Energy revolution = money saved

Feature story - 6 July, 2007
US$180 billion. Per year. That's the massive amount of money the world could save by moving to a renewable energy future. The Future Investment report demonstrates that a safe renewable energy future would not only cut our global CO2 emissions from the electricity sector in half by 2030, it would also cost 10 times less than a ‘business as usual’ fossil-fuel future would.

Greenpeace installs solar panels on a school.

By shifting global investments to renewable energy (including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and bio energy), within the next 23 years, and away from dirty and dangerous coal and nuclear power, we can save a massive US$180 billion a year.

So we face a simple but crucial choice: we can either invest in over 10,000 new polluting coal and gas power plants, which would double fuel costs and increase C02 emissions by more than 50 percent. Or we can choose a safe renewable energy future, producing 70 percent of the world's electricity from our planet's natural resources.

By doing this we would not only save money but also cut CO2 emissions from the electricity sector in half by 2030.

What to do with all that money

We asked Action Aid what development needs could be met with the US$180 billion a year savings. They told us that it is the exact amount needed in extra aid to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their target date of 2015.

The goals are to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; universal primary education; gender equality and women's empowerment; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

Under our renewable energy future, part of the Energy [R]evolution the world urgently needs to curb catastrophic climate change, the savings would be enough to reach these most basic goals for human need and development. The maths as well as the choice is simple.

The poorest paying the price

It is the poorest people in the world who are already suffering the devastating effects of climate change, and who stand to lose the most if we do not take urgent action now. The costs of a 'business as usual' scenario go much deeper than pure economics. How, for example, do you put a price on a Pacific Islander finding their home is sinking?

The developing world has contributed the least to the climate change we already see today, and yet are paying by far the highest price. By embracing the Energy [R]evolution, we can start to make some amends.

It's so simple, and so essential, the extra investment of $22 billion needed in renewables to achieve the Energy [R]evolution is easy to obtain if we convert the massive subsidies of $250 billion a year that coal and gas receive to clean, safe energy from the world's natural resources.

Governments must listen to the voices of the billions of people engaging with Live Earth and make the right decisions NOW. In the next decade, many existing power plants will need replacing, and emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil are rapidly building new energy infrastructure.

The UN Environment Programme says of our report that "it is just the kind of publication that will strike a thoughtful chord with the expert and the novice in the field of renewable energy. I am sure it will spark even greater interest and action towards a more sustainable, climate friendly, energy mix and allow renewables to achieve their full and very exciting potential."

The market for wind energy grew by a massive 36 percent in 2006, and the total renewable energy sector would be worth a massive US$288 billion by 2030 if we take the Energy Revolution pathway. The renewable energy industry is willing and able to deliver the power plants the world needs, we must just make the right choices now! 

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