Read part of a great review on a new WWF report discussing renewable energy below:
Is a fully sustainable global energy system possible by 2050?
It’s hard to imagine a more important question if we entertain hopes of avoiding the worst effects of climate change. It is the question addressed by a new and substantial report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the sustainable energy research and consultancy company Ecofys.
The answer to the question is a careful yes, with a caveat. The Ecofys team writes:
“We have found that an (almost) fully sustainable energy supply is technically and economically feasible, given ambitious but realistic growth rates of renewable energy sources.
“However, the path to this future world will deviate significantly from ‘business as usual’ and a few (difficult) choices will need to be made on the way.”
The report does not see a future or a need for nuclear generation, and nuclear power does not figure as part of the sustainable energy system envisaged.
The report is divided into two parts. The first is WWF’s take on the Ecofys investigation, and a useful presentation of its major points for the general reader. The second contains the more detailed research of the Ecofys team. They provide a scenario, which is not advanced by WWF as the only way forward but as a clear indication that the goal is feasible.
The single most important element in the Ecofys scenario is increased efficiency in the use of energy. They assess global energy demand in 2050 15 per cent lower than in 2005, by contrast with ‘business-as-usual’ projections which predict energy demand will at least double. The reduction in the scenario is not achieved by reduction in activity but from using energy as efficiently as possible.
There are no surprises in the areas in which efficiency can operate to greatly reduce energy demand. Recycling in manufacture is one. Using recovered aluminium, for example, cuts total energy use by more than two-thirds. Product design is another: cars and appliances offer big opportunities for much improved efficiency. Improvements in small-scale cooking devices in the developing world can add up to significant reduction in energy demand. There is already the architectural expertise to create buildings that require almost no conventional energy for heating or cooling, and the scenario assumes this as the standard by 2030.
Retrofitting existing buildings will achieve big reductions if it is undertaken systematically between now and 2050. It would mean retrofitting 2-3 per cent of floor area every year, an ambitious target, but one which Germany has already achieved. More fuel-efficient transport and expanded use of buses, trams, trains and bikes can result in major reductions in energy use.
Energy conservation must be built into every stage of product design, including a ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy where all of a product’s components can be reused or recycled once it reaches the end of its life.
Better energy efficiency clearly implies appropriate regulatory action from governments. Legally binding minimum efficiency standards worldwide are needed for all products that consume energy, including buildings. Energy conservation must be built into every stage of product design, including a ‘cradle to cradle’ philosophy where all of a product’s components can be reused or recycled once it reaches the end of its life.
Strict energy efficiency criteria should result in new buildings which aim at near-zero energy use, and ambitious retrofitting should be planned and provided with incentives. Energy taxation can be used to steer demand towards efficient products. Developing countries must phase out the inefficient use of traditional biomass and pursue the alternatives; industrialised countries can help them in this process. Substantial investment is needed into public transport, particularly rail powered by electricity.
To read the rest of this great article and to learn more about the WWF report, visit the Hot Topic site here.
This review was originally posted on the Hot Topic site.
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