Nearly half of global energy needs will be met by renewable power by 2050, but the world is still falling well short of the progress needed to meet the Paris climate accord goals to prevent excessive global warming, according to a new report.
Falling technology costs and market influences are driving the change, but much more public policy intervention is needed from governments throughout the world to avoid greater climate change, according to the annual Energy Transition Outlook report from Norway-based energy consulting and services firm DNV GL.
The 2015 Paris agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, but the world is currently on track for temperatures to rise an average of 2.4 degrees Celsius, DNV contends.
Global emissions should peak in 2025 - still rising for another five years or so - and crude oil demand should plateau in the mid-2020s and then fall sharply after 2030, the report contends. As renewables grow, natural gas will remain the biggest single source of energy for years to come.
"Existing technology can deliver the future we desire – including meeting the 1.5 degree Celsius target set out in the Paris agreement," said DNV Chief Executive Remi Eriksen. "So far, support for the energy transition has been too sporadic. We need widespread policy supporting emerging technologies, and continuing the support in the build-up phase to accelerate the energy transition."
For example, Germany, Japan and China have actively supported their solar industries, while government support for electric vehicles in Norway and China have spurred their rise. More direct government intervention is required, Eriksen argued.
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If anything, the United States is moving backwards, as the Trump administration has pulled out of the Paris accord and is now working to roll back regulations on methane emissions, endangered species, federal lands and more.
The overall key is an accelerated global transition toward electrification - from electric cars to a renewable power grid. By 2050, 40 percent of energy demand is expected to be met by electricity, up from about 20 percent now. Rising wind and solar power will drive the evolution.
By 2032, half of new car sales globally will be electric, although the United States is projected to lag behind for some time. Despite a 75 percent expansion of the global vehicle fleet by 2050, road transportation will use less energy in 2050 than it does today, the report contends.
Global energy demand should peak in 2030 and then fall because of improving efficiencies.
The technology exists to meet the Paris target, the report found, but policies must be put in place that promote greater energy efficiency, more renewables and industrial-scale carbon capture and storage from power plants and industry.
These actions include $1.5 trillion of annual global investment in expanding and reinforcing energy grids, an 8-fold increase in renewable energy production by 2030, and a 50-fold increase in battery manufacturing for the 50 million electric vehicles needed per year, also by 2030.