A comprehensive energy study of 139 countries undertaken by Stanford University in California, concludes that by 2050 it is perfectly feasible to have a world that obtains 100% of its energy needs from renewables. The study details a vast plan to transform current energy infrastructures (electricity, transport, heating, temperature control, industry, agriculture, forestry and fishing) in 139 countries into systems solely powered by the wind, water and sun. The road map forecasts an 80% conversion of these infrastructures by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
The study compares the energy consumption of the entire supply system required by fossil fuels and renewables. For fossil fuels, extraction, transport and the transformation of coal, gas, oil and uranium into heat, electricity and fuel involve a huge amount of energy consumption, from the supply source to reach the final consumer.
Renewables also have transport costs however they need no extraction or transformation to make them usable, thereby bringing down their costs. Researchers have converted these costs into GW and have concluded that the current global energy mix, predominantly fossil fuel-based, would require 20,600 GW in 2050 to cover supply, compared with 12,100 GW in 2012. The study concludes however that the 100% renewable scenario would require 11,800 GW in 2050, a 42% saving on the world’s energy consumption.
The study considers a host of data, especially the renewables potential of the 139 countries in relation to the surface area of each national territory required to cover its energy needs; the jobs created; benefits in terms of the effects of pollution on the health of residents and even the benefits that could be obtained by developing renewable energy within each of the countries analysed.
The case of Spain
The study calculates that Spain will reduce its energy demand by 45% by 2050 if the use of solar, wind and hydropower becomes widespread for transport, heating, industry and agriculture and if, at the same time, the country develops an energy efficiency plan in different sectors including residential and automotive.
Spain could achieve 100% of renewables use by covering 57% of its needs from solar power, 36% from wind power, 6.3% from hydropower and the rest from other sources such as waves, tidal energy and geothermals. It further indicates that this scenario would create over 300,000 new jobs, significantly bringing down healthcare costs thanks to the improved air quality.