Wind turbines

Renewables could power the world within the next 30 years

A combination of wind, water, solar, and other renewable sources could meet almost all the world’s energy needs by 2050, according to a new meta-study.

Researchers from Stanford University in the US looked at 47 peer-reviewed studies from a total of 91 authors and found that all countries could make the shift to 100 per cent renewables within the next 30 years if governments can find the political will to achieve the goal.

The various papers examined countries individually and regions more widely, and all offered the same conclusions – renewables could solve the climate crisis and provide the levels of power the world is expected to demand by 2050 for tiny island states and larger industrialised countries alike.

The most efficient solution, according to the researchers, is to group countries together into 24 regions which would co-operate on grid stability and energy storage solutions. These larger energy networks, made up of many smaller independent power producers would mean that demand could be more easily managed without the specific peaks and troughs that individual countries currently struggle with, and could reduce overall energy consumption by 57.1 per cent.

Not only would a move to 100 per cent renewables help the planet keep the planet from heating too quickly, but a move away from all fossil fuels it could save the lives of the estimated 7 million people that die each year from air pollution. The improved air quality makes the shift to renewable energy in Asia a particularly attractive proposition, with the benefits of the change greatest to countries like India and China, which currently suffer from some of the most polluted air.

As an added bonus, the researchers say the new regional renewables networks would create 28.6 million more long-term full-time jobs than if the world continues its business-as-usual reliance on fossil fuels.

The meta-analysis comes as countries prepare to meet for the next round of UN climate talks at the COP-26 conference in Glasgow later this year. If the world is going to address the climate crisis, all countries will need to take action and work together on a regional and global level. These studies show that the move to carbon-neutral renewables is possible and could be a profitable exercise that both cleans the air and deliver job growth, but is there the political will to make the changes required?

Photograph by Jondaar