Systematic transfer will take decades.
Due to the inherent efficiency of most renewable energy technologies relative to fossil fuels, renewable energy does not need to replace fossil fuels exajoule for exajoule. An enormous amount of energy is wasted when converting fossil fuels to energy services such as light, heat, and mobility. These losses can be sidestepped through the use of renewable energy, providing the same level of energy services with far less primary energy. In turn, improvements in energy efficiency make it easier, cheaper, and faster for renewables to achieve a large share of total production.
"Humanity can prevent catastrophic climate change if we act now and adopt policies that unleash the full potential of these resources, but this goal is not likely to be achieved if our only measure of success is emissions reductions," cautions coauthor William Moomaw, director of the Center for International Environment and Resource Policy at Tufts University, Medford, Mass. "Climate change fundamentally is a development issue, not a pollution problem. No one benefits from the release of greenhouse gas emissions, but developed and developing nations alike will benefit in numerous ways from the transition to an energy-efficient and renewable world."
For more than a decade, solar and wind power as well as other renewable technologies have experienced double-digit annual growth rates. Renewables technologies already are enabling Germany, Spain, Sweden, the U.S., and several other countries to avoid carbon dioxide emissions. In recent years, a number of communities have transitioned successfully from fossil fuels to 100% renewable energy, or are well on their way. 'This transition must be accelerated, with success stories scaled up and strategies shared across national boundaries," emphasizes Sawin.
A combination of political will and the right policies can capitalize on these achievements and get the world on track to mitigate climate change in the near term while also meeting rising demand for energy services, creating new jobs and boosting the global economy, providing energy access for the world's poorest people, and improving the natural environment and human health, the report concludes, while recommending three policy elements that must be implemented in parallel to achieve these goals:
* Put a price on carbon that increases over time. This can be accomplished through a cap-and-trade system or a "bottom tax" that sets a floor under fossil fuel prices and then rises each year.
* Enact policies that overcome institutional and regulatory barriers to renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements--while driving the required revolution. For example, Germany's feed-in tariff has made that nation a renewable energy powerhouse. Over the past decade, electricity generation from wind power has increased by a factor of 10, and from solar photovoltaics by a factor of more than 100. Germany generates over 15% of its electricity with renewables and is aiming for 30% by 2020.
* Develop a strategy for phasing out existing inefficient carbon-emitting capital stock--especially coal-fired power plants--that includes the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies.
"We have a once-in-a-century opportunity to make a transformation from an unsustainable economy fueled by poorly distributed fossil fuels to an enduring and secure economy that runs on renewable energy and lasts forever," the authors write.
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|Title Annotation:||Renewable Energy|
|Publication:||USA Today (Magazine)|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2010|
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