A global transition to 100% renewable energy will be possible by 2050, new data shows. According to a new study by Energy Watch Group and LUT University of Finland, renewable energy across global electricity, heat, transport, and desalination sectors will not only be possible but also cheaper than the current global energy system by 2050.
Researchers conducted the study over the course of four and a half years using a state-of-the-art modeling simulation to outline a path to a 1.5 degrees Celsius scenario. Researchers were able to achieve a cost decline without the reliance on high-risk technologies such as carbon capture and nuclear power.
In the new projected global energy system, solar and wind energy are the new workhorses. The study found that solar energy would make up 69% of the total energy supply by 2050 and wind energy would make up 18%.
The remaining 13% of the total energy supply would be supplied by geothermal, bioenergy, and hydropower. Hydraulic energy comes in three main forms: kinetic, potential, and heat energy.
The study relies on battery storage and existing technology with an emphasis on decentralization and electrification. Electricity consumption is planned to account for more than 90% of the primary energy consumption by 2050 while fossil fuels and nuclear energy phase out completely in this scenario.
“The study’s results show that all countries can and should accelerate the current Paris Climate Agreement targets,” said Christian Breyer, the lead researcher in the study. “A transition to 100% clean, renewable energies are highly realistic, even today with the technologies currently available.”
Researchers saw in this scenario that 9 million coal mining jobs would be phased out by 2050. However, 15 million new jobs in renewable energy would compensate for those jobs lost. The 12 million trucks, rail cars, locomotives, and vessels currently moving goods over the transportation network would also still be in use.
More good news is that the transition to a low-carbon energy system is a few steps closer now as well. New research from Bloomberg NEF shows that the cost of lithium-ion batteries has fallen by 35% over the last year. The cost of offshore wind is also 24% lower than it was a year ago.
The costs of installing more established technologies such as onshore wind and photovoltaic (PV) solar have also reduced. Solar projects this year are 18% cheaper and onshore wind projects that started construction this year are 10% cheaper than they were in 2018. Consider that North Carolina is already rated second in the nation for solar panel installation! We could all be there soon.
This drop in the cost of batteries is important because it opens up new opportunities for renewable energy including solar and wind energy. Battery energy storage provides back-up power for renewable projects for an hour to four hours at a time.
“Solar PV and onshore wind have won the race to be the cheapest sources of new ‘bulk generation’ in most countries, but the encroachment of clean technologies is now going well beyond that, threatening the balancing role that gas-fires plant operators, in particular, have been hoping to play,” said Tigenn Brandily, the energy economics analyst at Bloomberg NEF.
The advances in offshore wind are also important because the technology has long been an expensive generation option compared to onshore wind and solar PV. Costs have now come down because of technological advances, larger turbines, and auction programs. Roughly 40% of steel production already utilizes recycled metal, so renewable energy programs are just the next step.
The possibilities for renewable energy on the horizon are crucial due to increasing global temperatures due to climate change. Climate change has already caused a variety of issues including declining insect populations and an increase in pests. The Canada goose population alone has risen substantially in the last 50 years.
“The magnitude and speed of the world’s environmental changes have made it increasingly clear that we must do more,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith.