Key findings on renewable energy by U.N. panel

Key findings on renewable energy by U.N. panel


Wed May 4, 2011 12:15pm EDT

(Reuters) – Following are findings by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in a draft report about renewable energy (RE).

TOTALS – RE accounted for 12.9 percent of global primary energy supply in 2008. The top contributor was biomass (10.2 percent) — mainly firewood used in developing nations — ahead of hydropower (2.3), wind (0.2), direct solar energy and geothermal (0.1 each) and ocean (0.002 percent).

RECENT EXPANSION – Of about 300 gigawatts of new electricity generating capacity added globally in 2008 and 2009, 140 GW came from RE. Developing countries host more than 50 percent of global RE power generation capacity, with China adding more capacity than any other country in 2009.

OUTLOOK – “Studies have consistently found that the total global technical potential for RE is substantially higher than both current and projected future global energy demand.” Solar power has the highest technical potential.

CLIMATE CHANGE – Climate change could affect RE availability — trees might grow in different regions, cloud formation could affect solar power and rainfall shifts can affect hydropower. “Research into these possible effects is nascent,” it said.

COSTS/TECHNOLOGY – “The levelized cost of energy for many RE technologies is currently higher than market energy prices, though in other cases RE is already economically competitive.”

More RE technologies would be economically attractive if impacts such as greenhouse gases emissions were included.

“The cost of most RE technologies has declined and significant additional technical advancements are expected…further cost reductions are expected.”

Areas of potential improvement range from next-generation biofuels to turbine designs for offshore wind energy. Further cost reductions for hydropower are “likely to be less significant” than some other RE technologies.

DEVELOPMENT – RE can help development goals in poor nations. In poor rural areas lacking grid access, RE can lead to substantial cost savings already.

REVIEW OF 164 EXPERT SCENARIOS – Shows RE could give carbon dioxide savings of between 220 billion and 560 billion tonnes from 2010 to 2050 compared to 1,530 billion tonnes of cumulative fossil and industrial CO2 emissions in a reference scenario.

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