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Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC): Renewable energy can exceed global demand, according to UN report

Brussels, 9 May 2011. Renewable energy sources are expected to contribute up to 80% of global energy supply by 2050, according to a new report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Following a review of 164 scenarios, the IPCC found that renewables will play the major role in any successful plan to combat climate change.

“The report clearly demonstrates that renewable technologies could supply the world with more energy than it would ever need, and at a highly competitive cost,” said Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council. “The IPCC report will be a key reference for policy makers and industry alike, as it represents the most comprehensive high level review of renewable energy to date.”

The 1,000 page report, which was adopted by 194 governments after marathon negotiations on 9 May, considers the potential contribution from biomass, geothermal, hydro, ocean, solar and wind energy, as well as their potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, their integration into the energy networks, their contribution to sustainable development, and the policies which are needed to put them in place.

An increasing number of technologies are already economically competitive, and this will increase as further cost reductions and technology improvements are made. The report also emphasises that wind power alone is capable of supplying more than 100% of future demand, and solar many times more.
The scenarios assessed by the IPCC estimate that renewable energy can save between 220 and 560 Gigatonnes of CO2 in the period between 2010 and 2050.

“One key message from the report is that renewable energy sources will be paramount in the global battle against climate change, and their role in saving greenhouse gas emissions will be considerably more important than that of natural gas, carbon capture and storage, or nuclear power,” said Sawyer. “However, it is up to policy makers to make this happen with adequate support and long-term commitment. One crucial opportunity for this will be the next round of climate negotiations in South Africa in December this year.”

In 2009, around 12.9% of global primary energy supply, and 19% of the global electricity supply, was covered by renewable sources, including traditional biomass. The world’s wind power capacity installed at the end of 2010 produces enough power to cover for around 2.5% of global electricity demand, and in the scenarios examined by the IPCC, this share could increase tenfold to reach 25% in 2050.
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