Saluting the United Nations of Renewable Energy

It takes guts to commit to the hard work of changing lives, and countries that actively commit to improving their residents’ standard of living should be celebrated.

This is especially true in areas like clean-energy efficiency and the move to renewable sources where that work involves a potential seismic shift in infrastructure – and conventional thinking.

Against these odds, however, a handful of countries have pledged to meet 100 percent of their energy needs through solar, wind and other renewables by 2050. And, as we mark a New Year, CSDR International salutes them.

New Zealand is one. Encouraged by her country’s record for generating 80 percent of its energy via renewables, and 60 percent through hydroelectric alone, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pledged a 100-percent renewable grid by 2035. The challenge, of course, is delivering that last 20 percent plus the same energy dependability and affordability that Kiwis are used to without the safety net of fossil fuels.

Even more impressive is Cabo Verde, also known as Cape Verde, an archipelago of islands and islets off the West coast of Africa. Despite little natural resources or arable land, regular drought and heavy emigration, the tiny nation of 500,000 has committed to 100-percent renewable sources by 2025 – setting up a unique eight-year case study of island-based energy microgrids.

While higher in profile, France’s commitment to reaching complete-renewables status by 2050 comes with a series of fossil fuel-related phase-out deadlines including coal by 2023, gas and diesel vehicles by 2030, and oil and gas extraction by 2040.

And then there are countries like Scotland that are not only meeting, but exceeding, their renewable energy goals. After hitting its 2020 CO2 emission targets five years early and improving its renewables share from 10 to 60 percent of energy consumed in just 15 years, the country remains on track to reach total-renewables status by 2020 – and without a detrimental impact on the Scottish economy.

Clearly, a total-renewables power grid is a realistic goal for most nations. A study compiled by Lappeenranta University of Technology found that present and expanding technologies can make the world 100 percent renewable by 2050, allowing it to meet its expanded energy demand in the face of full energy decarbonization. 

Another study from Stanford University published in the journal Joule goes so far as insist that a 100-percent renewables future is achievable for 139 nations – including China, the United States, the U.K. and the 27 remaining members of the European Union – by 2050. Study authors also predict a 24.3 million global net jobs gain along with stable energy prices and rising health rates.

A big winner in this global energy shift is solar power, which is expected to increase its share of the worldwide energy market from 37 percent in 2030 to just under 70 percent in 2050. And experts agree that advanced solar technologies like HCPV can expedite that transformation – and help the world reach its renewable energy goals – much sooner.

While aggressive goal-setting is good, it is continued advances in renewables thinking and technology that will push world players over the clean-energy finish line by the mid-Century mark.

And we’re here to help. 

Leslie Gomez