100% Renewable Energy by 2050?
The World Wildlife Foundation in Canada performed a study of renewable energy that reported that 100% of our energy needs could be met with renewable energy sources by the year 2050. If you’re a little on the younger side, like in your 20′s or 30′s, that means that we could live to see the day when the full transition occurs to 100% clean and pristine energy.
Transitioning to full renewable energy obviously seems like a daunting task, but doing so could relieve the world’s anxiety over greenhouse gas emissions or toxic air pollution contributing to health issues. Another great benefit to renewable energy is all in the name, it’s a renewable resource, meaning that it is not required to be mined, to be collected, nor to be extracted. Renewable energy also does not produce a dangerous byproduct, such as radioactive spent nuclear waste, that needs to be stored away from humans and the environment for thousands of years.
The Energy Report by the WWF, in collaboration with energy consultants Ecofys, rightly outlined the strategy that would be needed achieve the goal of 100% renewable energy. Part of that strategy requires everyone to adopt energy efficiency through buildings, energy efficient vehicles, and energy efficient industry. Renewable power would need to be delivered via a smart grid, a type of electrical grid which attempts to predict and intelligently respond to the behavior and actions of all electric power users connected to it.
Speaking of That Smart Grid Thing
The Smart Grid, according to smartgrid.gov, is a developing network of transmission lines, equipment, controls and new technologies working together to respond immediately to our 21st Century demand for electricity. Having a smart grid has the benefit of shedding the old way of logging people’s utility usage of physically sending a utility technician to log meters at individual’s homes, and instead sending monthly data usage via a secured wired or wireless network. This new method of collecting energy data will reduce vehicle miles traveled by utility companies worldwide if deployed as a global model.
Ultimately, having a smart grid system can benefit the consumer of electricity because such a system would be developed to allow the user to login online and analyze daily usage patterns of electricity. Google did a pilot project with IBM and the City of Dubuque, Iowa, which showed strong engagement by residents and energy savings of up to 11%. The conclusion that I drew from the pilot project is that users who actively engage in a system that reports energy usage leads to an awareness that reminds people to turn that light off after using it, or to shut off the printer when not in use, etc. I know this to be true in my own life, even though I don’t participate currently in a smart grid program due to lack of availability; I actively make sure that the coffee maker is unplugged, I unplug my cell phone charger from the wall, etc. I even purchased the latest energy saving gadgets like a smart strip, conserve socket, and led light bulbs to replace all my sub-standard CFL’s.
- Energy efficiency and renewable energy can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels by 70 per cent by 2040
- By 2050, we will save nearly $5.5 trillion per year through energy efficiency and reduced fuel costs
- If 0.3 per cent of the Sahara desert was a concentrated solar plant, it would power all of Europe
- By 2050, more than a third of building heat could come from geothermal sources
“The Energy Report shows that 100 percent sustainable, renewable energy is possible and economical by 2050 if we start the transition today. To protect the future of our planet, these are the steps we need to take.” Gerald Butts, President and CEO, WWF
Furthermore, the WWF Energy Report argues that switching to 100% renewable energy worldwide is not an option, it is the only choice. The three main fossil fuels used today: coal, natural gas, and oil are depleting and are finite resources. The world is expected to grow to over 9 billion people by the year 2040, and the demand of energy from that generation will likely be more than that of our current demand. The cheapest sources of oil have already been tapped, leading current oil giants to deep sea oil drilling, extraction of oil from Canadian tar sands, and expensive processes to extract natural gas, petroleum, or coal seam gas through fracking.
Global Mandate For a Successful Transition
Public entities all over the world and at all levels of government have major roles to play. Some sort of mandate for performance standards such as mandating utility companies to have renewable energy requirements by a certain year and innovative solutions such as Portland Oregon’s curbside composting plan. On the federal level, governments could do more to level the playing field with fossil fuel energy sources by cutting subsidies to oil and promoting subsidies for renewable energy sources. Governments need to utilize their vast resources to make serious investments in large infrastructure projects including public transportation, like national high speed rail networks, and power grid infrastructure to pipe in energy from far away solar plants and wind farms. They could also provide funds for early stage research and development projects to ensure continued sustainable innovations.
The private sector has its role to play in the transition as well. Buying green or energy efficient merchandise fuels demand and innovation by private companies to provide those types of end products. For example, once the hybrid electric vehicle came out as an efficient gas saver, environmentally conscious consumers and people wanting to save on gas chose to buy that vehicle over existing conventional automobiles. Consumers can vote with their dollars which can help spur the eventual transition to a sustainable economy. Now that the popularity of hybrid vehicles are a widely known phenomenon, the transition to full electric vehicles has already begun. Big car manufactures have put their money where their mouth is to promote EV technology with the Tesla, Nissan Leaf, and with the Mitsubishi i.
We are well on our way towards the transition, but no where near where we need to be. Help us move closer to the 100% renewable energy goal … the environment will thank you for it.
Download the Full Report Here: WWF Energy Report 2011(7.8 MB)
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