October 29th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
At the United Nations’ upcoming COP 19 event in Warsaw, the REN Alliance is scheduled to “introduce the theme of a 100% renewable energy future, and introduce case studies on how to attain this vision.” The side event is supposed to touch on technical integration of renewable energy resources, policies, financing, and more.
Speakers will include Ms. Jennifer McIntosh of the International Solar Energy Society (ISES), Ms. Tracy Lane of the International Hydropower Association (IHA), Ms. Karin Haara of the World Bioenergy Association (WBA), and Mr. Stefan Gsaenger of the World Wind Energy Association (WWEA). I’m sure they will give excellent presentations that are both inspirational and useful. And it is great to see that the REN Alliance has pulled together top global leaders from the four biggest renewable energy sectors.
A 100% renewable energy future is something I have written about several times. First of all, for anyone interested in the subject (and we all should be!), I think it’s worth looking at a number of large studies conducted by researchers at several different universities, governmental agencies, and organizations who have come to very promising conclusions regarding how much renewable energy the world and specific countries could develop at a competitive cost. These studies come to important findings such as:
- A 100% Renewable Energy Future Is Possible
- Wind, Solar, & Storage Could Power The Full Electric Grid Cost Effectively 99.9% Of The Time By 2030
- Clean Energy Could Supply The U.S. With 70% Of Its Electricity By 2030
- Europe Could Be 100% Powered By Renewable Energy
- A 95% Renewable Energy World Is Possible By 2050 Even With NO Technological Breakthroughs
- A 100% Renewable Energy Future For Australia Would Be Cost Competitive
- The U.S. Could Have 80% Clean, Renewable Energy by 2050, But We Need More Political Will & Public Demand To Make That Happen
Seriously, these are must-read summaries of excellent reports on the subject of switching to renewable energy on a large scale. And if you have the time, digging into the actual studies would be even more useful.
It’s also very useful to learn a bit about some of the countries and cities that have completely or almost completely switched to renewable energy for their electricity supply. For example, some leading examples include Iceland, which now gets 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources; Tokelau, which has hit 100% renewable energy; Denmark, which is now getting nearly 50% of its electricity from renewable energy sources and is planning to get 50% from wind power alone by 2020; Scotland, which is aiming for 100% electricity from renewable energy by 2020; Samsø, a 100% wind-powered island; and Güssing, Austria, which is also already 100% powered by clean, renewable energy.
Another thing worth noting, whether you intend to attend this COP 19 side event or not, is that projections for how much renewable energy will be installed in the coming decades vary widely, but no matter who you ask, renewable energy will grow at a very strong rate. The projections regarding how much renewable energy will be installed vary greatly based on the assumptions made by the researchers, of course, but even before the assumptions come the political goals with which the research team is going into the project — these often shape the assumptions used. No projection in this arena is perfect, and it’s very worthwhile to find out what the assumptions of a study are before referencing it.
Also, lastly, one of the key points of discussion when it comes to how much renewable energy is “possible” is the issue of renewable energy intermittency. I highly recommend reading this article about the fallacy of that intermittency concern — read it, re-read it, and be sure to share it with others. Also, the prequel to that piece was one I wrote about utility company CEOs who tore down the renewable energy intermittency concern back in 2011 in a utility company CEO roundtable at a solar power conference. That is also a must-read, in my humble opinion.
If you will be at COP 19 and are interested in attending the REN Alliance side event, “Integrated technologies towards 100% renewables: Case studies and ex. on country and regional level,” it is scheduled for 16:45–18:15 on Monday, November 18, in room 1.
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