Mother Pelican
A Journal of Sustainable Human Development

Vol. 7, No. 3, March 2011
Luis T. Gutierrez, Editor
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The Energy Report:
100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2050

by World Wide Fund for Nature

Originally published in Policy Innovations, 4 February 2010
Reprinted with Permission

EDITOR'S NOTE: The reader is invited to consider this article in conjunction with the editorial in Page 1 of this issue and the WWF Energy Report 2000-2050, which can be downloaded by clicking here or here. A synopsis by WWF is available here.


The world needs to transition from its current unsustainable energy paradigm to a future powered by entirely renewable energy supply. Only by making such a transition will we be able to avoid the very worst impacts of climate change. WWF's ground-breaking energy study shows that this future is within our reach, and provides a vital insight into how it can be achieved.

A growing number of leaders, from within the policy arena, business, media, and civil society, are questioning the views of conventional experts on the world's energy future, and their "business-as-usual" scenarios, embarking on a serious search for realistic alternatives. Their reasoning is obvious: Minimizing climate change impacts will require substantial cuts in global emissions as quickly as possible.

The world has reached peak conventional oil and gas, meaning oil and gas companies are digging deeper and deeper into unconventional sources, with disastrous environmental and social consequences. Coal is still relatively readily available, but catastrophic in terms of climate changing emissions. The world can no longer afford to hang on to its old energy paradigm, and its dangerous dependence on fossil fuels.

"The Energy Report," produced through a collaboration between WWF and Ecofys, breaks new ground in the energy debate: a possible system in which ALL of the world's energy supply is provided by renewable and sustainable sources by mid-century. "The Energy Report" draws together strategies and technology options that have already been trialed or implemented, to create a feasible global scenario.

WWF wants to help change the 'old' paradigm for the energy industry and articulate a new pathway for the future. "The Energy Report" provides a meticulously researched scenario into a truly alternative vision for the energy future and what such a scenario implies for society at large.

In 2050, the dominant form of energy available to the consumer wherever he or she lives will be electricity. This highest value form of energy can be transported and applied relatively easily. Efficient electricity transport will, however, mean investment in new, more efficient, 'intelligent' electricity grids.

Because "The Energy Report" scenario only considers currently available technologies it highlights the importance for future research and development. One area that is especially in need of R&D is liquid fuels. Today, we still cannot power large ships or airplanes with electricity, we still need liquid fuel, and assuming continuous growth of this mode of transport, we would need to cover this with biofuels.

Some 1.4 billion people are without access to reliable electricity for essential services such as medical treatment or education, while 2.7 billion people depend on unsustainable biomass stoves for cooking and eating. There are up to 2 million deaths per year from toxic fumes from such stoves. A world that wants to offer an equitable future for a projected 9 billion people has to solve this problem on a sustainable basis.

Once the infrastructure for energy supply has been established, the anticipated costs for a renewable system are markedly lower compared to a continued fossil fuel system. This does not even take into account the additional cost savings from lessening the impacts of climate change!

"The Energy Report" is not about predictions. It is about articulating an ambitious pathway towards a possible, positive future, taking into account the necessity to act rapidly and decisively on climate change. It is realistic in its conservative approach, its reliance only on existing technologies, and its clear identification of the challenges ahead. It is also optimistic, because it shows that with manageable effort, we can transform our energy system in a third industrial revolution for the benefit of all.

About the WWF: "For more than 45 years, the World Wide Fund for Nature has been protecting the future of nature. WWF works in 100 countries and is supported by 1.2 million members in the United States and close to 5 million globally. WWF's unique way of working combines global reach with a foundation in science, involves action at every level from local to global, and ensures the delivery of innovative solutions that meet the needs of both people and nature." For more information about WWF, click here.

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