Unprecedented UN Report: Renewable Energy Costs to Drop, Use to Grow Substantially by 2030, but…

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UPDATE (May 9): The IPCC has released the 900-page renewable energy and climate change report and the official 30-page Summary for Policy Makers.

While it is all basically the same as what I wrote below, WWF’s Director for Global Energy Policy Dr. Stephan Singer notes that “the Summary for Policy Makers is only a feeble outline and does not in the least match the high quality of the full report. One needs to turn to the full report to understand the massive job the IPCC has managed to achieve.” The Summary is both limited and strengthened by the fact that every member country must agree to it line by line and word by word.

If you haven’t heard the news, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is about to release a groundbreaking 900-page Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation that compares 164 different renewable energy scenarios (due out May 9th).

It is “the most comprehensive analysis ever of trends and perspectives for renewable energy.”

The main, overall findings, leaked to Reuters, are:

  1. costs are predicted to fall considerably in the coming years due to technological advances and
  2. solar, wind, and other renewable energy options will surge in use and account for a much larger percentage of the energy pie.

“The projected expansion is likely to continue even without new measures to promote a shift from fossil fuels as part of a U.N.-led fight against climate change,” the IPCC draft report said.

This is really nothing new for CleanTechnica readers, I presume, since we cover reports that come to such findings repeatedly on here. I almost skipped covering this for that reason. However, this really is an unprecedented, comprehensive analysis of the various studies out there on this matter, so I figured I couldn’t pass it up.

And, for those who think we only cover the good projections, it’s worth noting the IPCC’s finding and it’s statement that most scenarios projected a “substantial increase in the deployment of renewable energy by 2030, 2050 and beyond.”

I do have a couple of “buts” to drop in here, too.

Are We Still Underestimating?

While the report found that “the technical potential of renewable energies — especially solar — was substantially higher even than projected world energy demand,” the most it found renewables would power the world by 2050 was 77%, less than 3% of total potential (under the 164 scenarios reviewed). Additionally, it did not include in its review WWF’s new Energy Report, unfortunately, which created a road map for achieving 100% renewable energy by 2050. (The report was too new to include in the survey.)

“Although unique in its epic scope, the IPCC therefore underestimates the potential of deploying renewable energy even faster, especially when combined with top level energy efficiency,” WWF said.

“WWF’s report adds that missing piece – a bold vision with a clear timeline. We need to be fast if we want to tackle pressing issues as varied as energy security and efficiency, and at the same time keep climate change below the danger threshold.”

The potential of renewable energy and its projected cost drops and growth, as reported by the UN, are promising. However, I hope we can exceed all of these projections, once more of the world (and especially world leaders) realize that we can and need to do so.


“Most of the 164 scenarios showed renewable energies would rise to supply above 100 exajoules (EJ) a year by 2050, reaching 200-400 EJ a year in many scenarios. That is up from 64 EJ in 2008, when world supply was 492 EJ, it said,” according to Reuters.

In 2008-2009, 140 GW of the 300 GW of new global electricity generating capacity came from renewables. That ratio is only looking to get better.

A 30-page summary of the report geared at policymakers will be published and the report launched in the UAE, the home of the new International Renewable Energy Agency on Monday.

Related Stories:

  1. International Solar PV Nearly Doubled, PV Growth Doubled in 2010
  2. Projected Wind Power Growth (Worldwide)
  3. Cleantech’s Revolutionary Growth & Expectations for Coming 10 Years
  4. Rooftop Solar Installations Growing Faster than Utility-Scale Solar

Photo via Ole Houen

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Zachary Shahan

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA], NIO [NIO], Xpeng [XPEV], Ford [F], ChargePoint [CHPT], Amazon [AMZN], Piedmont Lithium [PLL], Lithium Americas [LAC], Albemarle Corporation [ALB], Nouveau Monde Graphite [NMGRF], Talon Metals [TLOFF], Arclight Clean Transition Corp [ACTC], and Starbucks [SBUX]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.

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