New Video: 90 Percent Clean Energy by 2035

September 11, 2020

New study out of Berkeley. Pathway to 90 percent clean by 2035 is clear.

Fatih Berol in World Economic Forum:

The Key Trends

Solar is leading renewables to new heights. The cost of solar power has been declining dramatically for years, and it has now become the cheapest option in many economies. China, Europe, India and the United States have driven solar’s rise in recent years. But solar projects are now springing up fast in many countries across the globe, ranging from Vietnam to the United Arab Emirates, and from Egypt to Brazil. Meanwhile, offshore wind has achieved game-changing technological leaps and cost declines that give it the potential to become a key source of clean power in many parts of the world.

Today’s crisis means interest rates will stay lower for longer. The main hurdle for many clean energy projects is securing initial investment, since the “fuels” themselves are free. The massive easing of monetary policy by central banks in response to the pandemic means wind, solar and electric vehicles should benefit from ultralow interest rates for an extended period in some regions. Finding ways for all countries to access this cheaper capital will be critical.

More governments are throwing their weight behind clean energy. The European Union has made headlines with its plan to bring the region’s net emissions to zero by 2050. But many other governments around the world are responding to citizens’ concerns by ramping up ambitions, too. At the IEA Clean Energy Transitions Summit in July – the world’s largest energy and climate meeting of the year – 40 Ministers from advanced and emerging economies representing 80% of global energy consumption and carbon emissions highlighted their plans to make clean energy technologies an important part of economic recovery efforts. Emerging and developing economies now represent the majority of clean energy investment as they seek to address not just the dangers of climate change but also the grave problem of air pollution.

Companies are stepping up. Significant parts of the private sector have become much more proactive in seeking to reduce emissions. Several major oil companies have announced plans to turn themselves into lower-carbon energy businesses. They have a huge amount of work to do, but with their deep pockets, project management skills and engineering expertise, they could greatly advance offshore wind, hydrogen and carbon capture. Some of the world’s giant tech companies are also upping their game, investing in renewables and areas like energy storage and fuel cells.

Innovation is gathering steam. Most major economies expanded their public budgets for clean energy research and development in 2018 and 2019 much more rapidly than their rate of economic growth. Investment into clean energy start-ups by venture capital funds and companies reached a new high in 2019. Despite the economic disruption caused by Covid-19, we’re seeing serious efforts by governments and businesses to boost battery technologies and finally realise hydrogen’s massive potential. And a wide range of frontier technologies, including advanced nuclear reactors and electric aircraft, have succeeded in attracting private venture capital funding. Such moves are motivated not only by the need to tackle climate change but also the desire to be at the forefront of the industries of the future.

The Big Challenges

Alongside those positive trends, three significant challenges must be overcome.

Getting more countries and companies on board. The ambitious clean energy commitments and actions taken so far are a major step forward – but they are far from enough. Greater efforts need to be devoted to supporting fair, inclusive clean energy futures for all parts of the world. Similarly, huge parts of global industry have yet to make clean energy transitions a top priority. For example, the oil companies that have pledged to reduce their own emissions to net zero produce less than 10% of global oil output.

Not leaving anyone behind. The pandemic risks widening the divide between rich and poor. Hundreds of millions of people, mainly in Africa, still lack basic access to electricity. Solar power offers a tremendous opportunity to improve this situation. But many African economies are now struggling financially, with some facing full-blown debt crises, as a result of the global recession.

Tackling emissions from existing infrastructure. Attention is overwhelmingly focused on building new power plants, factories and transport networks with clean energy technologies. But if we don’t also address emissions from the world’s vast fleets of inefficient coal plants, steel foundries and cement factories – many of them recently built in emerging economies – we will have no chance of meeting our climate and energy goals.


15 Responses to “New Video: 90 Percent Clean Energy by 2035”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I have guilt.

    I like my firetop + electric oven range for the best cooking options.

    I’m also instinctively reluctant to replace water heaters and HVAC unit in good working condition, but their replacement has less impact on my lifestyle.

    First order of bidniz before the attic appliances are swapped out: Replace attic access ladder.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      Try an induction cook top and you will never want to use a gas stove again. Gas has ZERO advantages over induction.

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    More brightsidedness and wishful thinking. 2035 is FIFTEEN years away—-project forward what has happened in the last 15 years. Whatever progress we do make in some areas is likely to be overwhelmed by the catastrophes occurring in others.

  3. I see lots of ‘plan’ and ‘project’ and ‘have announced’ in this piece. Sounds great, but show me the real progress toward reducing emissions, and numbers please.

