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100 Percent Renewable Energy Laughable? Would 80 Percent Float Your Boat?

Green energy no way? Not so fast…

Some time ago, we brought to your attention a study that explored the possibility of a world running on 100 percent renewable energy. Lots of readers were enthusiastic about trying to see if this can be done. Others were highly skeptical.

Now, comes a new report, from the UN, saying that within 40 years, 80 percent of the world’s energy needs could actually come from renewable sources. 100 percent, 80 percent. Both sound pretty good.

Here’s the UK’s The Guardian:

Renewable energy could account for almost 80% of the world’s energy supply within four decades – but only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power, according to a landmark report published on Monday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the body of the world’s leading climate scientists convened by the United Nations, said that if the full range of renewable technologies were deployed, the world could keep greenhouse gas concentrations to less than 450 parts per million, the level scientists have predicted will be the limit of safety beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible.

Investing in renewables to the extent needed would cost only about 1% of global GDP annually, said Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC.

Renewable energy is already growing fast – of the 300 gigawatts of new electricity generation capacity added globally between 2008 and 2009, about 140GW came from renewable sources, such as wind and solar power, according to the report.

The investment that will be needed to meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets demanded by scientists is likely to amount to about $5trn in the next decade, rising to $7trn from 2021 to 2030.

Ramon Pichs, co-chair of one of the key IPCC working groups, said: “The report shows that it is not the availability of [renewable] resources but the public policies that will either expand or constrain renewable energy development over the coming decades. Developing countries have an important stake in the future – this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment.”

Sven Teske, renewable energy director at Greenpeace International, and a lead author of the report, said: “This is an invitation to governments to initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy centre stage. On the run up to the next major climate conference, COP17 in South Africa in December, the onus is clearly on governments to step up to the mark.”

He added: “The IPCC report shows overwhelming scientific evidence that renewable energy can also meet the growing demand of developing countries, where over 2 billion people lack access to basic energy services and can do so at a more cost-competitive and faster rate than conventional energy sources. Governments have to kick start the energy revolution by implementing renewable energy laws across the globe.”

The 1,000-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN) marks the first time the IPCC has examined low-carbon energy in depth, and the first interim report since the body’s comprehensive 2007 review of the science of climate change.

Although the authors are optimistic about the future of renewable energy, they note that many forms of the technology are still more expensive than fossil fuels, and find that the production of renewable energy will have to increase by as much as 20 times in order to avoid dangerous levels of global warming. Renewables will play a greater role than either nuclear or carbon capture and storage by 2050, the scientists predict.

Investing in renewables can also help poor countries to develop, particularly where large numbers of people lack access to an electricity grid.

About 13% of the world’s energy came from renewable sources in 2008, a proportion likely to have risen as countries have built up their capacity since then, with China leading the investment surge, particularly in wind energy. But by far the greatest source of renewable energy used globally at present is burning biomass (about 10% of the total global energy supply), which is problematic because it can cause deforestation, leads to deposits of soot that accelerate global warming, and cooking fires cause indoor air pollution that harms health.

There was disappointment for enthusiasts of marine energy, however, as the report found that wave and tidal power were “unlikely to significantly contribute to global energy supply before 2020″. Wind power, by contrast, met about 2% of global electricity demand in 2009, and could increase to more than 20% by 2050.

As with all IPCC reports, the summary for policymakers – the synopsis of the report that will be presented to governments and is likely to impact renewable energy policy – had to be agreed line by line and word by word unanimously by all countries. This was done at Monday’s meeting in Abu Dhabi. This makes the process lengthy, but means that afterwards no government or scientist represented can say that they disagree with the finished findings, which the IPCC sees as a key strength of its operations.

The New York Times was out quickly with a rather dull business section item, and with a blog dampener:

The result is a suite of 160 clean and neat “what if” scenarios, but very little (at least if the summary reflects what’s coming in the full 900-page report at the end of the month) on how the more aggressive scenarios for cleaning up the global energy supply might actually be achieved in the real world of competing and conflicting national, corporate and personal interests.

The summary, for example, barely mentions natural gas, even though it is hard to find an energy analyst these days who does not see low natural gas prices, now foreseen for decades to come, as deeply undercutting prospects for expanded deployment of renewable energy sources (let alone nuclear power).

