Renewables could exceed 2070 electricity needs in most countries

Published: 03/12/2015

This article from the "Science for Environment Policy" series of the European Commission summarises the main findings of a comprehensive assessment of the global land-based solar and wind power potential. Applying a 1 km² grid level analysis covering the whole world at country level, the original study done by Ecofys for Shell International used a constrained assessment of available land to see whether global energy demand could potentially be fully met by renewable sources.

The authors successively excluded areas based on a range of limitations, including cost, competition with other land use, ecosystem protection, elevation, technological development, grid connection or remoteness, and societal factors. To obtain values for the final useful electric energy, the researchers also considered the intensity of the energy resource, the conversion efficiency of the harvesting technology, and the costs of connecting to the nearest electricity line infrastructure.

Overall, the analysis showed that global capacity to generate renewable power is large. The total long-term potential for renewable electricity onshore, offshore and on buildings is calculated to be between 730–3700 EJ/a depending on the availability case. An estimated additional potential of 50–110 EJ/a could be contributed by geothermal and hydroelectricity.

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Yvonne Deng
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