    Global carbon emissions are rising steeply, but you would think otherwise reading this blue sky piece. U.S. carbon emissions did actually drop a little around 2005 – 2009 (recession) but are basically flat since then. Should I celebrate yet?

    The ‘Big Challenges’: get more countries ‘on board’ – what does it mean to be ‘on board’? Not explained. Which countries? Guess they didn’t feel a need to be specific. Tackling steel, cement and ‘inefficient’ coal plants (LOL) – yes, we knew this, now please, how do you get these industries to change? If it’s cheaper to change they might but if not …?

    On the policy end, the proposal is more money for green buildings and infrastructure spending. Great, but not enough by itself. James Hansen once said something like this: ‘If there are cheap fossil fuels available, someone will buy them’. I see no evidence that this is any less true now than it was in say in 1980.

    I’ve seen too much hype about change being imminent to believe it. Remember the ‘hydrogen economy’? Fossil fuels were cheaper, so it never achieved anything. Amory Lovins has been predicting the end of fossil fuels since about 1970. Where are we today? We continue to use more and more globally, or very limited decline in the U.S.A.

    Fossil fuels need to cost more, in line with the havoc they’re causing. That should be fundamental to our climate policy approach, if we’re honest about doing this. This can absolutely be done without damaging the economy and while protecting vulnerable people and communities of color. But we will need to be honest with ourselves first.

    • redskylite Says:

      This piece from Vox (Sept 11 2020) might help on who needs to get on board and change. Some useful visuals and data included.


      “To illustrate the point, I’ve borrowed some charts from a recent research note by the investment firm Morgan Stanley (with permission). They help distinguish who is emitting now from who emitted in the past, who’s emitting more and less over time, and which fuels and activities are driving the change. None of this data is original — it’s all public — but putting these charts in one place can help us wrap our minds around the many different ways that questions about responsibility for climate change can be phrased.”

      • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

        That’s a lovely Vox piece, but “Annual carbon emissions, by region” needs an asterisk to explain that emissions from manufacturing includes goods purchased from other regions. How much “Made in China” have US consumers purchased in the last two decades?

  4. jimbills Says:

    The key part of that video is Leah Stokes mentioning policy. Without major policy changes, we’re not going to come anywhere close to substantial FF reductions by 2035. The free market itself isn’t going to do it.

    Even ignoring the projections to 2040, which could be wrong (indeed they almost certainly will be), the past 15-year period of 2005 to 2020 could also be considered a rough guide to the next 15 years if we just had free market activity without substantial governmental policy changes.

    For the past 15 years in regards to carbon emissions, growth has overwhelmed any gains in renewables by a long shot. Renewables grew by 698 million tons of energy consumption in oil equivalent globally in that time, which is impressive, but the growth in total global consumption of energy was 3410 million tons. Much of that growth was in oil and other FF liquids and natural gas. Coal use is dropping considerably in the U.S., but it’s rising in other parts of the world, and the end effect has been growth of 673 million tons of oil equivalent, almost the same amount of growth as renewables.

    The world’s economies are simply growing too fast for renewables to catch up in time, especially by 2035. The ONLY way to change that trajectory to any substantive degree is major and lasting policy changes within the multitude of different nations.

    Other notes:

    The cost of solar has dropped considerably, but the chart at 0:33 is made more impressive by including the time frame to 1977. It wouldn’t be nearly as impressive from 2005 to 2020, and unless the cost somehow goes into negative numbers, it won’t decrease much further going forward. Again, the free market only goes so far.

    • I totally agree with your point about the free market not cutting it.

      It was also great to hear Leah Stokes mentioning policy at the very start of her segment and indicating it is critical. But what policy? Her segment highlights subsidies for home and building energy retrofits. OK, this is excellent but has also been around since I was a teenager back in the Carter administration. It isn’t enough, and the discussion of this needs to include much bigger things.

      Paul Krugman then suggests that large green infrastructure spending is feasible and helpful. I totally agree, but it’s also difficult to do right. The usual suspects will smell the money and come running. They will gladly spend the money until it dries up, then go right back to business as usual if the spending has gone to silly ineffective things. Getting this right is hard.

      Adding a carbon price to the policy mix including the above two items helps to ensure that the investments made really move us toward the stated 90% reduction goal. The people doing energy retrofits, or investing in infrastructure will realize they need to position themselves to use a lot less fossil fuels. The ‘positioning’ is key – it means durable movement in the right direction.

