Feasibility of a 100% global renewable energy system

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Controversy exists as to whether renewable energy (RE) can provide for all the world's energy needs. The purpose of this paper is to help resolve this vital question. Official forecasts see a resumption of a business-as-usual world after the pandemic-induced recession, with further economic growth out to at least 2050. The novel approach taken in this paper is to assume that such a world is fueled entirely with RE at global energy levels at or above those of today, and then to examine whether this scenario is feasible. Because the intermittent primary electricity sources, wind, and solar power, would have to supply nearly all this energy, a simplification made for this analysis is that they do supply 100% of all energy, including non-electrical energy needs. It is found that the energy that could be delivered by these two sources is much less than often assumed, for several reasons: The declining quality of inputs; the need for inclusion of uncounted environmental costs; the need for energy conversion and storage; and the removal of existing fossil fuel energy subsidies. It is concluded that a future world entirely fuelled by RE would necessarily be a lower-energy one.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5543
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2020


  • Climate change
  • Future
  • Pandemic
  • Renewable energy
  • Solar energy
  • Wind energy

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