A majority of experts surveyed for a study on the future of the world's energy supply consider a global transition to 100 per cent renewable energy to be both feasible and realistic, according to a new report authored by Dr Sven Teske at the UTS Institute for Sustainable Futures.
The Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) commissioned the report, which analyses the views of 114 renowned energy experts from every region of the world. Renewables Global Futures Report: Great debates towards 100% renewable energy has been released this week as experts and policymakers from around the world gather at the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York.
"There is an overwhelming consensus among the experts we interviewed that renewable power will dominate in the future, even with rising global energy demand," Dr Teske said.
"The question is not if we can achieve the transition to renewables, but when. Numerous companies, regions, islands and cities are tracking towards their 100 percent renewable energy targets.
"However, what we do this present moment is crucial. We need to see greater policy certainty at the national level to unlock an expansion and reduce carbon emissions rapidly to avoid dangerous climate change.
One of the most striking results from the report is that two thirds of experts expect renewables to outpace fossil fuels economically within the next decade.
"Given the long planning and construction time of fossil fuel projects – new coal-fired power plants need around five to seven years – most fossil fuel infrastructure projects will be uneconomic by the time they are ready to produce energy. New fossil fuel projects are most likely stranded assets and dead at arrival," Dr Teske said.
More than 90 per cent of the experts interviewed agree that renewable energy technologies serve to lower the barrier for communities to gain access to energy services. An estimated 100 million people now receive electricity via distributed renewable energy systems, and markets for such systems are growing rapidly.
Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21, said, "When REN21 was founded in 2004, the future of renewable energy looked very different than it does today. Back then, no one could have imagined that in 2016 renewable energy would account for 86 per cent of all new EU power installations, China would become the renewable energy powerhouse of the world and more than half of global renewable energy investment would take place in emerging economies and developing countries.
"Calls then for 100 per cent renewable energy were not taken seriously. Today the world's leading energy experts are engaged in rational discussions about its feasibility, and in what time frame."
Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21, added, "This report presents a wide range of expert opinions, and is meant to spur discussion and debate about both the opportunities and challenges of achieving a 100 per cent renewable energy future by mid-century.
"Wishful thinking won't get us there; only by fully understanding the challenges and engaging in informed debate about how to overcome them, can governments adopt the right policies and financial incentives to accelerate the pace of deployment."
Download the report