Listen up, energy sceptics – today’s report from the IPCC has found that not only will renewable energy provide most of the world’s energy needs by 2050, it’s going to have an indispensable role in mitigating catastrophic climate change.
The 900-page renewable energy bible, published today by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also highlights the benefits of harnessing the unlimited potential of solar, wind and hydro. And the statistics speak for themselves. Just 2.5% of renewable energy – a fraction of viable sources available - could meet up to 80% of the global energy demand of the future.
Renewable energy will also play a vital role in meeting the growing needs of developing countries, where two billion people lack access to basic means of energy services.
Our own Energy [R]evolution plays a big part in the report, as one of the four key scenarios profiled. Since the first edition was launched in 2005, Greenpeace has published the Energy [R]evolution in over 40 countries. Developed with the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), the Energy [R]evolution charts a sustainable path to quitting dirty energy by transitioning to renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The energy gauntlet has been thrown down, and the message is clear. Governments need to stop dragging their heels and step up to the challenge: renewable energy must be placed centre stage, and new policies created that will enable it to grow. But even in the face of political inaction, the report shows that renewable energy will continue to grow substantially. It seems the clean Energy [R]evolution is unstoppable.
Q&A: renewable energy for dummies
There are many myths that surround renewable energy. Here we debunk a few of the best:
How can sun, wind and sea measure up to nuclear power?
Solar, wind and hydro energy already exceed the output of the nuclear industry globally, though the so-called nuclear ‘renaissance’ attempts to insist otherwise. The IPCC report shows that the renewable energy sector as a whole is six times as big as nuclear, and will continue to grow apace.
What happens when there’s no sun?
We all know where the sun doesn’t shine, and top of that list is of course, the nightime. Not that this matters for solar energy. Modern solar technology can convert sunlight into stored energy, much in the same way your skin converts the sun’s rays into a tan. And you can use that energy when it’s dark or cloudy. So it doesn’t matter if the light’s out, yours won’t be.
Ok, so what about wind; you can’t store a gust of air?
Not exactly, but both wind and solar electricity grids are designed to adjust for the variation in supply that intermittent energy provides. Which means that even intermittent sources can supply energy round the clock, as it’s always sunny or windy somewhere!
If renewable energy is so great, why isn’t there even more of it?
All great ideas take time to catch on. Machiavelli himself said: “the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new.” It’s a challenge to change the status quo - even when the alternative is clean, safe and sustainable - given the huge subsidies and lobbying power behind fossil fuels and nuclear. The good new is that investment in new renewable energy now outstrips investment in both fossil fuels and nuclear.
More: The IPCC's Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation