The Wealth Of The Richest Could Power The World With Renewables

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Originally published on RenewEconomy.
By Sophie Vorrath

We know the technology already exists to power whole continents with 100 per cent renewable energy, but what about the money? According to a new report from Friends of the Earth International, this exists too. It’s just a matter of mobilising it.

The report, An Energy Revolution Is Possible, released on Tuesday, estimates that it would take $5,148 billion of extra investment to generate half the world’s electricity with 100 per cent renewables by 2030.


No small amount, to be sure, but to put it in perspective, FoE points out that this is an investment equal to the wealth currently held by 0.00001% of the global population, or 782 people.


This means that the personal fortunes of the 782 wealthiest people on the planet – many of them CEOs of major corporations – could power Africa, Latin America and most of Asia with 100% renewable energy by 2030.


Or to narrow that down a little further, the wealth of the richest 53 people globally could power the whole of Africa with 100% renewables by 2030, while the wealth of the richest 32 people could power most of Latin America.

Of course, the report is careful to note that it is “not advocating that these …people give all their money specifically to fund renewable energy in the global south.”

What the FoE does hope to drive home with these figures, though, is that while the finance for a energy revolution certainly exists, the political will to drive that transformation is “shockingly absent.”

“This report is a wake up call for policy makers and governments,” said Sam Cossar-Gilbert of Friends of the Earth International. “Our world faces two destructive and entwined crises – growing inequality and climate change. The time has come to address them together.”

In Australia, the local branch of Friends of the Earth has used the report’s finding to call on the Turnbull government to boost its contribution to the Green Climate Fund to at least $350 million a year.

“We call on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to support an equitable climate change agreement,” said Cam Walker, FoE campaigns coordinator. “The government can prove its bona fides by lifting its contribution to the Green Climate Fund.”

“Rich nations like Australia have incurred the greatest carbon debt. We should be prepared to do the heavy lifting when it comes to cutting domestic emissions and funding renewable energy projects in our region.”

Friends of the Earth International Climate Justice and Energy coordinator, Dipti Bhatnagar, wants the message to get through to rich nations that business as usual is no longer an option. What’s needed is an energy revolution.

“The energy transformation involves not just switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy, but also a deeper transformation including democratic ownership of renewable energy resources,” she said.

The report also paints a picture of what the energy mix of a 100 per cent renewable Africa, Latin America and Asia might look like come 2030, illustrated in the charts below. It has based these proposed mixes on the electricity demand projections from the World Energy Outlook 2014.


“We have calculated how much renewable energy infrastructure would be necessary to meet this demand, taking into account strategies such as energy storage and spare capacity for excess generation that would be required to create a reliable renewable power grid and multiple micro-grids,” the report says.

“We also recognise that many parts of the developing world may, and should, leapfrog transmission grids altogether, opting for energy independence with local renewable generation and storage in microgrids, particularly in rural areas and on small islands.”



Reprinted with permission.

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9 thoughts on “The Wealth Of The Richest Could Power The World With Renewables

  • Not being a billionaire (or an evil villain), I am obviously lacking some perspective but aside from bragging rights, what is the point of having more than $1 billion dollars if it is not being used to do something bigger than oneself?

    Bill and Melinda Gates are obviously pushing a lot of change through the Gates Foundation but it seems like they could put $30 billion into renewables without much of an impact. Would it be better invested in renewables than Microsoft? They are probably the worst example as they are already doing so much.

    • I do wonder that as well. I would assume they are just “managing” their wealth in financially beneficial ways because… well, that’s the goal of money, right? I imagine they mostly have people managing their money for them. But I really don’t know. Curious to see how others chime in.

  • $5.15T for 100% by 2030, but is that really extra? If we stay with fusel fuel there is a bill to get to 2030. Does it consider saving on health? IIRC I’ve been seeing studies now that say, there is NO extra in getting to RE and when health included there is a big savings.

    • Right. We transitioned away from whale oil lamps, and horse drawn carriages. We can do this. It’s going to be ok. Maybe not for Peabody or the coal plants, but the the economy and everybody else. I got First Energy trying to convince the PUCO that we need their coal plant for stability. BS, the only thing they are trying to stabilize is their profits.

  • the rothchilds are Worth 17 trillion ,they could pay still have left over .they took it from us in anyways

  • We could take the US defense bill and cut it in half. 17 years and it would be paid for. Imagine the steady income stream for our government.

  • Too bad the wealthy are too selfish to consider such a thing. Except, maybe, Gates. Melinda, that is. MicroSoft is as draconian as they get.

  • The rich didn’t get that way by being altruistic.

  • Altruism is not required.
    There would be a return on these investments.
    It’s going to happen in any case. What the (currently) rich need to do, mostly, is simply get out of the way. Many of them gain their wealth in terms of the old paradigm, which they would fight to protect. (Yes, messrs Koch, we’re talking about you.)

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