Climate stabilization at a cost of below 3% of global GDP* is achievable, says the Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel of Climate Change, with renewable energy playing an important role. The 4 May report, referred to by IPCC Chair R.K. Pachauri as ‘stunning’, concluded a week of sometimes tricky negotiations with remarkable consensus – and with an important message for the energy sector.In developed and developing countries, the energy sector can create opportunities for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, says the IPCC. Globally, it estimates, energy infrastructure investment is expected to total over US$20,000 billion between now and 2030, and how those investments are made will have long-term impacts on greenhouse gas emissions. According the IPCC’s initial estimates, ‘returning global energy-related CO2 emissions to 2005 levels by 2030 would require a large shift in the pattern of investment, although the net additional investment required ranges from negligible to 5%-10%’.
The IPCC believes that investment in end-use energy efficiency improvements can often be more cost-effective than increasing energy supply. And it also notes that higher, and volatile, fuel prices will act as an extra incentive for low-carbon options (but warns that use of high-carbon options such as oil sands and oil shales may increase if the price of conventional oil resources increases).
At carbon prices of up to $50/ton (CO2 equivalent), renewable electricity could have a 30%-35% share of the total electricity supply by 2030, the IPCC has calculated (compared with 18% in 2005); it believes nuclear power could have an 18% share of the total electricity supply by 2030 (compared with 16% in 2005).
‘The widespread diffusion of low-carbon technologies may take many decades, even if early investments in these technologies are made attractive’, noted the IPCC. Yes – it may. But the renewable energy sector has already demonstrated that it is capable of sustained high growth rates and rapid implementation. The past decade of growth – much of it without climate being a main driver, and without the policy and investment awareness we experience in 2007 – is surely a mere taster of what is to come.
Our May-June issue once again has a wide range of features looking at markets, technologies, good projects and potential. I’ll start this issue by referring you to our Last Word writer, Hermann Scheer, who says that what the world needs now is leadership and courage for implementation – because the argument for renewable energy is already won.
Editor, Renewable Energy World
*at 445-535 ppm, compared with today’s 425 ppm CO2-equivalent. Stabilization at higher levels possible at lower cost