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Cheap, safe 100% renewable energy possible before 2050, says Finnish uni study

The report is the first of its kind to suggest a cost-effective, all-inclusive, global roadmap to keep average global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Aurinkokennoja Taiwanissa.
Solar panels gathering energy in Taipei. Image: David Chang / EPA

A global transition to the exclusive use of renewable energy sources is not only possible but also cheaper and safer than reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy, according to a new study from the Lappeenranta University of Technology (LUT) and the Energy Watch Group (EWG) from Germany.

The study claims that the rapid development of renewable energy sources and energy storage technology will likely make it possible for the entire planet to reduce its CO2 emissions to zero even earlier than the current 2050 deadline.

The report is the first of its kind to suggest a cost-effective, all-inclusive, global roadmap to keep average global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. It is also the first planet-wide climate change resistance plan that suggests not using carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) techniques to mechanically remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

According to the model, in 2050 some 69 percent of the world's energy would come from solar panels, 18 percent from wind power, 3 percent from hydropower systems and 6 percent from bioenergy.

Fossil fuels and nuclear power would not be needed at all. Cars, planes and ships would run on carbon-neutral synthetic fuels produced from hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

"Only way"

The study indicates that its sweeping plans for all sectors – energy production, heating, traffic, water systems, and others – could be funded by the savings accrued from giving up fossil fuels entirely.

The team of researchers said that the energy revolution is a matter of political will, not of technology or financing.

"The study was set up with the belief that rapid and effective climate protection is the only way to save a planet worth living on for generations to come," the research paper's foreword reads, authored by EQG's Hans-Josef Fell.

"This project was set up to show how techno-economic facts open the door for a much faster and more rigorous shift to renewable energy sources in order to trigger an even more dynamic technology development worldwide, and in addition a chance for all world regions to gain energy independence and benefit from the associated prospects of peace and conflict resolution."

Aurinkokenno Afganistanissa.
The study suggests that solar power would be the prime source of energy in the future. Image: Muhammad Sadiq / EPA

LUT and EWG promised in their study that the massive amounts of information the model is based on would be used to draw up guidelines for renewable energy transition for every country in the world.

"The study shows that all countries can and should speed up the fulfilment of the goals of the Paris Agreement," said Christian Breyer from LUT, who headed the 14-person research effort.

The team's model used a simulation of the world's energy production and consumption on an hourly level, in five-year phases, between 2015-2050. Such data has never been gathered before.

The team dedicated the study to Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and the global #FridaysForFuture movement she has inspired in which students stage a climate strike every Friday instead of attending school. In March more than a million people marched for better climate change prevention measures around the world.

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