Oct 1, 2015

Could the world run on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050?

3 min
Could we ever reach a point where we are able to fully depend on renewable energy to meet all of our power needs? Advocacy group Greenpeace thinks so...

Could we ever reach a point where we are able to fully depend on renewable energy to meet all of our power needs? Advocacy group Greenpeace thinks so, and we could achieve such a goal sooner than you might think was possible. A new Greenpeace report posits that the world could make the leap to 100 percent renewable energy as soon as 2050.

Published well in advance of December’s World Climate Summit taking place in Paris, the group’s 2015 version of its yearly Energy [R]evolution report warns that the world may use its “entire carbon budget” to maintain average temperature rises before 2040. To combat this issue and stave off critical climate change situations, the report focuses on cutting down emissions by 2020 and establishing a legally binding timeline to cut emissions further by 2050.

RELATED CONTENT: Competitive wind energy prices could help the U.S. increase interest in renewables

To help get us there, Greenpeace calls for policymakers to strengthen and electrify public transportation infrastructure, create a more level playing field for alternative energy costs, and to work with utilities companies and make an investment in smart grids, energy storage, renewable sources for heating, and other measures. Most drastically, the report calls for policymakers to look at phasing out fossil fuels, starting with lignite by 2035 and ending with gas in 2050.

“Dynamic change is happening in energy supply, but the change needs to happen faster,” reads the report. “This energy [r]evolution scenario proposes a pathway to a 100% sustainable energy supply, ending cO2 emissions and phasing out nuclear energy, and making redundant new oil exploration in the arctic and deep sea waters such as off the coast of Brazil. It also demonstrates that this transformation increases employment in the energy sector.”

The report points to several key factors that could contribute to the rise of renewable energy in the mainstream. One of these is the falling price of renewable energy due to its gradual increase in market share, which could make it a more affordable and therefore more viable option—which could lead to a cycle of even more market share growth and bring alternative energy sources to the forefront.

RELATED CONTENT: How Germany is leading the world with renewable energy

Greenpeace notes that what a plan like this needs the most is political enthusiasm behind it:

“We’re at the point now where there is no shortage of technical and scientific and human solutions to the climate crisis,” [Kelly Mitchell, energy campaign director with Greenpeace USA] states. “But what continues to be lacking is the political will.”

But that could be the hardest piece of the puzzle to come by. As the report itself states, 81.2 percent of the world’s energy supply still comes from fossil fuels. That is a powerful industry that may not be so willing to concede all of that power to the renewable energy sector overnight.

RELATED CONTENT: EIA Report: United States approaching 1 GW in cumulative wind power capacity

But Greenpeace isn’t advocating such drastic change overnight: just a commitment from leaders at the World Climate Summit to get a head start on a decades-long process. While the costs for infrastructure and training up front are significant, Greenpeace argues that the savings over years of use will be worth the effort.

“There are no major economic or technical barriers to moving towards 100% renewable energy by 2050,” the group argues. “It just requires the political will to make the change.” Only time will tell if this level of political will can be summoned by December.

[SOURCE: Greenpeace via El Paso Herald Post]

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Jun 25, 2021

UK must stop blundering into high carbon choices warns CCC

Dominic Ellis
5 min
The UK must put an end to a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices warns the Climate Change Committee

The UK Government must end a year of climate contradictions and stop blundering on high carbon choices, according to the Climate Change Committee as it released 200 policy recommendations in a progress to Parliament update.

While the rigour of the Climate Change Act helped bring COP26 to the UK, it is not enough for Ministers to point to the Glasgow summit and hope that this will carry the day with the public, the Committee warns. Leadership is required, detail on the steps the UK will take in the coming years, clarity on tax changes and public spending commitments, as well as active engagement with people and businesses across the country.

"It it is hard to discern any comprehensive strategy in the climate plans we have seen in the last 12 months. There are gaps and ambiguities. Climate resilience remains a second-order issue, if it is considered at all. We continue to blunder into high-carbon choices. Our Planning system and other fundamental structures have not been recast to meet our legal and international climate commitments," the update states. "Our message to Government is simple: act quickly – be bold and decisive."

