A global transition to 100 percent renewable electricity is a tangible reality and more cost-effective than the current systems, which largely is based on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, says a new research.
The study by Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Energy Watch Group (EWG) was presented on November 8, 2017 during the Global Renewable Energy Solutions Showcase event (GRESS) on the sidelines of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn.
Existing renewable energy potential and technologies, including storage can generate sufficient and secure power to cover the entire global electricity demand by 2050. Total levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) on a global average for 100 percent renewable electricity in 2050 is €52/MWh (including curtailment, storage and some grid costs), compared to €70/MWh in 2015.
“A full decarbonization of the electricity system by 2050 is possible for lower system cost than today based on available technology. Energy transition is no longer a question of technical feasibility or economic viability, but of political will,” Christian Breyer, lead author of the study, LUT Professor of Solar Economy and Chairman of the EWG Scientific Board said.
A transition to 100 percent renewables would bring greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector down to zero and drastically reduce total losses in power generation. It would create 36 million jobs by 2050, 17 million more than today.
Total levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) on a global average for 100 percent renewable electricity in 2050 is €52/MWh (including curtailment, storage and some grid costs), compared to €70/MWh in 2015.
Due to rapidly falling costs, solar PV and battery storage increasingly drive most of the electricity system, with solar PV reaching some 69 percent, wind energy 18 percent, hydropower 8 percent and bioenergy 2 percent of the total electricity mix in 2050 globally.
Wind energy increases to 32 percent by 2030. Beyond 2030 solar PV becomes more competitive. The solar PV supply share increases from 37 percent in 2030 to about 69 percent in 2050.
Batteries are the key supporting technology for solar PV. The storage output covers 31 percent of the total demand in 2050, 95 percent of which is covered by batteries alone. Battery storage provides mainly diurnal storage, and renewable energy based gas provides seasonal storage.
Global greenhouse gas emissions significantly reduce from about 11 GtCO2eq in 2015 to zero emissions by 2050 or earlier, as the total LCOE of the power system declines.
The global energy transition to a 100 percent renewable electricity system creates 36 million jobs by 2050 in comparison to 19 million jobs in the 2015 electricity system.
The total losses in a 100 percent renewable electricity system are around 26 percent of the total electricity demand, compared to the current system in which about 58 percent of the primary energy input is lost.
The study “Global Energy System based on 100 percent Renewable Energy – Power Sector” will have major implications for policy makers and politicians around the world, as it refutes a frequently used argument by critics that renewables cannot provide full energy supply on an hourly basis, according to the research firm.
”There is no reason to invest one more Dollar in fossil or nuclear power production,” EWG president Hans-Josef Fell said. “Renewable energy provides cost-effective power supply. All plans for a further expansion of coal, nuclear, gas and oil have to be ceased.”
The research calls for more investments to be channeled in renewable energies and the necessary infrastructure for storage and grids. “Everything else will lead to unnecessary costs and increasing global warming,” Fell said.