Renewables 50% of World Power by 2050

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"A revolution in energy technology, particularly in wind and solar power."

Renewable resources could supply nearly half the world's electricity by 2050, under a low-carbon technology scenario published by the International Energy Agency late Thursday.

In "Energy Technology Perspectives 2010," IEA says that a revolution in energy technology is occurring, spearheaded by substantial increases in renewables generation, particularly wind and solar power.

It warns, however, that "these encouraging developments represent but the first small, fragmented steps on a long journey towards transforming the way we supply and use energy. . .recent studies indicate that climate change is occurring even faster than previously expected."

The study offers several options—not forecasts—dubbed the BLUE scenarios that could see world energy production shift toward renewable energy, nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency and fuel switching. The goal would be to slash energy-related CO2 releases almost 50% by mid-century compared with 2005 levels—even as primary energy use increases 32%.

These options for reducing CO2 by fostering low-carbon technologies "can deliver a dramatically different future" from IEA's baseline, or business-as-usual, scenario, the agency said.

Under the BLUE Map scenario, for instance, renewables would generate 48% of the world's power, with nuclear energy accounting for 24% and plants equipped with CCS 17%.

In addition, CO2 emissions from buildings would plummet by two-thirds through the use of low-carbon electricity, energy efficiency and low- or zero-carbon technologies, including solar water and heating and combined heat and power.

"Achieving this will be challenging, and will require significant investment," according to the study, with costs of up to $175 for each metric ton of CO2 reduced. This strategy, though, would not only halve carbon releases by 2050 but also provide additional paybacks through lower energy bills, stronger energy security and improved quality of life by reducing atmospheric pollutants from fossil-fuel burning.

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