WWF sees future entirely powered by renewable energy

February 3, 2011 | 00:00

WWF sees future entirely powered by renewable energy

'The world needs to transition from its current unsustainable energy paradigm to a future powered by entirely renewable energy supply. Only by making such a transition will we be able to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change.'

WWF’s ground-breaking energy study - The Energy Report - shows that this future is within our reach, and provides a vital insight into how it can be achieved.

A growing number of leaders - from within the policy arena, business, media, and civil society, are questioning the views of conventional experts on the world’s energy future, and their “business-as-usual” scenarios, embarking on a serious search for realistic alternatives.

Their reasoning is obvious: minimizing climate change impacts will require substantial cuts in global emissions - as quickly as possible.

The world has reached peak conventional oil and gas, meaning oil and gas companies are digging deeper and deeper into unconventional sources, with disastrous environmental and social consequences. Coal is still relatively readily available, but catastrophic in terms of climate changing emissions. The world can no longer afford to hang on to its old energy paradigm, and its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

The Energy Report, produced through a collaboration between WWF and Ecofys, breaks new ground in the energy debate: a possible system in which ALL of the world’s energy supply is provided by renewable and sustainable sources by mid-century.

The Energy Report draws together strategies and technology options that have already been trialled or implemented - to create a feasible global scenario.

Most of the answers are already at our disposal.

WWF wants to help change the ‘old’ paradigm for the energy industry and articulate a new pathway for the future.

The Energy Report provides a meticulously researched scenario into a truly alternative vision for the energy future and what such a scenario implies for society at large.

What will it mean for me and you?
In 2050, the dominant form of energy available to the consumer wherever he or she lives will be electricity.

This highest value form of energy can be transported and applied relatively easily.

Efficient electricity transport will, however, mean investment in new, more efficient, ‘intelligent’ electricity grids.

Maximum energy efficiency will become the central credo for all economic activities.

Because The Energy Report scenario only considers currently available technologies it highlights the importance for future research and development.

One area that is especially in need of R&D is liquid fuels. Today, we still cannot power large ships or airplanes with electricity, we still need liquid fuel, and assuming continuous growth of this mode of transport, we would need to cover this with biofuels.

1.4 billion people without access to reliable electricity for essential services such as medical treatment or education. Some 2.7 billion people depend on unsustainable biomass stoves for cooking and eating There are up to 2 million deaths per year from toxic fumes from such stoves. A world that wants to offer an equitable future for a projected 9  billion people has to solve this problem on a sustainable basis.
Does it pay off?
Once the infrastructure for energy supply has been established, the costs for the renewable system are markedly lower compared to a continued fossil fuel system.

This does not even take into account the additional cost savings from lessening the impacts of climate change!

The Energy Report is not about predictions. It’s about articulating an ambitious pathway towards a possible, positive future - taking into account the necessity to act rapidly and decisively on climate change.

It is realistic in its conservative approach, its reliance only on existing technologies, and its clear identification of the challenges ahead.

It is also optimistic, because it shows that with manageable effort, we can transform our energy system in a third industrial revolution for the benefit of all.
 Mass power cuts. Gas blockades. Escalating fuel prices.

These scenarios are already a reality in many parts of the world. So imagine how much worse things will be in 40 years’ time when, if trends continue, global energy demand will be at least twice what it is today. But it doesn’t have to be that dire.

We can meet the energy needs of a global population of 9 billion by 2050 while reducing our total energy demand by 15%.

And that’s taking into account predicted rises in population, industrial output, living standards and travel, particularly in developing countries.

“It’s about finding ways to do more with less.”

Today, we don’t use energy wisely.

More than half the heat we pump into our homes disappears through walls, windows and roofs – yet we know how to construct buildings that require virtually no energy for heating or cooling. We favour big, powerful, “gas-guzzling” private cars over far more efficient forms of transport. Energy-hungry appliances clog the market, even though there’s a wide choice of efficient alternatives available. Manufacturers could use far less energy by reassessing their materials and processes. Energy conservation is something everyone can embrace - we simply need to start making wise choices – today.

To read the full report click here.


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