Mar. 29, 2012
Washington, D.C. -- By embracing an integrated mix of renewable energy, energy efficiency, and grid technologies, countries can put their energy systems on a more sustainable path while developing economically, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute. The report, Sustainable Energy Roadmaps: Guiding the Global Shift to Domestic Renewables, lays out an innovative, targeted approach that details how countries can take specific technical, policy, governance, and financial steps to help make the shift to sustainable energy a reality.
“Still today, an estimated 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity, and another 1 billion have unreliable access,” said Alexander Ochs, Director of Worldwatch’s Climate and Energy Program and the lead author of the report. “But expanding fossil fuels is not the solution to the world’s energy challenges. We need solutions that are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable—many of which are now at hand. Implementing our Sustainable Energy Roadmaps will enable decision makers to pursue strategies that are in the true interest of their people while protecting Earth’s climate.”
To develop a Sustainable Energy Roadmap, Worldwatch analyzes an area’s potential for energy efficiency gains and undertakes detailed GIS mapping of local renewable energy resources, including wind, solar, and biomass. The Institute also produces an infrastructure inventory that assesses solutions for grid renovation and energy storage. In addition to technical analysis, the Roadmaps explore the socioeconomic impacts of diverse energy pathways, including the potential for sustainable energy development to create jobs and reduce healthcare and electricity costs. Worldwatch’s Roadmaps can be applied almost anywhere—in industrialized and developing countries—and at multiple levels of political organization, from the municipal to the regional.
“When governments, energy specialists, and the public join in a guided conversation to consider their country’s energy status and potential, they can see more easily the options for freeing themselves from dependence on imported fossil fuels,” said Worldwatch President Robert Engelman. “The Roadmaps show a route to sustained long-term economic development, universal energy access, cleaner local environments, healthier populations, and carbon-free energy systems. It’s impressive that some developing countries are now poised to make this shift more rapidly than many countries that are much wealthier.”
The burning of coal, oil, and other fossil fuels is a leading driver of global climate change and many other environmental and socioeconomic problems worldwide. Air pollution from fossil fuel combustion contributes to smog, water pollution, and acid rain and can trigger or exacerbate health conditions, including chronic respiratory and heart disease, lung cancer, and asthma. Many countries rely heavily on fossil fuel imports, making them dependent on foreign energy supplies and vulnerable to price fluctuations on the global market. Competition among energy-insecure countries over dwindling fossil fuel resources also contributes to civil or international conflicts, creating an unnecessary obstacle to development and prosperity in many regions.
Due in large part to massive subsidies to fossil fuels, the world’s energy resources are not utilized as effectively or efficiently as they could be. Coal, oil, and natural gas still account for more than 80 percent of the world’s primary energy consumption, despite the adverse impacts of these fuels on the well-being of both present and future generations. And although energy production from all major renewable energy sources—wind, solar, biomass, hydro, and geothermal—is booming, it remains far from its full potential. Developing local renewable energy resources, alongside job training and education programs, can provide quality long-term employment and help countries build strong economies with sustained growth.
In Sustainable Energy Roadmaps, Worldwatch emphasizes four key components that can help countries and regions transition successfully to sustainable energy use:
In October 2011, Worldwatch released the first detailed country study implementing its roadmap approach, a wind and solar roadmap for the Dominican Republic entitled Roadmap to a Sustainable Energy System: Harnessing the Dominican Republic’s Wind and Solar Resources. The Institute is currently developing national Sustainable Energy Roadmaps for the governments of the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Jamaica. Worldwatch recently embarked on its first project at the regional level, providing advice to the seven member countries of the Central American Integration System (SICA). The Institute is actively exploring opportunities elsewhere to help decision makers pursue a strategy for transitioning to domestic sustainable energy solutions.
Purchase the full report here.