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Report: Fossil Fuel Use Should End by 2090

November 3, 2008
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Aggressive investment in renewable power generation and energy efficiency could create a $360 billion-a-year industry, provide half of the world's electricity, slash more than $18 trillion in fuel costs while protecting the climate, and eliminate fossil fuel use by 2090, according to a report issued by the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) and Greenpeace International.

The blueprint to reach those lofty goals, published last week in the report "Energy [R]evolution," would cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25% by 2050 and would produce electricity without any further fuel costs beyond 2030, they said. The report concludes that restructuring of the global electricity sector would require an investment of $14.7 trillion by 2030. More than half of the world's energy could come from renewable sources by 2050, they said. EREC and Greenpeace excluded clean coal and nuclear generation from their blueprint.

Recommendations in the report include phasing out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy, implementing cap-and-trade systems for GHG emissions, establishing legally binding targets for renewable energy and guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators.

"The global market for renewable energy can grow at double-digit rates until 2050 and overtake the size of today's fossil fuel industry," said EREC Policy Director Oliver Schafer. "Currently, the renewable energy market is worth $70 billion and doubling in size every three years. Because of economies of scale, renewable energies such as wind power at good sites are already competitive with conventional power. From around 2015 onwards, we are confident that renewable energies across all sectors will be the most cost-effective energy capacities. The renewable industry is ready and able to deliver the needed capacity to make the energy revolution a reality. There is no technical impediment but a political barrier to rebuild the global energy sector."

The scenario calls for the phasing out of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2085, with electric vehicles charged from renewable sources taking over the roads.

The report was released less than a week after the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said the best solution to economic stagnation and environmental degradation is directing the global economy to invest in clean technologies and "natural" infrastructure, such as forests, placing an emphasis on clean and renewable energy. Global energy subsidies range from $240 billion to $310 billion per year or around 0.7% of global GDP, but there is inadequate support for renewable energy development, the agency said. A recent assessment by UNEP also concluded that a dramatic phasing-out of fossil fuel subsidies could cut GHG emissions by some 6% by boosting energy efficiency.

Nearly a year ago the United Nations issued its fourth and final report on global climate change, emphasizing a growing consensus that global warming is real, humans have contributed significantly to it and an international effort is needed to mitigate and reverse its impacts.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently called for increased efforts worldwide to develop renewable energy sources, claiming that nearly 50% of global power supplies will need to come from renewables if CO2 emissions are to be halved by 2050. The IEA in an earlier study projects that energy-related CO2 emissions would grow by 130% until 2050 in the absence of new policies. This increase would largely be a result of increased fossil fuel usage. The 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said such a rise in emissions could lead to a temperature increase in the range of 4-7 degrees Celsius, with major impacts on the environment and human activity. There is a large consensus that a halving of energy-related CO2 emissions is needed by 2050 to limit the expected temperature increase to less than 3 degrees, IEA said.

EREC is an umbrella organization representing a dozen European renewable energy industry, trade and research associations.

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