This kind of spin says that the cart goes before the horse, and, surprise surprise, we get nowhere fast.

Worse, the UN report, which involved a tremendous amount of energy and urgency, may hardly be noticed at all. Did you see it featured on your evening television news, hear this from your favorite online or print  source? Did they treat it as a huge story? If not, there’s the problem. (Hint: Do you notice all the advertising from the oil and gas industry?)

The bottom line: visibility is crucial—if action is to follow.

This is why we cannot depend on “old media” any more than on “old energy.”

 

Image Credit:  (http://blog.oregonlive.com/earth-day_impact/2009/04/large_green-earth-day.jpg)


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  • Anonymous

    The oil and gas industry has a long history of suppressing renewable energy.

    The military is their best customer and renewables don’t work that well in wars.

    Most people don’t know that the same people who control the major oil corporations also control the largest international banks. This rather small ultra wealthy group controls what goes on in the world by controlling the world’s money supply and the world’s energy supplies and distribution.

    Read about it here:

    http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=24507

    • http://profiles.google.com/tomb215 Thomas Barnes

      Damn…. Finally I’m hearing an echo! Exactly the same thing
      I have been voicing for some time!

      • Anonymous

        Let’s face it, Thomas. There aren’t enough of us.

        But that doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying.

        Have you, by chance, read “A Nation of Sheep” by William Lederer?

        The same gov/military manipulation of the media was going on in the lead-up to the Vietnam War. Lederer pointed out many ways to fix the problem but no one paid any attention.

    • http://profiles.google.com/tomb215 Thomas Barnes

      Payne100, exclent hyper link

      • Anonymous

        How many people know that the founder of the Bilderberg conference was formerly in the Nazi Secret Service?

  • Anonymous

    For those who would like to learn more about alternative energy technologies
    I highly recommend visiting the following websites…

    PESWiki.com — Pure Energy Systems Wiki: Finding and
    facilitating breakthrough clean energy technologies.

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Main_Page

    ZPEnergy – The Energy of The Future

    http://www.zpenergy.com/index.php

    Energy Information

    http://www.byronwine.com/

    Also plug the term “Suppressed Energy Technologies” into your
    favorite search engine…

  • Planckbrandt

    How about only if governments are allowed to pursue policies to promote green power since doing so puts powerful fossil fuel shareholder family offices out of business! What US or UK government is going to be allowed to do something like that, even under a Standard of “free markets” and worshipful companies of technology innovators…These Fossil Fuel blockers are the new luddites…carefully hiding out where nobody can see them…behind the Politicians they own sent in to do the hatched jobs on 99.7% of the earth’s inhabitants….

    • http://proudprimate.com Anonymous

      Again, unless democratic elections are officially rescinded, the people can, in principle at least, change their government.

      The key, and the secret, is to wake the people up to the “tapestry of lies on which we feed”, to quote the Nobel speech of Harold Pinter.

  • Planckbrandt

    So much focus on “Governments” that have to take action, but what really is a government? In the US it is the doormat to about 0.3% of the population whose family offices write campaign contributions and all kinds of cheques to the culture war divide-and-rule game… Is the UK any different? The outcome of their economy certainly looks like very very few are really being served by the UK government all these years? Anywhere else where oil and extraction families, sugar plantation owners, Latinfunda, Coca-Cola Bottlers franchise owners, etc. prop up the dictators…just what is a government Mr. Greenpeace? Can we talk instead about constitutions that bestow rights, and the Courts and institutions that either uphold them or nor? The system is rigged in far too many places. Only the Europeans, South Americans sans IMF, and the Chinese seem to be motoring ahead on Renewables. Too many fossil fuel stock certificates at stake everywhere else…over protected by Courts that don’t enforce rights…

    • http://proudprimate.com Anonymous

      The answer to Latinfunda might just be RollingFunda.  (I assume you were doing a play on the word “latifundia“.)  Those bikers sure put a crimp in the Westboro Baptist assault on Memorial Day.

