Opponents of sustainable energy often claim that it’s too expensive. However, according to a recent UN report, that claim is incorrect.
As green power becomes increasingly cost-effective, renewable energy sources could be cheaper than fossil fuels within a decade, the report found.
More than 114 renewable energy experts from every region of the planet were interviewed by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), part of the UN Environmental Programme, during 2016 to determine the feasibility of a fully sustainable world by 2050. The group found that:
“Nearly 70% of those interviewed expect the cost of renewables to continue to fall, beating all fossil fuels within 10 years’ time. Wind and solar photovoltaic [solar panels] are in fact already cost-competitive with new conventional generation in most OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation] countries.”
Furthermore, more than 70% of interviewees believe a global transition to 100% renewable energy is feasible and realistic.
Investment in clean energy doubled investments in oil and coal in 2015, Bloomberg reported. Considering technological advances and plummeting production costs, it’s no surprise that corporations are increasingly investing in renewable energy projects.
General Motors, for instance, saved $80 million between 1993 and 2015 because of its clean energy program.
The trend holds true at a national level as well. Sweden, for instance, is attempting to eliminate fossil fuels entirely by investing heavily in solar, wind, energy storage, and clean transportation. Norwegians are buying hybrid and electric cars at higher rates.
Fossil fuels are the greatest hurdle to 100% sustainability, according to the REN21 report.
“The lack of long-term policy certainty and the absence of a stable climate for investment in energy efficiency and renewables hinder development in most countries,” the report said.
The Trump administration is working to undo Obama-era environmental protections by cutting all fundingfor programs designed to fight climate change in favor of increased military spending and further investment into fossil fuels.
Still, renewable energy initiatives have seen tremendous growth in the few past decades, and there is good reason to remain optimistic going forward.
At a press conference Monday, Christine Lins, Executive Secretary of REN21, noted that 2016 was the third consecutive year that the global economy grew (3%) while energy emissions decreased:
“Renewables are, on the one hand making their way into the energy systems of many countries, but also we see that we have come a long way,” Lins said. “We have 20% of the world’s final energy consumption nowadays coming from renewables.”
“When REN21 was founded in 2004, the future of renewable energy looked very different than it does today,” added Arthouros Zervos, Chair of REN21. “At that time, calls for 100% renewable energy were not taken seriously, today the world’s leading energy experts are engaged in rational discussions about its feasibility, and in what time frame.”
If, indeed, the 70% of experts are right, this could happen sooner than we think.