100% renewable shift possible for ‘majority’ of countries

The majority of the world’s countries including the UK, US and China could shift to being powered by 100% renewables by 2050, according to researchers.

Researchers at Stanford University in the US argue that as well as tackling global warming the switch would also lead to a significant economic boost and create some 24 million more jobs than were lost.

The team of academics led by Professor Mark Jacobson said the clear benefits of shifting to renewables mean governments should look to accelerate the transition.

“The seriousness of air-pollution, climate, and energy-security problems worldwide requires a massive, virtually immediate transformation of the world’s energy infrastructure to 100 per cent clean, renewable energy producing zero emissions,” they said.

Warning of instability

They said as fossil-fuel supplies dwindle and their prices rise, economic, social, and political instability may ensue unless a replacement energy infrastructure is developed well ahead of time.”

The researchers developed roadmaps for 139 countries for which information about energy systems was available, out of the total of 195.

They stressed that the roadmaps were not a prediction but a proposal for a mix of renewable generators by country and a timeline to get there that they believe can largely solve the world’s climate-change, air-pollution, and energy-security problems.

Professor Jacobson, Director of Stanford's atmosphere and energy programme, said it was important that political leaders were provided with reassurance that the transition to a zero-carbon economy would work.

“Both individuals and governments can lead this change. Policymakers don’t usually want to commit to doing something unless there is some reasonable science that can show it is possible, and that is what we are trying to do,” he said.

“We are not saying that there is only one way we can do this, but having a scenario gives people direction.”

Earlier this year a report by Jacobson looking at the potential for the US to switch to 100% renewables was criticised by a group of other American energy researchers as being flawed.

Renewables a factor in utility switch

Meanwhile research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has highlighted demand for renewables as one of the factors in the continuing shift by consumers away from major European utilities.

It said the average annual “churn” rate – which measures the number of customers leaving – has reached 12% among the major utilities. The percentage is more than double what it was a decade ago.

Britain’s “big six” energy companies have lost two million customers since 2010, according to the data.

The fall in the “big six’s” customer base came despite the total number of customers in the UK rising by 1.5 million between 2010 and 2016.

Meredith Annex, an analyst at BNEF, said: “In the face of growing competition, incumbents have struggled to retain their customer numbers.

“So far, we’ve seen mixed success in making them stickier through new services.”

BNEF added that new entrants were luring clients away with “lower prices, better customer service and a resolute commitment to renewables”.

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