U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

Water Power Program

Renewables Could Provide almost 80% of Global Energy by 2050: UN Report

May 18, 2011

Photo of round solar collectors.

Renewable energy from sources such as the SunCatcher solar dish/Stirling systems could provide the bulk of the world's energy by 2050, according to a U.N. report.
Credit: Salt River Project

Nearly 80% of the global energy supply could be met by renewables by 2050 if backed by the correct public policies, a new United Nations report shows. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released on May 9, indicates that the rising adoption of renewable energies could lead to cumulative greenhouse gas savings equivalent to 220-560 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide between 2010 and 2050. The upper end of the scenarios assessed, representing a cut of around a third in greenhouse gas emissions from business-as-usual projections, could assist in keeping concentrations of greenhouse gases at 450 parts per million.

The report's findings are contained in a summary of the "Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation." The summary is a short version of a roughly a thousand-page comprehensive assessment compiled by more than 120 leading experts from all over the world for the IPCC. The report noted that the substantial increase of renewables is very challenging technically and politically. The six renewable energy technologies reviewed included bioenergy, solar, power, geothermal power, hydropower, ocean energy, and wind energy. More than 160 existing scientific scenarios on the possible use of renewables by 2050 were reviewed. See the IPCC press releasePDF and the report summary PDF.