A report published by the Lappeenranta University of Technology illustrated that the potential of a world where 100% of power generated from renewable energy sources is not as distant and unrealistic as some may think. The report illustrates that the necessary technology exists and that given the right political conditions, Russia, large swaths of Asia and South America could be able to generate 100 percent of their energy from renewables by 2030, whilst India could follow suit in 2050.
Alongside this, the complete transition would also be cost-effective, due to the fact that the levelized cost of electricity would fall from roughly $81 dollars in 2015 to $60 dollars in 2050, whilst it would also contribute to the creation of 36 million jobs worldwide, highlighting the opportunity for major macroeconomic benefits.
Developed countries across the globe have experienced gradual yet significant rises in their adoption of renewable energy sources. This is largely due to the fact that the cost of two major forms of renewable energy; wind and solar power, are falling dramatically. This can be illustrated by the fact that the cost of solar power is expected to fall by 59 percent until 2025. Alongside this, the cost of wind power is expected to drop by 71 percent over the next 20 years, according to a report by Bloomberg.
These falling costs have been reflected in the global expansion of renewable energy sources. The UK is forecasted to meet their 27% renewable energy target by 2030, whilst many EU countries are also on course to reach their respective goals. In Germany, onshore wind turbines formed just under a third of Germany’s installed power production in June, whilst this is set to further grow in the future. Likewise, solar energy is thriving in the US, with output growing by an average of 72 percent per year over the last 10 years, whilst Australia’s renewable energy sector produced enough electricity to support over 70 percent of homes in the financial year of 2016-17. This is set to rise to 90 percent in the next few years according to Green Energy Markets.
This, therefore, illustrates how renewable energy sources are on the rise across all corners of the globe, depicting and emphasising the potential for a 100% adoption level in the foreseeable future.
Too Good to Be True?
Although the evidence above conveys a bullish and buoyant future for the adoption of renewable energy sources, the undeniable truth is that widespread renewable energy adoption is an unattainable and distant dream for many countries, particularly those who are undeveloped and unable to implement such technologies. 600 million people in Africa currently lack any access to energy, whilst only 7 countries on the continent have an electricity grid rate of greater than 50%, a damning and startling statistic. Therefore, it is of greater importance that such regions focus on generating electricity from more attainable and traditional sources before considering the widespread adoption of renewable forms of energy.
However, it must be argued that large swathes of Africa – in particular, the sub-Saharan region – have access to a plethora of renewable energy sources which could contribute to the production of 10 terawatts of solar energy, alongside a significant level of output for geothermal and wind energy sources. Alongside this, such a renewable energy revolution will help shape a major restructuring process of the African economy, helping to provide millions of jobs, whilst also significantly reducing poverty levels. Thus, less developed regions should consider the adoption of renewable energy sources due to its revolutionary economic benefits and thus begin to join the already universal and global transition.
Alongside this, there are also concerns over China, which has experienced a recovery in its steal and coal industries, and is thus set to push global greenhouse gas emissions to record levels this year. This is supported by the Global Carbon Project, which estimates that carbon dioxide emissions will see a 2 percent increase this year. Moreover, on a global scale, carbon dioxide emissions rose in 101 countries last year, whilst falling in just 22 nations.
On the face of things, this may point towards the fact that the increasing adoption of renewable energy sources has been limited, yet this is contrasted by the fact that greenhouse gas emissions have remained constant over the last 3 years despite positive and consistent global economic growth. This illustrates that renewable energy sources are being effective in their adoption, replacing many unsustainable production methods. Alongside this, China is aiming to raise their renewable and non-fossil fuel power production levels to 20 percent of total output by 2030 through enhancing transmission capacity rates in order to reduce the level of wasted power in the renewable energy sector.
Although less developed regions including large parts of Africa are lightyears away from the level of renewable energy production currently attained by their more developed counterparts, a structural shift towards such forms of energy in these regions may bring substantial and rewarding benefits. Across the rest of the globe, renewable energy production is increasing exponentially as a result of falling wind and solar prices, meaning that large parts of the world could potentially run entirely on renewable energy sources in the not too distant future.
As a final note, scientists at the National Resources Research Institute at the University of Minnesota have made a groundbreaking discovery by producing biofuels with a similar level of energy output as typical fossil fuels. This, therefore, illustrates the potential growth of biofuels as an effective renewable energy source, yet it must be acknowledged that the widespread adoption of this discovery will be a lengthy and challenging process.
However, on the whole, there is room for a high level of optimism and excitement with regards to the growth of renewable energy production levels across the globe, as a result of an evident and integral renewable energy revolution.