The UK’s record to date is strong in parts, but it has fallen behind on adapting to the changing climate and not yet provided a coherent plan to reduce emissions in the critical decade ahead, according to the Committee.

  • Statutory framework for climate The UK has a strong climate framework under the Climate Change Act (2008), with legally-binding emissions targets, a process to integrate climate risks into policy, and a central role for independent evidence-based advice and monitoring. This model has inspired similarclimate legislation across the world.
  • Emissions targets The UK has adopted ambitious territorial emissions targets aligned to the Paris Agreement: the Sixth Carbon Budget requires an emissions reduction of 63% from 2019 to 2035, on the way to Net Zero by 2050. These are comprehensive targets covering all greenhouse gases and all sectors, including international aviation and shipping.
  • Emissions reduction The UK has a leading record in reducing its own emissions: down by 40% from 1990 to 2019, the largest reduction in the G20, while growing the economy (GDP increased by 78% from 1990 to 2019). The rate of reductions since 2012 (of around 20 MtCO2e annually) is comparable to that needed in the future.
  • Climate Risk and Adaptation The UK has undertaken three comprehensive assessments of the climate risks it faces, and the Government has published plans for adapting to those risks. There have been some actions in response, notably in tackling flooding and water scarcity, but overall progress in planning and delivering adaptation is not keeping up with increasing risk. The UK is less prepared for the changing climate now than it was when the previous risk assessment was published five years ago.
  • Climate finance The UK has been a strong contributor to international climate finance, having recently doubled its commitment to £11.6 billion in aggregate over 2021/22 to 2025/26. This spend is split between support for cutting emissions and support for adaptation, which is important given significant underfunding of adaptation globally. However, recent cuts to the UK’s overseas aid are undermining these commitments.

In a separate comment, it said the Prime Minister’s Ten-Point Plan was an important statement of ambition, but it has yet to be backed with firm policies. 

Baroness Brown, Chair of the Adaptation Committee said: “The UK is leading in diagnosis but lagging in policy and action. This cannot be put off further. We cannot deliver Net Zero without serious action on adaptation. We need action now, followed by a National Adaptation Programme that must be more ambitious; more comprehensive; and better focussed on implementation than its predecessors, to improve national resilience to climate change.”

Priority recommendations for 2021 include setting out capacity and usage requirements for Energy from Waste consistent with plans to improve recycling and waste prevention, and issue guidance to align local authority waste contracts and planning policy to these targets; develop (with DIT) the option of applying either border carbon tariffs or minimum standards to imports of selected embedded-emission-intense industrial and agricultural products and fuels; and implement a public engagement programme about national adaptation objectives, acceptable levels of risk, desired resilience standards, how to address inequalities, and responsibilities across society. 

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said the report is another reminder that if the UK is to meet its ambitious climate targets there is an urgent need to scale up bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

"As the world’s leading generator and supplier of sustainable bioenergy there is no better place to deliver BECCS at scale than at Drax in the UK. We are ready to invest in and deliver this world-leading green technology, which would support clean growth in the north of England, create tens of thousands of jobs and put the UK at the forefront of combatting climate change."

Drax Group is kickstarting the planning process to build a new underground pumped hydro storage power station – more than doubling the electricity generating capacity at its iconic Cruachan facility in Scotland. The 600MW power station will be located inside Ben Cruachan – Argyll’s highest mountain – and increase the site’s total capacity to 1.04GW (click here).

Lockdown measures led to a record decrease in UK emissions in 2020 of 13% from the previous year. The largest falls were in aviation (-60%), shipping (-24%) and surface transport (-18%). While some of this change could persist (e.g. business travellers accounted for 15-25% of UK air passengers before the pandemic), much is already rebounding with HGV and van travel back to pre-pandemic levels, while car use, which at one point was down by two-thirds, only 20% below pre-pandemic levels.

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