Most energy experts surveyed for a study on the future of the world’s energy supply consider a global transition to 100 per cent renewable energy to be both feasible and realistic.
“There is an overwhelming consensus among the experts we interviewed that renewable power will dominate in the future, even with rising global energy demand,” said Dr Sven Teske, at the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures in Sydney – who conducted the survey on behalf of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21stCentury (REN21).
“The question is not if we can achieve the transition to renewables, but when.”
The survey of 114 energy experts from around the world found a clear delineation between the “perceived” attitudes towards 100 per cent renewables.
Those energy experts considered “progressive” were all convinced that 100 per cent renewables is achievable, those considered “moderate” thought that 100 per cent is overly ambitious but renewables will make up a significant share, and those considered “conservative” thought that renewables will still only be a small share of energy by 2050.
Given that mix of perceived attitudes, it’s encouraging that the main finding from the report is that 71 per cent of the experts interviewed consider a global transition to 100 per cent renewable energy both feasible and realistic, with European and Australian experts most strongly supporting this view,” Teske said.
His other main takeaway is that nearly 70 per cent of those interviewed expect the cost of renewables to continue to fall, beating all fossil fuels within 10 years’ time.
“Given the long planning and construction time of fossil fuel projects – new coal-fired power plants need around five to seven years – most fossil fuel infrastructure projects will be uneconomic by the time they are ready to produce energy. New fossil fuel projects are most likely to be stranded assets and dead at arrival,” Dr Teske said.
The survey found that more than 90 per cent of the experts interviewed agree that renewable energy technologies serve to lower the barrier for communities to gain access to energy services. An estimated 100 million people now receive electricity via distributed renewable energy systems, and markets for such systems are growing rapidly.
Arthouros Zervos, the chair of REN21, said that the outlook for renewable energy had changed rapidly since the organisation had been founded in 2004.
“Back then, no one could have imagined that in 2016, renewable energy would account for 86 per cent of all new EU power installations; China would become the renewable energy powerhouse of the world; and more than half of global renewable energy investment would take place in emerging economies and developing countries,” he said in a statement.
“Calls then for 100 per cent renewable energy were not taken seriously; today the world’s leading energy experts are engaged in rational discussions about its feasibility, and in what time frame.”