Renewable power sources could meet all global energy needs by 2050

  • WindfarmThe decreasing cost of renewable power generation combined with new technical solutions to reliability challenges, should mean there are no economic or technical barriers to fulfilling the world’s energy from renewable sources, a recent study suggests.
  • Solutions such as better weather forecasting, demand management and back-up hydroelectricity are inexpensive to implement.
  • It is expected that by 2030 electric cars will have lower lifecycle costs than petroldriven vehicles. Furthermore, the cost of some aviation biofuels produced from nonfood vegetable oils could reach parity with conventional fuels by 2018 if production efficiencies continue to improve, analysts have said. However, on both accounts, a key requirement is a clean and sustainable energy source to power vehicles. A study from the University of Tennessee found that the power needed to operate electric vehicles in China results in pollution particulates at a far higher rate, although further away from population centres than petrol or diesel powered vehicles, while the production of biofuels can take land away from food crops, compromising food security and lead to rainforest clearance.
  • Feed-in tariffs are thought to be the most suitable way to encourage renewable energy generation, provided the tariffs are gradually reduced over time.

The costs of energy production for a 100% renewable scenario (namely wind, water and solar power (WWS) are similar to the cost today, with the barriers being primarily social and political. Next-generation biofuels may provide additional support, but this should not be at the expense of food security or extensive land use change emissions.

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About Julia Chatterton

Systems modeller with a particular expertise in food, farming and agricultural systems. Working with life cycle assessment methods for over 4 years to assess and analyse the environmental burdens associated with food and other production systems.
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