100 … 100 percent. Such a ’round’ and definitive figure provides the basis for a very clear, simple target to think about.
With all the delays toward action related to climate mitigation and the mounting impacts of climate disruption around the globe, the concept of 80 by 50 (80 percent reduction carbon emissions by 2050 — from 1990 levels) is increasingly absurd as a standard for planning to foster a prosperous and secure climate-friendly future. While seemingly absurd in a situation where ‘business as usual’ shows increased emissions in 2050 (and driving car into the wall at 60 miles per hour (or 100 kilometers per hour) by the end of the century), compared to today, targeting a carbon-neutral future economic system seems a sensible objective (to get our speed ‘down’ to 20 miles per hour). 100 …
On the “100” front, a number of recent items:
- U.S. electricity market: In September 2012, 100 percent of the additional capacity added to the electrical system was in renewable energy systems according to a report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (pdf) (FERC) 300 megawatts of wind projects and 133 megawatts of solar projects. (Note that there is also a biomass project listed as having come on line, but this has “0” listed for megawatts …)
- Ikea: This Swedish global powerhouse announced a doubling of its renewable energy investments, “to resist the ongoing volatility of conventional fuel prices.” Ikea targets meeting 70 percent of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2015 and 100 percent by 2020. And, in other 100%, Ikea plans to that 100% of the light bulbs it sells will be long-lasting, efficient LEDs; 100% of the oils used in candles and foods will come from sustainable sources, and that 100% of its cotton supplies from sources certified by the Better Cotton Initiative.
- Saudia Arabia: Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud,l announced that Saudi Arabia has determined to move the country to 100% low carbon (renewable energy plus nuclear power) electricity sources. Right now, Saudi Arabia’s electricity market is dominated by oil generation facilities. An important point: the Saudi decision certainly cannot be seen outside the context of climate change but it is truly driven by hard-headed economic reasons. For (not just) Saudi Arabia, the rich complexity of hydrocarbon molecules just have too much value to see them go up in smoke. The Saudis intend to capture that value:
use its vast oil reserves for other goods, such as plastics and polymers. “Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source,” [Prince Turki] said. “If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world.”
These are not isolated developments.
- Month after month, the U.S. electrical system is heading toward a lower-carbon output system. This is being driven due to very low natural gas prices, increased nuclear power efficiencies, and ever-increasing capacity of renewable electricity generation (hydropower, biomass, wind, and solar). In the first nine months of 2012, the capacity of commercialscale solar systems jumped by more than one-third (with the addition of 936 megawatts to give a total operating capacity of 3.37 gigawatts). The United States is far from alone in seeing such changes in its electrical grid.
- Ikea is not the only company accelerating renewable energy investments with near-term targets of 100 percent renewable energy. Zotos International has installed wind turbines that meet 50 percent of its electricity needs, buys ‘clean energy’ for the other 50 percent, and is working on plans for self-generating 100 percent of their requirements. Even some utilities have such targets. For example, the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) is rapidly adding renewable energy systems with a goal of 100 percent renewable energy (to exceed the state’s target of 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030). (Of relevance, the EPA’s list of 100% Green Power users.)
- Saudi Arabia is not alone. Oil-producing Denmark plans to eliminate fossil fuels from its domestic energy use (electricity, heating, and transportation) by 2050, with significant near-term targets for reducing fossil fuels in its electricity and heating markets.
100 percent clean energy and 100 percent reduction in the economy’s carbon footprint might seem like tall leaps but these are necessary, achievable, and even profitable paths to take for individuals, companies, communities, nations, and the global economy. This ‘hot renewable energy news’ comes as we learn that September 2012 was tied for the hottest global September ever. It is well past time, as a society, to take serious measures to reduce climate disruption risks. As part of that path forward, we should celebrate these recent “100” announcement and redouble our efforts to add more to the list.