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IPCC Releases Summary of the Special Report on Renewable Energy

9 May 2011: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a Summary for Policy Makers of the “Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation (SRREN).” The report was released on 9 May 2011, following its approval at the 11th Session of IPCC Working Group III in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The report presents an assessment of the literature on the scientific, technological, environmental, economic and social aspects of the contribution of renewable energy to climate change mitigation. It highlights that, while consumption of fossil fuels is growing, there are multiple options for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the energy system, but these will require policy changes to attract sufficient investment.

The report notes that renewable energy accounted for 12.9% of global energy supply in 2008, mainly from biomass. It describes the limited knowledge of the potential for the variety of appropriate renewable energy options, and stresses the need for more information on how climate impacts will influence the potential for renewable on a variety of geographic scales. It also describes the varying costs between renewable energy technologies, but notes that costs have been declining over recent years. The report briefly introduces options for integrating renewable into current energy systems, noting that different renewable sources pose different integration challenges. The report further describes pathways and the variable costs for this integration, and notes the needs for energy systems to evolve and adapt, highlighting that there are few technological limits to this integration.

The summary also underscores that the sustainability of bioenergy is influenced by land and biomass resource management practices, and describes the potential limits that water availability could place on appropriate renewable energies. On mitigation potential and costs, it notes that 164 scenarios for 2030, 2050 and beyond are reviewed in the special report and that renewable uptake will expand even under the baseline scenarios. The scenarios do not indicate a single dominant technology at the global level and that mitigation costs will increase if deployment is limited. On policy, the summary notes that investment in research and development is only effective if complemented by other policy implements. It concludes that close to 80% of the world's energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies.

The full report will be released on 31 May 2011, and will include chapters on: bioenergy; direct solar energy; geothermal energy; hydropower; ocean energy; wind energy; integration of renewable energy into present and future energy systems; mitigation potential and costs; and policy, financing and implementation. [Publication: Summary for Policymakers: Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation] [IPCC Press Release]