CARBON TRACKER -- SOLAR/WIND POTENTIAL 100 TIMES MORE THAN NEEDED FOR GLOBAL ENERGY SUPPLY

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23 april 2021


The Sky’s the Limit: Solar and wind energy potential is 100 times as much as global energy demand


Solar and wind potential is far higher than that of fossil fuels and can meet global energy demand many times over, unlocking huge benefits for society.

Carbon Tracker LONDON/NEW YORK, 23 April -...

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Kingsmill Bond, Carbon Tracker’s energy strategist and report lead author, said: “We are entering a new epoch, comparable to the industrial revolution. Energy will tumble in price and become available to millions more, particularly in low-income countries. Geopolitics will be transformed as nations are freed from expensive imports of coal, oil and gas. Clean renewables will fight catastrophic climate change and free the planet from deadly pollution.”

Harry Benham, report co-author and chairman of thinktank Ember-Climate, said: “The world does not need to exploit its entire renewable resource -- just 1% is enough to replace all fossil fuel usage. Each year we are fuelling the climate crisis by burning three million years of fossilised sunshine in coal, oil and gas while we use just 0.01% of daily sunshine.”
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Solar and wind potential is far higher than that of fossil fuels and can meet global energy demand many times over, unlocking huge benefits for society.

With current technology and in a subset of available locations we can capture at least 6,700 PWh p.a. from solar and wind, which is more than 100 times global energy demand.

Opportunities unlocked


The collapse in renewable costs in the last three years means that half of this solar and wind technical potential now has economic potential, and by the end of the decade it will be over 90%.

The land required for solar panels alone to provide all global energy is 450,000 km2, 0.3% of the global land area of 149 million km2 – less than the current land footprint of fossil fuel infrastructure. This differs by country as highlighted on Carbon Tracker website.

Humans specialise in extracting cheap energy, and fast, as witnessed by the rapid development of shale gas. Now the opportunity has been unlocked, expect continued exponential growth of solar and wind deployment.

The technical and economic barriers have been crossed and the only impediment to change is political. Sector by sector and country by country the fossil fuel incumbency is being swamped by the rapidly rising tide of new energy technologies. Even countries where the technical potential is below 10 times energy demand, as shown below, have devised innovative approaches to energy generation.

The fossil fuel age is over…

The fossil fuel industry cannot compete with the technology learning curves of renewables, so demand will inevitably fall as wind and solar continue to grow. At the current 15-20% growth rates of solar and wind, fossil fuels will be pushed out of the electricity sector by the mid-2030s and out of total energy supply by 2050.
… and we begin a new era

The unlocking of energy reserves 100 times our current demand creates new possibilities for cheaper energy and more local jobs in a more equitable world with far less environmental stress.

Poor countries are the greatest beneficiaries. They have the largest ratio of solar and wind potential to energy demand and stand to unlock huge domestic benefits.


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