The WWF recently released a new report which examines the feasibility of reaching 100% of clean, renewable energy by 2050. In a massive study, two years in the making, in conjunction with respected energy consultants Ecofys and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, WWF have shown that a better world, is to coin a phrase, possible.
The most important point the report makes, with the rise in costs of fossil fuels, and possibly their unavailability due to depletion, renewables also make economic sense, though they admit that this transition will have a lot of challenges. This ''bold and ambitious scenario'' demonstrates that it is possible to have almost 100% of the world's energy produced by alternative means by 2050. This would mean that Climate Change most likely would have limited, rather than devastating effects on humanity. Nick Molho, Head of Energy Policy at WWF-UK says, ''This report shows that turning the world's energy supplies green is not only possible, but imperative.Renewable energy and better grid interconnection with Europe has the potential to meet all of our energy needs in a very sustainable way. Before pouring billions into creating a new generation of nuclear or gas power stations we need to ask whether that money would be better invested in other, more sustainable energy technologies, especially if these other technolOgies can create a substantial number of new jobs in the UK.” Chris Huhne, UK Energy and Climate Change minister recently put this number of jobs at 250,000.
Nick Molho identified the key issues as energy market reform, energy efficiency, increasing renewable technology, and better grid technology: both a ''super'' grid linking the various European national energy systems together so the fluctuations of alternative sources could be accommodated, and also a ''smart'' grid where individual users could use power wisely and cost-effectively by the use of smart metering at home and work.
The study shows that with 80% renewables and an advanced grid, less backup power is needed - only 5%, and with 100% it rises to 8% load factor, which is clearly technically possible.
He contrasted the advantages of renewables over nuclear power plants as their ease of decommissioning: there is no long-lived radioactive waste to deal with, and upgrading, for example, offshore wind turbines, is cost-effective because the foundations and infrastructure are already built.
The costs are manageable, according to Ecofys, never rising above 2% of global GDP. In fact, the move to renewables is cheaper because of projected rises in fossil fuels owing to scarcity and the accompanying price rises.
Most importantly, a 100% renewable energy future would see CO2 emissions from the world's energy supply sector reduced by over 80 per cent by 2050 worldwide - providing a high level of confidence that the average global temperature rise will be kept to well below two degrees Celsius, the threshold identified as presenting unacceptable risks of catastrophic climate change. Nick Molho says, ''It is vital to de-carbonise our entire system, and this will demonstrate the viability of low carbon economies all over the globe.''