A new report has revealed an overwhelming consensus that renewable power will dominate in the future, with many experts saying that even large international corporations are increasingly choosing renewable energy products. “This report presents a wide range of expert opinions, and is meant to spur discussion and debate about both the opportunities and challenges of achieving a 100-per-cent-renewable energy future by the middle of this century,” said Christine Lins, the Executive Secretary of Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) – a global renewable energy policy multi-stakeholder network hosted by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The “Renewables Global Futures Report” was released on 3 April 2017 at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York. The analysis is based on the views of 114 renowned energy experts from every region of the world, who were interviewed over the course of 2016. IASS researchers Rainer Quitzow and Sybille Röhrkasten conducted the survey of European energy experts. Interviewees included senior government officials, a member of the European Parliament, as well as leaders from civil society and the private sector.
More than 90 per cent of the experts interviewed agree that renewable energy technologies serve to lower the barrier to gaining access to energy services for communities. An estimated 100 million people now receive electricity via distributed renewable energy systems, and markets for such systems are growing rapidly.
Other key findings include:
- More than 70 per cent of the experts interviewed consider a global transition to 100 per cent renewable energy to be both feasible and realistic, with European and Australian experts most strongly supporting this view.
- Numerous companies, regions, islands and cities have set 100-per-cent-renewable energy targets.
- Nearly 70 per cent of those interviewed expect that the cost of renewables will continue to fall and assume that renewables will outcompete all fossil fuels in the space of the next decade. Wind and solar photovoltaic are in fact already cost-competitive with new conventional generation in most OECD countries.
- Countries as diverse as China and Denmark are demonstrating that GDP growth can be decoupled from increasing energy consumption.
The report also identified a number of challenges, however:
- In some regions, most notably Africa, the US and Japan, experts were sceptical about attaining the goal of a 100-per-cent-renewable energy supply in their own countries or regions by 2050, largely due to the vested interests of the conventional energy industry.
- Drop-in solutions, such as the replacement of combustion engines with electric drives, will not be sufficient to transform the transport sector. Instead, a modal shift will be required, for example, from road to rail.
- The lack of long-term policy certainty and the absence of a stable climate for investment in energy efficiency and renewables hinder development in most countries.
Rainer Quitzow, Senior Research Associate at the IASS, commented: “The global perspective taken in this report adds an important dimension to the debate on the future of energy production and consumption in Germany. While Europe was an important lead market for solar and wind energy, the transition to renewable energy is now a global phenomenon.”