World Energy Can Be 95% Renewable by 2050, Study Says

Almost all of the world’s demand for energy for electricity, transportation and heating could be met from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal power by 2050, WWF International said.

The share of oil, coal, gas and nuclear power in the global energy mix could be whittled down to 5 percent over the next four decades, WWF said today in an e-mailed report produced with researchers at Dutch organizations Ecofys and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. Energy saving measures can cut total demand by 15 percent from 2005 levels even as the population, industrial output, freight and passenger travel rise, they said.

The effort would require $3.5 trillion euros ($4.8 trillion) a year in spending by 2035 on modernizing buildings and electricity grids and expanding wind farms and solar parks. It would take until 2040 to pay off.

“This is insurance against the volatility of oil and gas prices and climate change,” Stephan Singer, editor of the study and director of energy policy at WWF, said from Brussels. “It can be done using currently available technologies” and ones due in the market in the next few years.

Ecofys is a Utrecht, Netherlands-based energy consultant, and WWF, based in Gland, Switzerland, is known as the World Wildlife fund in the U.S. The Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture’s AMO research arm, which studies architecture and clean energy, also contributed to the study.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency last year estimated that $33 trillion of energy infrastructure investment is needed by 2035 if countries are to meet their international commitments to limit greenhouse gases.

Consumer Impact

That figure, which averages out at $1.3 trillion a year, doesn’t include consumer purchases of goods such as more efficient cars and refrigerators, which are included in today’s study, Singer said. Those alone could total another $2 trillion a year, closing the gap with the IEA research, he said.

Singer said new technologies that aren’t currently close to commercialization could make it possible to get 100 percent of the world’s energy needs from renewables by 2050.Inefficient products should be phased out, and “strong, legally-binding standards” should be implemented for all energy using products, Singer said.

Achieving the ramp-up in energy efficiency and renewable power would require behavior changes including eating less meat, using more public transport, and electrifying cars, he said. New financing models will be needed to promote investments that generate long-term gains rather than immediate profits, he said.

“Sufficiency must be part of the solution -- technology is not the sole provider,” Singer said. “The global middle classes and the global rich of this world are not a blueprint model for the poor.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at amorales2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg in London at landberg@bloomberg.net.

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