4/05/2011

Study: Global Solar Transition Achievable in 20 Years – Even With Peak Oil





A new peer-reviewed scientific report published by the Institute for Policy Research and Development (IPRD) in London concludes that the world can undergo a rapid transition to a completely renewable energy infrastructure by 2030. The report argues that such a transition is necessary to respond to the twin crises of fossil fuel depletion and climate change. It shows that technologies such as wind turbines, solar photovoltaic (PV), and concentrated solar power (CSP), with a baseload capacity provided by existing storage technologies and petroleum as it is phased out, can produce enough energy consumption per person to sustain high human development requirements for all.
Co-author Professor David Schwartzman of Howard University said: "Our study models how much fossil fuel resources we will need to make the transition to a full renewable energy infrastructure. With only 1 per cent of current annual consumption of fossil fuels being used for creation of solar power per year, we can achieve a global-scale transition in no more than thirty years – and with modestly greater inputs, fossil fuels can become superfluous in only twenty years. Moreover, this transition can be accomplished with less than one-third of the proven reserves of conventional petroleum serving to insure adequate global energy needs culminating into a full solar takeover."
The report shows that by reducing the world's dependence on oil, this energy transition can increasingly buffer the global economy's vulnerability to oil shocks induced by accelerating energy depletion. But we also need to consume less energy.
"Optimally, this transition should be combined with an aggressive policy of energy conservation", said co-author Professor Peter Schwartzman of Knox College. "In the United States, for instance, conservation could reduce oil consumption by more than half by 2025, and for industrial countries overall by up to 35 per cent – while improving the quality of life. But we have to act immediately. If we wait a few decades, we could permanently lose our chance to get this transition off the ground."
Assuming a minimum of 3.5 kilowatt per capita necessary for a world standard high human development index (hdi), in the report's conservative "best case" scenario, a renewable energy infrastructure could double present global power capacity to 32 terawatts (TW) in 25 years. This would provide a minimum energy supply corresponding to 3.5 kilowatt per capita for up to 9 billion people. However, increases in efficiency resulting from using solar power in industrialized countries could significantly reduce the energy needed to supply this hdi. This could be achieved at current population levels with 16.7 TW – which is only 5 per cent higher than the present global power capacity.
IPRD Executive Director, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, said: "There is a probability of a major convergence of food, energy, water and economic crises by around 2018 without drastic change - signs of which are already appearing in the form of the Arab uprisings. We are therefore pleased to publish this new study which rigorously models the prospects for a comprehensive renewable energy transition. So far, despite the rhetoric, government efforts to support transition have been too little, too late. This report proves clearly that the way forward is for the industrialized world to eliminate its wasteful energy consumption while demilitarizing the economy and investing rapidly in new renewable technologies – and that this is really the only way to maintain well-being and prosperity while solving the challenges of peak oil and global warming." [ENDS]
The new IPRD Report, 'A Solar Transition is Possible' is available for free download from the IPRD website at http://iprd.org.uk/?p=6877. For more information or to interview Professors Peter and David Schwartzman, please contact info@iprd.org.uk and/or call +44(0)7824 441 044
Notes for Editors
1.      The authors of the report, 'A Solar Transition is Possible' are Peter D. Schwartzman and David W. Schwartzman. David Schwartzman is Professor in the Department of Biology at Howard University. He is the author of Life, Temperature and the Earth: The Self-Organizing Biosphere (Columbia University Press). He obtained a PhD in Geochemistry from Brown University in 1971. Peter Schwartzman is Associate Professor and Chair of Environmental Studies at Knox College. He obtained his PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Virginia in 1997.

2.      The Institute for Policy Research & Development (IPRD) is an independent, non-profit, transdisciplinary research network based in London, promoting equality, sustainability and security. IPRD Executive Director, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, is an international security expert specialising in the political ecology and historical sociology of mass violence. His latest work is A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (London: Pluto, 2010)

For more information or to interview Professors Peter and David Schwartzman, please contact info@iprd.org.uk and/or call +44(0)7824 441 044

Institute for Policy Research & Development
Suite 301, 20 Harewood Avenue, London, NW1 6JX
http://www.iprd.org.uk
info@iprd.org.uk


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