomerate.

The European Commission said the German chemical-maker's takeover of the St. Louis-based agribusiness giant is "conditional on an extensive remedy package, which addresses the parties' overlaps in seeds, pesticides and digital agriculture."

Keep reading... Show less
Todd Porter & Diane Cu

How Much Daily Activity You Need to Burn off 9 Healthy (But High-Calorie) Foods

By Luke Doyle

A healthy lifestyle is fueled by nutrient-rich foods that give your body the energy it needs. But some of these foods come with high calorie counts and the "healthy" label doesn't mean it's okay to consume unlimited amounts of them.

Keep reading... Show less
Marine debris laden beach in Hawaii. NOAA Marine Debris Program / Flickr

Ocean Plastic Projected to Triple Within Seven Years

If we don't act now, plastic pollution in the world's oceans is projected to increase three-fold within seven years, according to a startling new report.

The Future of the Sea report, released Wednesday for the UK government, found that human beings across the globe produce more than 300 million metric tons of plastic per year. Unfortunately, a lot of that material ends up in our waters, with the total amount of plastic debris in the sea predicted to increase from 50 million metric tons in 2015 to 150 million metric tons by 2025.

Keep reading... Show less


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