      It can’t be said often enough that campaign contributions have no power other than slick TV ads.  If the people — by some miraculous gift — know enough to see through the slick TV ads, all that money is for naught.   Witness the campaign of Meg Whitman, who spent $178.5 million only to lose to Jerry “Governor Moonbeam” Brown — a great day in America, if there ever was one.

  • http://twitter.com/MoralOutrage1 Moral Outrage

     I think  @d66e98ca2def1a594f7b48daf0aa44f5:disqus  has just about covered it…..The U.S. government has not and does not represent the people or the public good so why would it start now?  It is not in the interest of the monied class to pursue a green energy policy. has just about covered it…..The U.S. government has not and does not represent the people or the public good so why would it start now?  It is not in the interest of the monied class to pursue a green energy policy.

  • http://proudprimate.com Anonymous

    A banker wakes up from a nightmare, panting and gasping for breath, his wife trying to calm and comfort him — “It’s all right, dear.  You just had a bad dream.  It’s all right.”

    “Ohh!” he splutters, “Ohh! It was horrible.  PEACE, everywhere, all over the world.  Not a single war.  I lost everything — all my investments down the shitter!  Oh, God!  Ohh!  It was horrible, horrible!”

    That scenario would play equally well if everybody had a solar rooftop or a windmill, and the power companies would be forced, like in Germany, to pay them for their excess power.  Suddenly the centralization comes to an end.  Monopoly hits a brick wall.  The Homestead Act suddenly applies to internet connected voters.

    To quote CIA victim John Lennon, “Imagine . . .”

    • http://proudprimate.com Anonymous

      Russ — I’m so excited to finally get to this gorgeous website with these classy comment editors.  I just listened to your interview with Peter B, and I haven’t heard you lately.

      I read Family of Secrets (confession: I read about half of it, and intend to finish it), and I have you in the category of “those in the know who nevertheless hold out hope that Obama might do good if the opportunity presented itself, but what are the chances”, a category that includes Ray McGovern, and me.

  • Christian

    http://members.beforeitsnews.com/story/677/434/NASA_Chief_Says_Cold_Fusion_is_1.html

    Russ, I really enjoyed your book about the Bushes. I learned a lot of this stuff myself in the late 90s & early 00’s, but no one has pulled it together like you did. Marvelous writing…too bad no one here in Denmark seems to know it.

    The above link, and the real story of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (Cold Fusion), is something you should look into. It interfaces with certain elements of the black aerospace sector and Big Oil (which you wrote about a lot in Family of Secrets), and moreover a story that deserves more scrutiny.

    I recommend the late Dr. Eugene Mallove’s (MIT) book “Fire from Ice” about the events that followed Pons & Flesichmanns announcement in 1989. Also, the US NAVY came out last year and publicly discussed it’s own LENR research at the Space Warfare section.

    Oh, and a sidebar…you have no idea how important it was for me and others in my line of research to discover, in your book, that George HW Bush was doing covert work in the pacific in WW2 under a certain high ranking military man (who’s name, incredibly, escapes me right now). Was it Hillenkoetter? The guy that sent HW over to McArthur…so thanks for that :)

  • Christian

    http://members.beforeitsnews.com/story/677/434/NASA_Chief_Says_Cold_Fusion_is_1.html

    Russ, I really enjoyed your book about the Bushes. I learned a lot of this stuff myself in the late 90s & early 00’s, but no one has pulled it together like you did. Marvelous writing…too bad no one here in Denmark seems to know it.

    The above link, and the real story of Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (Cold Fusion), is something you should look into. It interfaces with certain elements of the black aerospace sector and Big Oil (which you wrote about a lot in Family of Secrets), and moreover a story that deserves more scrutiny.

    I recommend the late Dr. Eugene Mallove’s (MIT) book “Fire from Ice” about the events that followed Pons & Flesichmanns announcement in 1989. Also, the US NAVY came out last year and publicly discussed it’s own LENR research at the Space Warfare section.

    Oh, and a sidebar…you have no idea how important it was for me and others in my line of research to discover, in your book, that George HW Bush was doing covert work in the pacific in WW2 under a certain high ranking military man (who’s name, incredibly, escapes me right now). Was it Hillenkoetter? The guy that sent HW over to McArthur…so thanks for that :)