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WWF Energy Report: 100% Renewable Energy By 2050

By Stephan Singer, Editor-in-Chief

03 February, 2011

From the WWF website:
Our new Energy Report confirms that all the world’s energy needs could be provided cleanly, sustainably and economically by the year 2050. Renewable energy is the way ahead. Fossil fuels like oil and coal could become relics of the past. And the sooner we start planning for that cleaner, greener world, the sooner it can be a reality.

The new Energy Report we’ve launched today shows that turning the world’s energy supplies green is not only possible, it’s absolutely essential.

Our report makes it clear that by 2050 the world’s power, transport, industrial and domestic energy needs could potentially be met entirely from renewable sources.

And that won’t just be good for energy security, it will also cut environmental pollution and, crucially, reduce the catastrophic impacts of climate change. A 100% renewable energy future would mean carbon emissions from energy dropping by over 80% worldwide by 2050.

The drive for renewable power must include the development of new international grids – for instance better electricity grid connections between the UK and Europe. ‘Smart’ grids are also needed to help balance energy demand with supply.

Our Energy Report also calls for a big global effort to seriously improve the energy efficiency of our economies. To achieve a 100% renewable energy future, we must do more with less energy – under the report’s scenario total global energy demand will actually be at least 15% lower in 2050 than in 2005, thanks to new technologies. And that’s despite the predicted increases in population, industrial output and travel, including electric vehicles.

To provide reliable, affordable and clean energy on the scale required will need a global effort – similar to the response to the world financial crisis. The financial benefits of lower energy costs will be huge, with global savings of around €4 trillion by 2050. And that doesn’t take into account avoided costs associated with climate change, or the additional benefits of renewable energy such as improved health, and increases in green jobs.

Right now, we need the UK government to encourage substantial upfront investments and ambitious energy savings. The current reform of the electricity market is the perfect chance to deliver a nearly carbon-free power sector and strongly promote sustainable low-carbon technologies.

From the report recommendations:
CLEAN ENERGY: Promote only most efficient products and grow existing and innovative renewable energy sources to provide sufficient clean energy for all by 2050.

(i) the introduction of a strong emissions performance standard. WWF is disappointed by current government proposals to introduce a watered down emissions performance standard at either 600gCO2/Kwh or at a level of 450gCO2/Kwh that would not apply to plants qualifying under the CCS demonstration programme.

(ii) the introduction of stable long-term financial incentives for renewables, which will improve investment certainty for renewables and help boost the UK’s renewable energy industry.

(iii) no support or implicit or explicit subsidy for new nuclear power, which will crowd out the potential for renewable energy. At present, the government’s proposals amount to a substantial hidden subsidy for nuclear.

GRIDS: Share and exchange clean energy through grids and trade sustainable energy, making best use of geographic diversity.

(i) The development of a co-ordinated offshore grid should become one of the central objectives of the government’s offshore transmission regime, which is to be finalised this year;

(ii) The UK needs to take a leading role as part of the North Sea Grid Initiative, to ensure that a clear workplan is put in place in 2011 to deliver clear rules and timed objectives for the rapid construction of a North Sea grid.

(iii) As part of the upcoming EU Budget Reform, the EU should look at developing strategic inter-connection links between the EU’s major national grids

ACCESS: End energy poverty, provide clean electricity and sustainable practices such as efficient cook stoves to all in developing countries.

In the UK, the proposed ‘Green Deal’ to help householders undertake energy efficiency retrofits is a major opportunity to massively decrease the energy wasted through inefficient housing stock.
In 2011, WWF is calling on the government to:

(i) Ensure there is a clear level of ambition for the Green Deal that contributes sufficiently towards the UK meeting its carbon budgets and provides certainty to businesses and investors.

(ii) Develop a cross-departmental strategy to deliver on the ambition of the Green Deal, including financial incentives which encourage householders to take part in the scheme at the scale required.

(iii) Set minimum energy efficiency standards for the private rented sector, to ensure the most inefficient and unhealthy homes cannot be rented, and reduce the number of households living in fuel poverty.

MONEY: Invest in renewable, clean energy and efficiency products and buildings.

The UK urgently needs to establish a Green Investment Bank (GIB) to raise finance for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The GIB will be able to leverage its capital and reduce risk on investment to help generate the huge levels of private finance required to decarbonise the UK’s energy system. This will remove barriers to large institutional investors, lower the cost of loans for millions of Green Deal home energy efficiency improvements and limit the cost of energy bills.

FOOD: Stop food waste and choose food that is sourced in an efficient and durable way to free up land for nature, sustainable forestry, and biofuel production. Protein needs have to be covered for everyone, for wealthier people this means a reduction of meat consumption.

(i) Develop a detailed roadmap aimed at reducing GHG emissions from UK food supply chain by at least 25% by 2020 and at least 70% by 2050, based on 1990 levels.

(ii) Commit to significantly reducing the amount of food waste - 40% of food in the UK ends up in the bin or in landfill.

(iii) Lead on defining the key principles of a sustainable diet, in partnership with the food industry and other civil society organisations.

TRANSPORT: Incentivise move to more public and overall less transport of goods and persons, promote electrification wherever possible and support research on renewable hydrogen for shipping and aviation.

In the UK this means supporting tougher EU legislation for conventional vehicle emissions and the rapid roll-out of electric vehicles (EVs) to replace petro/diesel vehicles, ensuring that these will be powered by a decarbonised grid.

Demand management measures, such as an increase in fuel duty, more toll roads, and congestion charging are needed to reduce car kms and emissions. Greater support for walking and cycling, car sharing and more attractive public transport options will also help to reduce the need for private car travel.

Progress has been made in the consideration of aviation and shipping emissions within national carbon budges and their inclusion with 2050 targets, as mandated in the Climate Change Act...We would also like to see climate change at the heart of new UK aviation policy which is starting to be formulated this year.

SUSTAINABILITY: Use strict criteria to ensure that renewable energy is compatible with environmental and development goals.

In 2011, as part of the electricity market reform and the government's ongoing work on the 2050 Pathway Analysis, WWF wants to see clear proposals for a strong mandatory certification system for sustainable bionenergy as well we a clear steer from government as to how the use of sustainable bioenergy should be divided between the different sectors of the economy.

AGREEMENTS: Support ambitious climate and energy agreements to provide global guidance for sharing renewable energy and efficiency efforts.

The UK should also actively promote the UK and Scottish Climate Change Acts as models that should be adopted by other developed countries. These Acts set out long-term frameworks to guide the transition to a zero-carbon economy by the middle of the century, and give confidence to investors - and other countries - that the regulatory framework is robust and here to stay.
Editorial Notes

The 256-page report is free to download from the WWF website here. It is divided into two major sections, with Part 1 setting out the general case for "A renewable energy future: why we need it", and Part 2, which is written by the renewable energy company Ecofys and presents their energy scenario.



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