climate crisis Economy Mitchell Beer

Shift from Fossils to Renewables Will Save $12 Trillion by 2050

The green transition just became an even bigger no-brainer.
IRENA/flickr
Solar panels and wind turbines pave the way to a cheaper, greener future. [IRENA/flickr]

By Mitchell Beer | The Energy Mix

Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy will save countries at least US$12 trillion by 2050, an Oxford University research team reports.

The study in the journal Joule concludes that “the decarbonization of the energy system will not only see a major reduction in the cost of producing and distributing energy, but will also allow for greater levels of energy to be produced and therefore help expand energy access around the planet,” The Independent reports. “The faster the transition to renewables occurs, the greater the potential for savings,” translating into an “enormous boost to the global economy” as countries abandon fossil fuels.

“There is a pervasive misconception that switching to clean, green energy will be painful, costly, and mean sacrifices for us all—but that’s just wrong,” said team lead Doyne Farmer, director of the complexity economics program at Oxford University’s Institute for New Economic Thinking.

“Renewable costs have been trending down for decades,” he added. “They are already cheaper than fossil fuels in many situations and, our research shows, they will become cheaper than fossil fuels across almost all applications in the years to come.”

Moreover, “if we accelerate the transition, they will become cheaper faster. Completely replacing fossil fuels with clean energy by 2050 will save us trillions.”

All of which means that, “even if you’re a climate denier, you should be onboard with what we’re advocating,” Farmer told BBC News. “Our central conclusion is that we should go full speed ahead with the green energy transition because it’s going to save us money.”

The study looks at historical price data for renewable energy and fossil fuels and models how they’re likely to change in the years ahead, BBC explains. It draws on more than a century of data to conclude that, after factoring in inflation and market volatility, fossil prices haven’t changed very much.

Renewables, meanwhile, have driven down costs by 10% per year over the fewer decades for which the numbers are available—45 years for solar, 37 years for wind, and 25 years for battery storage, RenewEconomy writes.

“Past models, predicting high costs for transitioning to zero carbon energy, have deterred companies from investing, and made governments nervous about setting policies that will accelerate the energy transition and cut reliance on fossil fuels,” said lead author Rupert Way, a postdoctoral researcher at Oxford’s Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment. “But clean energy costs have fallen sharply over the last decade, much faster than those models expected.”

By contrast, the costs of nuclear generation “have consistently increased over the last five decades, making it highly unlikely to be cost competitive with plunging renewable and storage costs,” the researchers find.

The study reinforced past findings that even the most ambitious energy models have overestimated future costs of renewable energy. That includes findings by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggesting a loss in global GDP as a cost of keeping average global warming below 2°C. The Oxford team concludes the transition to renewables will deliver a “net economic benefit”.

9 comments

  1. Stone Age propaganda–every nation that believes this stupidity is failing and are now US colonies—sure returning to the Stone Age will be profitable—for the corporations that ownUSA

  2. I totally agree, except the power companies and gas companies don’t want because they won’t be making enough money

  3. Oversimplified navel gazing nonsense.

    It’s absurd to believe one can quantify numerically the “cost” of the absolutely necessary transition of using increasing amounts of “green” energy while burning less fossil fuels.

    Bullsh*t attempts at this sort of “quantification” only harm the reputation of those of us advocating for more sustainable approaches to life on planet earth.

  4. We need a more accurate definition of “renewable” energy. For example, co-generation is supposed to be renewable but it is very polluting and not very efficient. The trees/shrubs that were putting oxygen back into the air and taking C02 out are cut and burned putting more C02 and particulates back into the atmosphere.

    Wind farms are killing between 600 and 700 golden eagles every year. Do we want to make an endangered species out of them or just make them another casualty of progress?

    There is an ecological cost at each step in energy production. We need the facts and figures to make anything resembling a prudent decision. Otherwise it seems that the U.S. is rushing forward into a poker game without a full deck.

    1. We must include the impact of the reliance ( for how long?) on fossil fuels/ products to create alternative energy products. Also, the increase of alternative storage availability notwithstanding, we need to also simultaneously reduce dependency on oil/ natural gas related products as we reach the tipping point where fossil fuels capitulate to alternative energy production.

  5. In the eternal game of power dynamics, whoever surrenders their access to cheaper energy first dooms themselves to defeat to an opponent that does not.

    All you have to do is look at the EU and Russia right now to validate this well established maxim.

    If you cannot get your opponent to surrender their access to cheaper energy too, than your efforts will be meaningless in the long term because you won’t be around by then to reap the reward.

    Watch and see. We are about to live it.

  6. The author does not seem to realize that for every wind and solar farm we will be opening a new oil or gas field will by law have to open as well. So in other words we are not moving away from fossil fuels.
    Not to mention that the C02 footprint for the construction of solar panels( Coke is required to make solar panel and wind farm steel) is actually greater than that of nuclear power stations.

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