A recent Greenpeace and Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) report, called Energy Revolution 2015, suggested that the energy sector could go on a 100% sustainable energy supply path, reducing and ultimately ending CO2 emissions, and gradually lower nuclear energy.

With this, the international environmental organization claims that this changes will increase employment in the sector. Both organizations said that the US needs to prioritize coal, oil and gas while making its transition to cleaner energy such as solar and wind.

Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. Photo by Greenpeace

The report claims that this is the year were a true change against climate change could take place. In December, during the Paris conference as part of the UNFCCC process, political and business leaders will have the opportunity to reach an agreement in which they could establish that rising temperatures should not be higher than 1.5 or 2 degrees Celsius.

“We must not let lobbying by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry stand in the way of a switch to renewable energy, the most effective and fairest way to deliver a clean and safe energy future, so more than meet the costs of the investment,” said Greenpeace in the report.

Is it possible?

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), humanity should not emit more than 1,000 giga-tons of CO2. They also stated that at the current and expected rate of consumption, the entire carbon budget will all be used by 2040.

Renewables contributed 60% of new power generation worldwide in 2014, and in some countries the share was higher (REN21-2015). the three main power generation technologies (solar photovoltaics, wind and hydro) together added 127 GW of new power generation capacity worldwide in 2014. Credit: Energy Outlook 2015 Greenpeace (Figure 1)

“The world’s biggest energy agencies, financial institutions and fossil fuel companies for the most part seriously underestimated just how fast the clean power sector could and would grow,” said the US-based Meister Consultant Group.

For instance, as stated in the report, the wind industry alone could employ up to 8 million people by 2030, almost 10 times more than the amount of employees today, and nearly twice as many employed by the oil and gas industry.

Britain has set an example. For 2014, 19% of the country’s electricity was generated by renewables, a 5% climb from the previous year, according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The report also shows that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable electricity for the transport sector worldwide “is one of the most hard parts of the Energy (R)evolution and requires a true technical revolution,”. But it also claims that the change is far from impossible.

As renewable don’t use fuel, savings could be significant to this industry. The transport sector would save up to around $1.07 trillion annually. Eventually, the costs of the transition would be met in full by the fuel cost savings, with a “crossover” in this equation happening between 2025 and 2030.

Moreover, in countries with increasing renewables deployment such as Brazil, China and India, carbon dioxide emissions are expected to go down by a third. “I would urge all those who say, ‘It can’t be done’ to read this report and recognize that it can be done, it must be done, and it will be for the benefit of everyone if it is done,” explained the report.

By 2030 the solar industry could employ the same number of people as the coal industry today, over 9.5 million. a “just transition” initiative is required, so no-one is left behind. Credit: Energy Outlook 2015 Greenpeace (Figure 9)

Clean energy’s economics

In 2013, renewable energy received $254 billion of global investment; energy efficiency received  between $310 to $360 billion; and cogeneration of electricity with useful heat, nearly $70 billion. In total, these three carbon savers received about $650 billion of invested capital in just one year.

Regarding to wind power techniques, “Long-term fixed-price contracts to sell new US wind power and utility-scale solar power have lately averaged below $0.025 and $0.04 per kWh, respectively. Unsubsidized wind and solar will still average below $0.04 and $0.06 per kWh respectively, beating new fossil-fueled plants by two- to three-fold and closing many as simply uneconomic,” according to Forbes.

By 2030, fossil fueled plants are forecasted to halve their capacity growth, while renewable will double theirs. The Economist defined “micropower” as renewables minus big hydro, plus cogeneration, and according to Forbes, that kind of power now leads half the new generation market and produces 25% of the world’s electricity.

Tropical cyclone Joalane swirling in the indian ocean. Credit: Nasa Earth Observatory/by Robert Simmon/ Energy Outlook 2015 Greenpeace

Reportedly, America’s and Europe’s electricity and gasoline use have been falling since 2007. Australia’s electricity use has lowered while its solar adoption per capita surpassed about ten times California’s use.

Furthermore, last year, renewables provided 10%-19% of Britain’s electricity consumption, 13% of America’s, 20% of Ireland’s, 27% of Germany’s, 33% of Italy’s, 46% of Spain’s, 50% of Scotland’s, more that 50% of Denmark’s, and 64% of Portugal’s.

Source: Greenpeace