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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 January 2007, 14:45 GMT
Energy roadmap backs renewables
Solar mirrors (Image: BBC)
The report calls for energy supplies to enter a "solar generation"
Half of the world's energy needs in 2050 could be met by renewables and improved efficiency, a study claims.

It said alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, could provide nearly 70% of the world's electricity and 65% of global heat demand.

Following a "business as usual" scenario would see demand for energy double by 2050, the authors warned.

The study, by the German Aerospace Center, was commissioned by Greenpeace and Europe's Renewable Energy Council.


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The report, Energy Revolution: A Sustainable World Energy Outlook, provided a "roadmap" for meeting future energy needs without fuelling climate change, said Sven Teske from Greenpeace International.

"We have shown that the world can have safe, robust renewable energy, that we can achieve the efficiencies needed and we can do all of this while enjoying global economic growth," he said.

He added that the strategy outlined in the report showed that it was economically feasible to cut global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by almost 50% over the next 43 years.

'Solar generation'

The report calls for ageing fossil fuel and nuclear power plants to be replaced by renewable generation when they reach the end of their operational lives.

"Right now, we have five main sources of energy - oil, coal, gas, nuclear and hydro. In our scenario, we have solar, wind, geo-thermal, bio-energy and hydro," Mr Teske told BBC News.

Pollution from a factory in north-eastern China
If you look at our scenario for China, you will see that the demand for coal will increase over the next 10 years
Sven Teske,
Greenpeace International
He added that they had developed 10 regional scenarios to highlight which renewable sources would be most effective in particular parts of the world.

"Of course, for the Middle East we have a lot of solar power, while northern Europe and North America will have a lot more wind energy in the mix.

"We also dissect it by sector," he added. "Renewables will dominate the electricity sector, and the heating and cooling sectors.

"By 2050, in our scenario, the majority of fossil fuels will be used in the transport sector."

China is pushing ahead with a rapid building programme for fossil fuel power plants to sustain its economic growth. A statistic often quoted is that it is effectively bringing a 1GW coal power station online each week.

As these plants are expected to be operating for at least 40 years, there is concern that this is "locking" greenhouse gas emissions into the world's energy supply for decades to come.

Mr Teske said this had been factored into their figures: "If you look at our scenario for China, you will see that the demand for coal will increase over the next 10 years because we have assumed that all the power plants being constructed will be used."

He added that the increase in demand for energy in emerging economies and developing nations would be balanced by greater efficiencies being made in developed nations.

But he said that it would not mean rich nations would have to "freeze in the dark"; strict energy standards would ensure only the most efficient electrical goods, heating systems and vehicles would go on sale.

Political will

The best way to curb greenhouse gas emissions without harming economic growth has made its way to the top of the political agenda.

Congestion on a US freeway (Image: EyeWire)
The majority of fossil fuels in 2050 will be used in the transport sector
The European Commission recently published its strategic review, outlining a range of measures that it felt would deliver a reduction in emissions while not undermining energy security.

These included tighter efficiency standards for goods and housing in the EU; strengthening the European Emissions Trading Scheme; and plans to revamp the region's energy market.

However, plans to introduce legislation to limit CO2 emissions from cars were shelved after disagreements within the commission and further afield.

The apparent lack of political consensus on the best way to proceed was a concern, especially as a number of nations were currently reviewing the shape of future energy supplies, said Arthouros Zervos, president of the European Renewable Energy Council.

"What we want to believe is that there is a change in the minds of politicians, especially after what we have seen happen to the climate," Professor Zervos told BBC News.

"We hope this report will have an effect on the political decision making process."

Graph showing global electricity generation in 2050 (BBC)

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