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100% Renewable Energy Feasible by 2050?

Photovoltaic generation, coupled with energy storage with be the workhorse of the clean electric transition.

A global transition to 100% renewable energy is possible across the electricity, heat, transport and desalination sectors by 2050, and it can be done for cheaper than the current global energy system according to a new study released by Energy Watch Group and the University of Finland. A group of 14 energy transition scientists conducted the study over four and a half years using a “state-of-the-art” modeling simulation.

Solar and wind energy are “the new workhorses of the future” in this new projected global energy system, with solar making up an astonishing 69% of the total energy supply by 2050, requiring a enormous total installed capacity of 63,400 gigawatts. Wind energy would make up 18% of the mix, with bio-energy, hydro power, and geothermal accounting for most of the rest.

The study relies on existing technology and battery storage, with an emphasis on electrification and decentralization. While fossil fuels and nuclear energy phase out completely in this scenario, electricity consumption will account for more than 90% of the primary energy consumption by 2050. Lead researcher Christian Breyer said,

“A transition to 100% clean, renewable energies is highly realistic – even today, with the technologies currently available.”

This scenario sees 9 million coal mining jobs phased out by 2050, but “overcompensated” for by more than 15 million new jobs in renewable energy. Researchers also foresee the future system as slightly cheaper,

The researchers make a number of policy recommendations, including:

Feed-in Tariff laws should be adopted to enable investments (under 40 MW) from decentralized actors, such as small and medium enterprises, cooperatives, communities, farmers and citizens.

A responsible phase-out of all state subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear energy generation is necessary.Introduction of carbon, methane and radioactivity taxes.Incentives created to spur the growth of renewable energy technologies; such as tax exemptions, direct subsidies, and legal privileges.

Policies and frameworks that promote research, education and information sharing on renewable energy and zero emission technologies.

President of the Energy Watch Group Hans-Josef Fell concluded by saying, “The energy transition is not a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but one of political will.”

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