Report: Global Switch to 100 Per Cent Renewable Electricity Both Feasible and Cheaper than Current System

World | Renewable Energy

Photo-illustration: Pixabay

Renewables combined with energy storage technologies could generate enough secure power to cover the world’s entire electricity demand by 2050 while proving cheaper than the current fossil-fuel dominated system, according to a “ground-breaking” new study published today.

Launched at the COP23 UN climate summit in Bonn this afternoon and using “first-of-its-kind” modelling, the study argues existing renewable electricity technologies can be used to meet the world’s power needs during every hour throughout the year. It also argues a renewables-reliant grid would prove more cost-effective than the current system that is largely based on coal, gas and nuclear energy generation.

Compiled by German non-profit Energy Watch Group and the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, the study even argues that with favourable policy and regulatory support a global transition to 100 per cent renewable, decarbonised electricity is feasible earlier than 2050.

Although the full study will not be fully released until later this afternoon, highlights offer a clear indication of the disruptive opportunities the tumbling costs in clean power markets offer around the world.

It estimates that on a global average, the total levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for 100 per cent renewable power in 2050 will hit €52/MWh – including curtailment, storage and some grid costs – compared to €70/MWh in 2015.

The losses in efficiency within a fully renewable power system would also be less than half that of the current system, in which around 58 per cent of the primary energy input is lost, it adds.

Meanwhile, transitioning to 100 per cent renewables would deliver significant climate change benefits, reducing global greenhouse gas emissions from around 11Gt of CO2 equivalent to zero emissions by 2050, the study concludes.

And while the current global energy industry supports around 19 million jobs, employment could almost double to 36 million by 2050 under a fully decarbonised renewable electricity system.

The findings follow an open letter yesterday from 10 green NGOs including Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, WWF and Sandbag, calling on the EU to stop allowing funds through its Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) to go towards subsidising European coal plants.

Unabated coal power in Europe must fall to zero by 2030 under International Energy Agency modelling in order for the EU to meet its climate obligations, the letter points out, and it calls for the setting of a meaningful carbon price in order to drive deeper decarbonisation.

Speaking yesterday ahead of final EU discussions over planned reforms to the trading scheme, Phil MacDonald, analyst at Sandbag, said the EU carbon market was “still on course for another decade with an irrelevant single-digit carbon price”.

“The EU institutions must pull a rabbit out of a hat tomorrow and make real reform to the ETS,” he said. “Only this can show COP23 that the EU is still a climate leader.”

It also comes as Germany – where the COP23 summit is taking place this year – faces growing pressure from campaigners and countries such as the UK and Canada to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power, with another report today arguing its failure to set a phase-out date for its coal plants undermines the country’s claims to being a climate leader on the world stage.

The report by campaign group Oil Change International calls for a rapid phase out of coal power in Germany, arguing that unless it does so in 10 years or less the country’s Paris Agreement targets will be unachievable.

However, media reports today indicate the German Green Party has dropped its call for the country to set an end-date for coal power as part of its list of demands for joining a so-called ‘Jamaica’ coalition government, alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party and the liberal FDP party, the latter of which is strongly against such a policy.

However, the Greens will be hoping to wring separate low carbon concessions from the new coalition before giving their backing to the Merkel government.