Our plan to stop the oil: 95% renewables by 2050

Feature Story - 2010-06-09
Want a way to stop the corruption and pollution that the fossil fuel industry is wreaking on our planet? We've seen a better future, and here's our plan to get there: the Energy [R]evolution.

The Energy [R]evolution

The best way to stop an oil gush? Keep it in the ground. If you think that's impractical, or that it means shivering in the dark, or millions of people without energy, or millions of people without jobs, you'd be forgiven for thinking that. It's the line that we've all been fed by Big Oil and King Coal. It's wrong on all counts.

Greenpeace teamed up with more than 30 scientists and engineers from universities, institutes and the renewable energy industry to create our Energy [R]evolution Scenario. Using only existing technologies, it charts a course by which we can get from where we are now, to where we need to be: decreasing CO2 emissions after 2015; 95% renewable electricity by 2050; a phase out of nuclear power; 12 million jobs by 2030, with a third more jobs in the global power supply sector than in a business as usual scenario. The scenario respects natural limits, decouples growth from fossil fuel use, and proposes an investment system in which costs are shared fairly under a global climate regime. It also means finally providing energy to the two billion people currently without reliable access to energy services.

Learn more about the Energy [R]evolution.

Why a [R]evolution? It's an evolution, AND a revolution. (And yes, electronics geeks, that's the symbol for [r]esistance there as well.)

We need a [r]evolution because business as usual is not going to stop the tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil spilling into our waters, scores of workers losing their lives to accidents in coal mines around the world, or the countless other disasters we are all facing due to our reliance on dirty energy.


The Energy [R]evolution scenario outlines how to create about 12 million jobs, with 8.5 million in the renewables sector alone, by 2030. If we continue under business as usual, global renewable power jobs would be only 2.4 million of the global power sector's 8.7 million jobs. By implementing the Energy [R]evolution 3.2 million or over 33% more jobs globally will be created in the power sector alone. If that isn't enough to convince you consider this - the overall annual market for renewable technology will increase from around US$100 billion today, to more than US$600 billion by 2030.

Figure 1: global employment


Global CO2 emissions under the Energy [R]evolution scenario would peak in 2015 and drop afterwards. If compared with 1990, CO2 emissions will be more than 80% lower by 2050 if the energy supply is based almost entirely on renewable energies. By 2050 around 95% of electricity could be produced by renewable energy.

Co2 emissions

Figure 2: CO2 emissions per capita

Greenhouse Development Rights

At the core of the Energy [R}evolution will be a change in the way that energy is produced, distributed and consumed. It will also mean connecting the 2 billion people currently living without electricty. Decentralised energy systems, where power and heat are produced close to the point of final use, will avoid the current energy wastage during conversion and distribution. Investments in "climate infrastructure" as well as super grids to transport large quantities of offshore wind and concentrating solar power, are essential to making the Energy [R]evolution a reality.

The sustainable future of the planet is rooted in the investment in people and local communities who can install and maintain renewable energy sources, rather than further subsidising dirty and finite fossil fuels. We need to create a system in which investment costs are shared fairly under a global climate regime. One such mechanism is the Greenhouse Development Rights framework (GDR) which calculates national shares of global greenhouse gas obligations based on a combination of responsibility (contribution to climate change) and capacity (ability to pay).

Policy changes

To make the Energy [R]evolution a reality and to avoid dangerous climate change, we are demanding the following policies and actions are implemented in the energy sector:

1. Phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

2. Internalise the external (social and environmental) costs of energy production through 'cap and trade' emissions trading.

3. Mandate strict efficiency standards for all energy consuming appliances, buildings and vehicles.

4. Establish legally binding targets for renewable energy and combined heat and power generation.

5. Reform the electricity markets by guaranteeing priority access to the grid for renewable power generators.

6. Provide defined and stable returns for investors, for example by feed-in tariff programmes.

7. Implement better labelling and disclosure mechanisms to provide more environmental product information.

8. Increase research and development budgets for renewable energy and energy efficiency

The challenge

Pew Reesearch Center

Despite the decline in support for offshore oil drilling as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a recent Pew Research Center Poll of the American public shows a *decline* in support for funding for alternative energy as well.

Now, a decline in support for nuclear we can understand: the failure of multiple safety technologies and the poor response to an ecological emergency are good reasons not to trust a technology that relies on deadly fuel to boil water.

But let's look at those numbers. At 73%, a healthy majority of Americans support more investment in alternatives. So why is the US government not delivering a big time investment in alternatives as a way out of the nightmare of dependence on oil, big oil slicks, pollution, corruption, poisoned fishing grounds, and an energy mix that's choking the future to death?

Why indeed?

Sign up - Join the Energy [R}evolution and join the more than 5 million Greenpeace subscribers worldwide who are asking this question of our elected leaders, demanding an end to subsidies for fossil fuels and investment in clean, renewable technologies.

An alternative future isn't just possible -- it's happening. Help us ensure it gets here in time.