Almost four fifths of the entire world’s energy could be met from renewable sources within four decades, according to one of the most comprehensive studies of their potential ever conducted. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that they could meet 77 per cent of world demand for energy by 2050, up from just 13 per cent now, if they were encouraged by government policies.
The 1,000 page report – compiled by more than 120 researchers from around the world – looked at six main sources of energy – solar, geothermal, wind, bioenergy, hydropower and energy from the ocean. But it is bound to provoke controversy. For while it will enthuse environmentalists, it is bound to be attacked by climate sceptics who have long targeted the IPCC, aided by some minor – but atrociously badly handled – mistakes in its most recent giant assessment report.
The new study points out that almost half of the new electricity generating capacity added worldwide in 2008 and 2009 came from renewables. In 2009 alone, despite the recession, solar water heating increased by more than 20 per cent, wind energy by more than 30 per cent, and power from solar photovoltaics connected to the grid by more than 50 per cent.
And, it goes on to show, the potential is immense. Even if its optimistic scenario for 2050 actually becomes reality, 97 per cent of the technical potential for renewables worldwide will remain untapped.