Renewables’ potential revealed?

Renewable energy could supply 77% of world energy needs by 2050, according to a new report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), up from just 13% now. To achieve this, governments will have to back renewable energy with unprecedented investment and the right enabling public policies. Deploying renewable-energy technologies could help prevent 220 to 560 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere between 2010 and 2050.

Ramon Pichs, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group that produced the report, added that “developing countries have an important stake in this future—this is where most of the 1.4 billion people without access to electricity live yet also where some of the best conditions exist for renewable energy deployment.”

Reaction to the report was mixed. Geoffrey Lean, writing in UK newspaper the The Daily Telegraph, said: “the potential is immense. Even if its optimistic scenario for 2050 actually becomes reality, 97% of the technical potential for renewables worldwide will remain untapped.”

Sven Teske of Greenpeace International, one of the lead authors of the report, said: “This is an invitation to governments to initiate a radical overhaul of their policies and place renewable energy centre stage. On the run up to the next major climate conference, COP17 in South Africa in December, the onus is clearly on governments to step up to the mark.”

However US academic Roger Pielke Junior had a slightly different take on the report, suggesting that “the IPCC has just issued a new summary for policymakers for a forthcoming special report on renewable energy that appears (indirectly and obliquely) to finally admit that we just do not have the technology necessary to achieve low targets for the stabilisation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (e.g. something like 450 ppm).”

The full, 900 page report will be released on May 31.