A fully sustainable and renewable global energy system is possible by 2050, according to The Energy Report, which was published this week by Ecofys and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
‘We can do this by using and improving the technologies that are already at hand,’ says Manon Janssen, CEO of Ecofys. ‘It is a business opportunity, as much as it is a technological challenge.’
For several reasons, the world will need an adapted energy system to accommodate its growing population, the report says. Climate change, depletion of natural resources and a growing dependence on only a few energy suppliers are a threat to our current system. Renewable sources such as solar energy and other resources are necessary for a sustainable balance.
The Ecofys Energy Scenario, which is the basis for The Energy Report, asked the fundamental question:"Is a fully sustainable global energy system possible by 2050?," Ecofys investigated technical, social and economical developments in all energy carriers, all regions and all sectors of the global energy system.
First, the scenario forecasts a future level of energy-consuming activities based on a growing population and a tripling of the world's economy. These services would be delivered with a minimum of energy and material use.
Second, the scenario ranks the sources to provide the energy for these activities based on sustainability. Energy from the sun, wind, water and heat from the earth's crust are prioritized and will contribute to a further electrification of our society, the report explains. Only once these options are exhausted is bio-energy deployed.
With the utilization of existing technologies alone and the application of stringent sustainability criteria, 95% of all energy can be renewable by 2050, according to Ecofys and the WWF. Only certain manufacturing processes (e.g., steel, cement) will need specific properties of fossil fuels that cannot yet be substituted by renewable fuels yet.
An important condition in the scenario is the development of a sustainable standard of living around the world, based on increasing equity between different regions. Up-front financing will be required, but in the long term, benefits will outweigh costs, the report concludes.