A new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts that solar energy could become the biggest generator of electricity worldwide by 2050 if the right policies are put in place. The paper, entitled Energy Technology Perspectives 2014 – Harnessing Electricity’s Potential, says that a combination of solar photovoltaics and concentrated solar thermal is likely to provide 26 percent of global generation with the overall share of renewables reaching 65 percent and energy efficiency reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.
This climate-saving reality will only become possible, according to the report, if the world invests $44 trillion to switch from fossil fuels to clean energy by 2050. However, the report estimates that by switching to sustainable energy sources the world would save $115 trillion in fuel costs by 2050, so there would actually be a net savings of $71 trillion.
The report states that the global share of renewables reached 20 percent in 2011 and this figure is expected to continue increasing dramatically with the rapidly falling prices of solar and wind. In the United States, cheap solar is powering a clean energy boom as every four minutes a home or business goes solar. Another study finds that wind power costs are almost exactly the same as natural gas when the price of carbon emissions is included.
However, the outlook is bleak for curbing climate disruption if carbon-intensive coal continues to rise.
“We must get it right, but we’re on the wrong path at the moment,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “Growing use of coal globally is overshadowing progress in renewable energy deployment, and the emissions intensity of the electricity system has not changed in 20 years despite some progress in some regions. A radical change of course at the global level is long overdue.”
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