Oct. 27, 2008 -- The world could eliminate fossil fuel use by 2090, saving $18 trillion in future fuel costs and creating a $360 billion industry that provides half of the world's electricity, the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) and environmental group Greenpeace said on Monday.
The 210-page study [pdf] is one of few reports – even by lobby groups – to look in detail at how energy use would have to be overhauled to meet the toughest scenarios for curbing greenhouse gases outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
"Renewable energy could provide all global energy needs by 2090," according to the study, entitled "Energy (R)evolution." EREC represents renewable energy industries and trade and research associations in Europe.A more radical scenario could eliminate coal use by 2050 if new power generation plants shifted quickly to renewables.
Solar power, biomass such as biofuels or wood, geothermal energy and wind could be the leading energies by 2090 in a shift from fossil fuels blamed by the IPCC for stoking global warming.
The total energy investments until 2030, the main period studied, would come to $14.7 trillion, according to the study. By contrast, the International Energy Agency (IEA), which advises rich nations, foresees energy investments of just $11.3 trillion to 2030, with a bigger stress on fossil fuels and nuclear power.
Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, which shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with ex-US Vice President Al Gore, called Monday's study "comprehensive and rigorous."
"Even those who may not agree with the analysis presented would, perhaps, benefit from a deep study of the underlying assumptions," Pachauri wrote in a foreword to the report.
EREC and Greenpeace said a big energy shift was needed to avoid "dangerous" climate change, defined by the European Union and many environmental groups as a temperature rise of 2 degrees Celsius since before the Industrial Revolution.
The report urged measures such as a phase-out of subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy, "cap and trade" systems for greenhouse gas emissions, legally binging targets for renewable energies and tough efficiency standards for buildings and vehicles.
The report said renewable energy markets were booming with turnover almost doubling in 2007 from 2006 to more than $70 billion. It said renewables could more than double their share of world energy supplies to 30% by 2030 and reach 50% by 2050.
The projections are far more optimistic for renewables than the IEA, which foresees just 13% of energy from renewables in 2030 with fossil fuels staying dominant.
Sven Teske, Greenpeace's leading author of the report, said the recommendations would involve big job-creating investments that could help counter the worst financial crisis since the 1930s.
"The current unstable market situation is a strong argument for our energy evolution concept," said. He said investments would be repaid by savings in fuel costs.
"We had a 'dot.com bubble' and a 'finance bubble' - but I'm confident that we will not have a renewables bubble - as the need for energy is real - and growing especially in developing nations," he said.