The report is the latest edition of Greenpeace’s Energy Revolution series, which originated back in 2005, and has previously predicted the rapid take-up and cost reduction of renewables.

The 2015 version, released today (21 September), projects a continued renewables boom to 2030 and beyond, with the planet reaching 100% electricity from renewables by 2050.

The report claims that the sector has already proved it can expand rapidly and the only thing preventing it from reaching this target is political will, which could all change at the Paris conference in December.

“Renewables are pushing ahead despite a global subsidy system weighted in favour of fossil fuels, which receive an annual subsidy of $550bn, more than twice the subsidy for renewables,” the report said.

Renewables contributed 60% of new power generation worldwide in 2014, with the expansion helping cut generation costs so that solar PV and wind power is now cost-competitive with new coal in most regions.

Money spinner

To help continue the transition, Greenpeace calls for global investments in renewables of $1trn a year. However it claims that these costs will be more than met by future savings, which it expects to be $1.07trn a year. The planet projects to start saving money somewhere between 2025 and 2030.

Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo said: “We must not let lobbying by vested interests in the fossil fuel industry stand in the way of a switch to renewable energy, the most effective and fairest way to deliver a clean and safe energy future.

“I would urge all those who say ‘it can’t be done’ to read this report and recognise that it can be done, it must be done and it will be for the benefit of everyone if it is done.”

Track record

Greenpeace also addressed criticism that’s its predictions were made with rose-tinted glasses.

The report introduction stated: “While our predictions on the potential and market growth of renewable energy may once have seemed fanciful or unrealistic, they have proved to be accurate.”

“The US-based Meister Consultants Group concluded earlier this year that ‘the world’s biggest energy agencies, financial institutions and fossil fuel companies for the most part seriously under-estimated just how fast the clean power sector could and would grow’.

“It wasn’t the IEA, Goldman Sachs or the US Department of Energy who got it right. It was Greenpeace’s market scenario which was the most accurate.”

What change looks like

Under Greenpeace’s scenario, oil for heating will be replaced by solar collectors, geothermal power and heat from renewable hydrogen. Coal power is phased out immediately, while gas will be the last fossil fuel in use. Natural gas-fired power stations will be converted to use synthetic hydrogen after 2035.

Transport is projected to be the most challenging sector since it relies heavily on oil, and therefore requires a ‘technical revolution and more R&D’ – particularly in aviation and shipping. But Greenpeace ultimately envisages planes and ships being powered by biofuels, hydrogen and synthetic fuels produced using renewable electricity.

“The transformation to 100% renewables needs to start with a strong agreement in Paris”, concludes the report. “There are no major economic or technical barriers to moving towards 100% renewable energy by 2050. It just requires the political will to make the change.”

Brad Allen

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