      • jimbills Says:

        The 2035 report is here:

        Am article about it is here:

        It basically also states that without significant and lasting policy changes, there’s no way we’d come anywhere close to needed emissions reductions. But, I’ve looked over the ‘Policy Paper’, and honestly, it seems paper thin to me: policy suggestions are things like setting clean electricity goals, extending tax credits, supporting R&D, and strengthening transmission planning.

        It doesn’t include a carbon tax, instead opting for a sort of regulatory takeover of utility systems. The plan would be to eliminate the standard means of a utility increasing its profits, replacing it with a way to boost profits based on adoption of renewables and cleaner standards. The policy plan also includes tightly regulating wholesale markets.

        Those ideas are the linchpin to achieving the 90% goal. Whether or not it would actually work, I’d have to leave to trained economists, but off hand, I’m skeptical. And even then, I don’t see any way Republicans agree to it, and they’re about half the country – and more than that in most of the current FF producing states.

        The 90% plan by 2035 requires building solar and wind at rates many times higher per year in the U.S. than they’ve ever been done so far, and maintaining that pace every year. I’m not sure if it accounts for projected growth in the overall economy. And, it seems to be focused on electricity generation only.

  5. redskylite Says:

    We have a lot to do in a short time, let’s hope John F. Kennedy’s father’s famous expression holds good in the 21st century.

    “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”


    “Power sector transformation will get world one third of way to net zero – IEA

    Electricity generation would need to be around 2.5 times higher in 2050 than it is today, requiring a rate of growth equivalent to the entire U.S. power sector every three years.

    Annual additions of renewable electricity capacity, meanwhile, would need to average around four times the current record, which was reached in 2019, the report said.”

  6. redskylite Says:

    From Energy Institute at Haas. . .
    “It’s Climate Change, Stupid.

    What should we do?
    I think there are a few immediate things regulators can take into account.

    1) Listen to science and figure out how climate change is going to affect peak demand in California and in our neighboring states in a world with a changed climate. The California Energy Commission only started doing this somewhat crudely two years ago. This is going to require more science and modelling and I am excited to see that the CEC is funding some projects on this topic (I am not on any of them, so this flattery is sincere).

    2) After listening to that science, plan accordingly and revisit reserve margin requirements to make sure there is adequate capacity available.

    3) Aggressively push innovative proposals such as those proposed by Meredith, Duncan and Severin last week to manage demand when supply is short.

    4) When planning for new energy infrastructure investments, proposals should have to include planning for the life of the gadget – taking into account the changing climate impacts at that location. This is not hard, but should be required.

    5) Manage the matches. We are not going to stop climate change. We need to continue aggressive efforts to reduce the risk of energy infrastructure setting off fires. That will be expensive.

    So if you read this far, thank you. These are scary times. Let’s continue working on cost-effective solutions to this long-run problem. There is lots to do!

  7. J4Zonian Says:

    Companies stepping up? Corporations act in their own perceived short-term financial interests; they don’t have a holistic enough outlook to make the right decisions. Any “solutions” they come up with will be spotty, disjointed, and conflictual. If allowed, they will twist every mandate to their own perceived short-term financial advantage.

    Republicans are about a third of the country, and probably half that third would go for a reasonable populist progressive alternative, especially if they could be freed from the constant soaking they’re subjected to in the race- and other isms the oligarchy uses to manipulate them. Many are too far gone, but a lot of them are old and their numbers are already shrinking. The far right is effective because high and increasing inequality has skewed funding in its direction.

    To prevent global ecological collapse we’ll need to use the cooperative power of society directed by truly democratic government, not the divisive power of warlord businesses and oligarchs playing people by dividing them and reducing the power of government. That’s so far from what we have it will take a peaceful revolution to get it, and we have very little time, since 90% in 15 years is still more of an excuse to do nothing now than a call to action or change. (“Now” means “for the foreseeable future” aka as long as they have the job, which is as far ahead as politicians and business warlords think.)

    @Wharton Sinkler
    It seems like you understand the market religion is insufficient for the task, so the solutions shouldn’t be vague policy inclinations or…tweaking the religion.

    We need to eliminate at least 90% of fossil fuels in the next 10 years, go net carbon negative in global agriculture and forestry, and transform industry to ecological forms in that time. All that means we have to immediately ramp up all the ways to do that, and the only way to do that is with a massive, comprehensive emergency Green New Deal. The purpose of the Green New Deal is to establish an overall principle and goals, to make sure the programs are coordinated, in service of those goals, and can succeed.

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