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Germany

Climate Protection Good for the Economy, Say Researchers

A sustainable energy supply can be achieved, even under conditions of world-wide economic downturn and without lights going out -- this is the outcome of a recent global energy report.

Solar panels in a field

The reports says that renewables will create 80 percent of the world's energy by 2050

Investing in a renewable electricity future will save ten times the fuel costs of a "business as usual" fossil-fuelled scenario, saving $180 billion (140 billion euros) annually and cut CO2 emissions in half by 2030, according to a report entitled "Energy (R)evolution Scenario."

The report says that by 2050 some 80 percent of energy requirements will be met by renewable energy sources. The scientists who compiled the paper go on to claim that with an investment of some $9 trillion a global switch to renewable energies could be possible.

In addition, these goals can be compatible with access to electricity for people around the world, a reliable and affordable supply of energy as well as global economic growth, said researchers -- as long as full use is made of all available options for consuming energy efficiently and expanding renewable energies.

The report was developed on behalf of Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council (EREC) by the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics (ITT) part of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in cooperation with over 30 other scientists and institutes.

In over two hundred pages, it provides a practical blueprint for how to halve global CO2 emissions, while allowing for an increase in energy consumption by 2050. It also explains how existing energy technologies can be applied in more efficient ways

Energy efficiency reduces consumption

A parafin lamp and a solar panel

The report advocates a change to renewables

The research plays out several scenarios, which show that consumption is greatly reduced when energy efficiency is increased, said Wolfram Krewitt, from the Institute of Technical Thermodynamics at the German Aerospace Center.

The remaining energy requirements could then, to a great extent, be covered by renewable energy sources.

"Looking at the overall picture, including heating and traffic energy, by the year 2050 some 50 percent of those needs should be covered by renewable energy sources," he said.


Currently, CO2 emissions in Germany are measured at 10 tons per capita per year. By switching to renewable energy sources the CO2 emissions could be reduced to one ton per capita per year. The global annual turnover from renewable energies could climb from its current $70 billion to a staggering $360 billion.

Krewitt said that "given the constantly climbing price of oil and costs for CO2 emissions, a switch to renewable energy technologies makes sense economically, even if initially the change comes with high costs. It should be seen as an investment in the future."

He added that the technology needed to meet climate protection goals were, in principle, already available.

Political, not technical hurdles

Fossil fuel power station

Will fossil fuel power stations soon be a thing of the past?

Decisive political action was now urgently required in order to create the national and international political and social framework so that the discrepancy between current political goals on the one hand and actual trends on the other can quickly be overcome.

"There are no technical or economical hurdles on the energy revolution track," said Oliver Schaefer, European Renewable Energy Council representative. The current annual turnover is at $40 billion, but Schaefer said "the renewable energy industry should be clocking-up double figured growth rates all the way to 2050."

Renewable energy technology, at the moment, tends to double every three years. At good locations wind power is already more cost effective than conventional power stations. With calculated long-term planning and a good mix of energy sources costs could actually be saved.

Ecology could drive economy

Schaefer said the energy revolution is an economic motor for Germany.

"From 2015 or 2020 when renewable energy technology will be mass produced and wide spread," he said, "the whole scenario will become more cost effective because we'll need less oil and gas imports and we'll be able to rely completely on these energy sources, so there will be no more additional costs for resources."

"Now it's down to the government to create the necessary framework," said Sven Teske, Greenpeace International's energy expert. "The study reveals clear demands," he said, "fossil fuel subsidies had to be cut and with a global emission deal and a follow-up to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol with clear CO2 emission guidelines, climate protection could become an opportunity for global economics."

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