Technologies such as wind, solar, biomass and hydro power could meet 40% of the global electricity demand in just four decades if given enough backing, according to findings presented at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark last week (March 11).

Peter Lund, of the Helsinki University of Technology’s Advanced Energy Systems, Finland, presented the research at the International Scientific Congress “Climate Change: Global Risks, Challenges and Decisions.

He said: “Our findings demonstrate that with global political support and financial investment, previous notions that the potential for renewables was in some way limited to a negligible fraction of world demand were wrong.

“If we prioritize and recognize the value of renewable energy technologies, their potential to supply us with the energy we need is tremendous.”

But if renewable technologies lack support their supply share is likely to hover below 15%, researchers say.

Mr Lund presented the findings at a press conference before a scheduled congress session called Renewable Energies: How Far Can They Take Us?

He believes the renewable technologies would need an annual investment of between 12 and 26 billion to meet the 40% figure.

“If these technologies were given the same government attention and financial backing as nuclear was in the 1970s and ’80s, wind energy, for instance, would achieve price parity with traditional electricity generation by 2020-25 and solar power, for instance, by 2030,” he said.

“After the break-even point, these technologies would be cheaper than nuclear and coal-fired power generation.”

For wind energy to reach its full supply potential the focus must be on efficiently installing and connecting large amounts of reliable wind generated electricity to the grid, says Erik Lundtang Petersen of Risoe DTU’s Wind Energy Department in Denmark.

“We have identified specific areas of priority for the wind sector to effectively deliver the overall objective of cost reductions,” he said.

“Research areas including turbine technology, wind energy integration and offshore deployment will be crucial to maximizing future growth.”

The Global Wind Energy Council, which represents the industry, predicts world wind generating capacity will triple – from 120GW in 2008 to 332GW – by 2013 with growth centred in China, Europe and North America.

It presents its annual Global Wind 2008 Report at the European Wind Energy Conference in Marseille on Tuesday, March 17.

Stephanie Tunmore, of Greenpeace International, says renewable energy could meet a third of the global electricity demand by 2020.

But she said: “The political will is still missing in the scenario. How many more dire warnings and actual disasters will it take before governments start the energy revolution needed to avert a climate catastrophe?”

Researchers from more than 70 countries presented their findings at the congress held at the University of Copenhagen between Tuesday, March 10 and Thursday, March 12.

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David Gibbs

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