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Last week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a full report on renewable energy to analyze the role of renewable energy resources and technologies in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. The findings suggested that renewable energy sources might contribute to up to 43 percent of the world’s energy supply by 2030, and up to 77 percent by 2050, depending on each country’s policy.
The international body reviewed 164 previously published global scenarios and six types of renewable technology, such as bio energy, direct solar energy, geothermal energy, hydro power, ocean energy and wind energy. This report disseminates information to decision makers in both public and private sectors by looking at “the economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits, and the impact on energy security at national, regional and global level.”
Although not all of the 164 scenarios predict a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the report suggests that a massive expansion of renewable energy can help mitigate climate change.
According to Lama al-Hatow, water resources engineer and environment specialist, “the new IPCC’s report is very significant because it shows that there is no need for an enormous dependency on fossil fuels as many countries believe, and that renewable energies are feasible.”
However, Hatow points out that the main problem is making renewable energies competitive in term of marketing strategies. “On both a global and national scale, the biggest problem is that fossil fuels are so highly subsidized that any renewable energy can’t be competitive in terms of costs.”
Even though renewable energy is feasible in the long run, initial capital costs are enormous. “It is very difficult to convince developing countries to cover the capital costs and build the infrastructures for such renewable energy projects without the support of financial institutions,” Hatow explains.
According to the environment expert, making renewable energy competitive in terms of long term costs could be possible “by paying off subsidies to fossil fuels, which is a very political issue, and by the adoption of the so-called feed-in tariff system, which is currently under discussed in legislation in Egypt and it’s been implemented in Germany.” The feed-in tariff (FIT) is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in renewable energy technology by offering long-term contracts to renewable energy producers.
Sherif Baha al-Din, environmental consultant, agrees with Hatow and believes that “the high initial cost is a wise long term investment. As the technology improves and applications are more widespread, costs will be reduced. The use of renewable energy sources is inevitable as fossil fuels are finite. Therefore, it is wise to start adopting and developing our own renewable energy culture and industry,” he says.
The report also underlines that 53 percent of current renewable electricity generation capacity is located in developing countries, and that the majority of future renewable growth will also be in developing countries.
“Developing countries are interested in renewable energy for several reasons: energy access, energy security, economic development opportunities, and even the health benefits that renewable energy have over fossil fuels. These countries are acting in their national interests,” stresses analyst Lutz Weischer, who works on renewable energy policies in an interview released to the World Resources Institute.
Baha al-Din points out that sustainability should be based on using energy wisely. “There is no point in investing heavily in renewables, while there is huge waste in energy taking place on the other end,” he says. “There has to be an integrated, incremental energy policy that on one hand seeks wise rational use that stops the massive waste in the system we have, and that on the other hand incrementally introduces renewable energy as a new energy culture for Egypt.”