Global Solar Transition Achievable in 20 years

From Julie Johnston: Below is the comment I posted on The Grist today about this press release (“Global Solar Transition Achievable in 20 Years”, link below).  I can’t quite tell, though, if they’ve actually figured out *how much* fossil fuel we’ll have to burn to create the infrastructure to get us to 100% perpetual energy — so that we can figure out if we can afford that much new carbon, climate change-wise. In other words, if people are given the chance to choose between efficiency now or complete and utter civilization collapse, chaos and starvation later (one of these authors says by 2018), maybe — just maybe — they will choose greater efficiency measures now. Maybe.  Here’s the link to the report’s press release:

http://groupspaces.com/IPRD/e/111377?s=3887120c&utm_medium=email&utm_source=group-mail&utm_term=group-mail-9250

Here’s a very telling quote from the report [further info below]:

“Optimally, this transition [the Global Transition to Solar Energy] should be combined with an aggressive policy of energy conservation”, said co-author Professor Peter Schwartzman of Knox College. “In the United States, for instance, conservation could reduce oil consumption by more than half by 2025, and for industrial countries overall by up to 35 per cent – while improving the quality of life. But we have to act immediately. If we wait a few decades, we could permanently lose our chance to get this transition off the ground.”

And have to say that I also appreciate this quote from Dr. Nafeez Ahmed that the solution is for “… the industrialized world to eliminate its wasteful energy consumption while DEMILITARIZING THE ECONOMY and investing rapidly in new renewable technologies…” [emphasis mine].

I’ve been thinking a lot lately how sad it is that we didn’t retool auto makers and others to start constructing the perpetual (“renewable” implies burning biofuels, but the Burning Age is over) energy infrastructure (what a waste of a good bailout), but we can still turn our militaries to the job of massive retrofits across our nations to step up that “aggressive policy of energy conservation” we need.=

Study: Global Solar Transition Achievable in 20 Years – Even With Peak Oil

For more information contact info@iprd.org.uk and/or call +44(0)7824 441 044

A new peer-reviewed scientific report published by the Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD) in London concludes that the world can undergo a rapid transition to a completely renewable energy infrastructure by 2030. The report argues that such a transition is necessary to respond to the twin crises of fossil fuel depletion and climate change. It shows that technologies such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic (PV), and concentrated solar power (CSP), with a baseload capacity provided by existing storage technologies and petroleum as it is phased out, can produce enough energy consumption per person to sustain high human development requirements for all.

Co-author Professor David Schwartzman of Howard University said: “Our study models how much fossil fuel resources we will need to make the transition to a full renewable energy infrastructure. With only 1 per cent of current annual consumption of fossil fuels being used for creation of solar power per year, we can achieve a global-scale transition in no more than thirty years – and with modestly greater inputs, fossil fuels can become superfluous in only twenty years. Moreover, this transition can be accomplished with less than one-third of the proven reserves of conventional petroleum serving to insure adequate global energy needs culminating into a full solar takeover.”

The report shows that by reducing the world’s dependence on oil, this energy transition can increasingly buffer the global economy’s vulnerability to oil shocks induced by accelerating energy depletion. But we also need to consume less energy.

“Optimally, this transition should be combined with an aggressive policy of energy conservation”, said co-author Professor Peter Schwartzman of Knox College. “In the United States, for instance, conservation could reduce oil consumption by more than half by 2025, and for industrial countries overall by up to 35 per cent – while improving the quality of life. But we have to act immediately. If we wait a few decades, we could permanently lose our chance to get this transition off the ground.”

Assuming a minimum of 3.5 kilowatt per capita necessary for a world standard high human development index (hdi), in the report’s conservative “best case” scenario, a renewable energy infrastructure could double present global power capacity to 32 terawatts (TW) in 25 years. This would provide a minimum energy supply corresponding to 3.5 kilowatt per capita for up to 9 billion people. However, increases in efficiency resulting from using solar power in industrialized countries could significantly reduce the energy needed to supply this hdi. This could be achieved at current population levels with 16.7 TW – which is only 5 per cent higher than the present global power capacity.

IPRD Executive Director, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, said: “There is a probability of a major convergence of food, energy, water and economic crises by around 2018 without drastic change – signs of which are already appearing in the form of the Arab uprisings. We are therefore pleased to publish this new study which rigorously models the prospects for a comprehensive renewable energy transition. So far, despite the rhetoric, government efforts to support transition have been too little, too late. This report proves clearly that the way forward is for the industrialized world to eliminate its wasteful energy consumption while demilitarizing the economy and investing rapidly in new renewable technologies – and that this is really the only way to maintain well-being and prosperity while solving the challenges of peak oil and global warming.” [ENDS]

The new IPRD Report, ‘A Solar Transition is Possible’ is available for free download from the IPRD website at http://iprd.org.uk/?p=6877. For more information or to interview Professors Peter and David Schwartzman, please contact info@iprd.org.uk and/or call +44(0)7824 441 044

April 1, 2011