Renewables could be 80 percent of energy by 2050: U.N.

ABU DHABI Mon May 9, 2011 11:42am EDT

A worker walks past sets of solar panels on the rooftop of the Nanjing South Railway Station which is under construction in Nanjing, Jiangsu province March 23, 2011. REUTERS/Sean Yong/Files

A worker walks past sets of solar panels on the rooftop of the Nanjing South Railway Station which is under construction in Nanjing, Jiangsu province March 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Sean Yong/Files

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower could fulfill almost 80 percent of the world's energy demand by 2050 with the right policies, according to a U.N. report which won backing from governments on Monday.

The 26-page study, by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), broadly matched a draft written by scientists. It was approved by government delegates at talks in Abu Dhabi.

Environmental groups hailed the report as a guide to the shift from fossil fuels to combat climate change, a process set to cost trillions of dollars. But they said some draft findings were watered down, partly due to opposition by oil exporters.

"Close to 80 percent of the world energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies," the IPCC said.

The report said moves to cleaner energies including geothermal or ocean energy would help cut greenhouse gas emissions, which it blamed for global warming including floods, droughts, heat waves and rising sea levels.

Growth in renewables has already surged in recent years, and costs are falling, it said. "We see a rapid increase in wind and solar PV (photovoltaic) especially," Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, told a news conference.

"It underscores the irreplaceable potential of renewable energies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the lives of people around the world," said Christiania Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn.

The United Nations says governments' pledges for cuts in greenhouse gases are insufficient so far to meet an agreed U.N. goal of limiting rises in global temperatures to below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees F) above pre-industrial times.


Ottmar Edenhofer, who chaired the report, said there were few limits to the theoretical potential for renewable energies. "However, the substantial increase of renewables is technically and politically very challenging," he said.

Scenarios for the share of renewables in world supplies by 2050 ranged widely, from just 15 percent to 77 percent.

Renewables now account for about 12.9 percent of world energy supplies and are dominated by bioenergy such as firewood in developing nations, and followed by hydropower, wind, geothermal, solar power and ocean energy.

Environmentalists said some language favorable to renewables was toned down in all-night wrangling into Monday, partly by OPEC nations led by Saudi Arabia.

"There are all sorts of 'mights' and 'mays' introduced," said Jean-Philippe Denruyter, manager of global renewable energy policy for the WWF conservation group. "It's not a big problem. We are quite positive about the outcome."

Sven Teske of Greenpeace, an IPCC author, said the summary had muted, for instance, clearer statements that some renewable energies were already cost effective. Still, he added that the underlying findings "will be the standard book for renewables."

The underlying IPCC report, of about 1,000 pages, was written by about 120 experts. The Abu Dhabi talks were to get governments to endorse the summary for policymakers, a step meant to give its conclusions global legitimacy.

An IPCC review of 164 scenarios for the shift to renewable energies showed that they could make cumulative carbon dioxide savings of 220-560 billion tonnes from 2010 to 2050.

That compares with 1.53 trillion tonnes of cumulative fossil and industrial carbon dioxide emissions in a reference scenario for the same years.

(Writing by Alister Doyle in Oslo; editing by Jane Baird)

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Comments (2)
DrJJJJ wrote:
Dream on!! Green energy is a few percent (at best) of the total today and costs dramatically more than traditional energy! You’ll be getting the first increase real soon and it’s a whopper!(Almost 20% increase in 1 year up here in Oregon) Paid for with deficit dollars! A vision without a way to pay for it, is a dangerous illusion!

May 09, 2011 12:19pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Wulff wrote:
Anything coming out of the UN is automatically suspect to me. 14% to 36% replacement via ‘renewable’ sources is optimistic at best and does not have a price tag attached. It also ignores the absolute need for back-up sources for wind and solar power and/or a critical breakthrough in the ability to store energy when there is no wind or sun including overnight. Geothermal ignores completely what long term effects will follow exploitation of this source on a large scale. We have only begun to understand plate techtonics and how they relate to earthquakes and volcanoes. It seems that every time the human race comes up with a ‘new great idea’ the side effects are underestimated. Atomic energy is only the somewhat recent example. Going all the way back to the ability to ‘create fire’ this has been true. Increasing the use of geothermal energy can not be seen as a no risk option. The UN mostly supplies employment for people who would otherwise, if left alone, do much more damage to life as we know it. These people in fancy suits support the air lines, restaurants, hotels, clothiers, and limo builders and drivers. Mostly consuming vast amounts of fossil fuel in the process. How about we make them travel exclusively by boats, live in tents, and prepare their food via solar cooking. They should also be raising sheep to supply wool, weave the cloth using only hand-powered machines, and make the clothing all by hand as well. I’m sure we can find a great place for them to do all of this; Pitcarin Island perhaps?

May 09, 2011 11:49pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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