Renewables industry lobby group REN21 has published a new report “Renewables Global Futures Report 2017“. The report is written by Sven Teske who used to write similar reports together with the industry lobby groups for Greenpeace (some content has been copied from there). For this new report Teske et al. interviewed a bunch of “renowned energy experts” who were selected by asking for suggestions from…REN21! As a result of this careful selection process, they created a nice safe space of experts whose interests and preferences likely align well with the objectives of REN21. Success guaranteed!
Strangely they then explain how they ranked each candidate according to their level of faith, but as far as I can see, nowhere do they either explain what their ranking was or how it was used. There is some discussion that seems to indicate that faith was strong mainly among europeans and among these germans and greens seemed to be strangely well represented. Go figure.
Now it is not too surprising that those interviewed have a relatively high level of faith in renewables, but it is more interesting to explore how their expectations actually align with serious climate policies. This report ignores actual emissions implication almost entirely and one can only wonder why? It is not, however, difficult to see the implications. First of all, even most of their carefully chosen experts foresee substantially increased energy demand.
Bizarrely the report then seems to criticize its own experts by speculating on why they are wrong. So who were the renowned expert? Teske or the people interviewed?
As for the share of renewables of the overall demand there were varying opinions, but it seems that median expected share in 2050 was around 50%. So lets put things together. Around 40% demand increase, maybe 50-60% RES share and we are left with maybe 30% emissions reductions from energy production by 2050. So sad. So their carefully selected experts do not, in fact, believe that renewables can deliver the kind of emissions reductions we need. Why didn’t Teske or REN21 highlight this? It does not promote happy talk for sure, but maybe time for happy talk is over and we should start feeling inspired by policies that would actually be meaningful. Grownups see the need for action on a broad front with all possible tools on the table.
PS. The report has also weirdly misleading spin. See below for an example. For those familiar with Teske’s past behavior this is not too surprising. When IPCC made the mistake of giving him the microphone when their SREN report (on renewables only energy issues) was released. He promptly used this as an opportunity to promote Greenpeace’s and industry’s E[R] scenario as representative of the SREN scenarios while ignoring contributions from most other authors. In reality E[R] was an extreme outlier even in the context where most authors were probably more kindly disposed towards renewables than the average.
Correction added 8.4: I misintepreted the below figure. (I thank Ikemeister for pointing this out.) The text talked about doubling (from 28%) so the claim is correct (although phrasing/spin could be clearer IMHO). I cannot resist pointing out how the text accompanying figure on RES share of final demand was crafted. Note that more than 60% share was guessed by about 49%. Text quotes higher figures by using subsamples from India and Europe. Desire to spin the right narrative was stronger than desire to use all the data.
Added 8.4.2017: Note also how skewed the distribution of experts is. About half seem to be from few west european countries (most are germans), from Japan, or US. That is less than 10% of global population and from rich countries that are unlikely to determine the energy trends for humanity in the next decades.
Addition 13.4.2017: I will add a little news on the issue of “spin” since this happened almost at the same time as this post. Reuters relying on some Greenpeace report announced that China will spent a lot on solar and wind etc. Being a sort of guy who likes to go to actual sources, I tried to find it. I found a press release announcing this, but then had to follow a link to a Greenpeace-China page . Then from the very bottom of this chinese page I eventually found a link to the actual report (in chinese). I almost got a feeling they didn’t want people to actually read it. So of course I had to have a look and ran it through a translator. Below is the reports vision on chinese electricity supply and demand until 2030. The vision implies substantial increases in the use of fossil fuels. Increases in low carbon sources is inadequate to even cover the rising demand let alone decarbonize. One would think this would be relevant piece of information for public to know, but clearly Greenpeace thought otherwise.