Reuters has had a preview of an upcoming IPCC report on the impacts of renewables on climate change mitigation.
Renewable energies such as wind or solar power are set to surge by 2050, and expected advances in technology will bring significant cost cuts, a draft United Nations report showed on Wednesday.
The most comprehensive U.N. overview of the sector to date said renewables excluding bioenergy, which is mainly firewood burned in developing nations for cooking and heating, could expand by three to 20 times by mid-century.
"The cost of most renewable energy technologies has declined, and significant additional technical advancements are expected," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in a draft obtained by Reuters, based on a review of 164 scenarios.
In 2008 renewable energy production accounted for about 12.9 percent of global primary energy supply and was dominated by bioenergy with 10.2 percent, followed by hydro power, wind, geothermal, solar power and ocean energy.
U.N. talks on a new deal to combat global warming have made little progress. A summit in Copenhagen in 2009 failed to agree on a binding treaty to combat global warming, which IPCC blames mainly on emissions from burning fossil fuels.
Costs of renewables have been a hurdle. "The levelized cost of energy for many renewable energy technologies is currently higher than market energy prices, though in other cases renewable energy is already economically competitive," the report said.
The draft, written before Japan's nuclear disaster in March, also said renewables by 2010 would probably account for a bigger share of low-carbon energies than nuclear power and fossil fuels from which greenhouse gases are captured and buried.
The 30-page summary for policymakers, part of a Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources, will be published on May 9.
"An increase of production of renewable energies (excluding traditional bioenergy) anywhere from roughly three-fold to 20-fold is necessary," the report said of the 2050 outlook.
Renewables' share of total energy supply varied widely in the scenarios, reaching up to 77 percent of total energy supply by 2050.
It also said the technical potential of renewable energies -- especially solar -- was substantially higher even than projected world energy demand.
The review of 164 scenarios showed that renewable energies could lead to cumulative carbon dioxide savings of 220-560 billion tonnes from 2010 to 2050. That compares with 1.53 trillion tonnes of cumulative fossil and industrial carbon dioxide emissions in a reference scenario for the same years.
Sydney Morning Herald reporter Ben Cubby has a few solar stories. The first apparently dispells a common myth, that solar panels are merely a showy badge for the climate conscious middle-upper classes to display their credentials. The second is about clumsy NSW legislators.
THE myth that wealthy people are buying solar panels and the less well-off are subsidising them through higher power bills has been dispelled by new data showing which areas of NSW are going solar.
Overwhelmingly, the state's rural districts are leaving the city for dead, and in some regional towns one in every 10 households is feeding renewable energy into the grid.
In Alstonville, on the NSW north coast, 11.9 per cent of households have grid-connected solar power; in Dubbo it is 9.9 per cent, and in Bega it is 9.7 per cent.
By contrast, 0.5 per cent of people in Paddington have grid-connected solar panels, in Surry Hills the figure is 0.8 per cent and in Vaucluse it is just under 1 per cent.
The breakdown of solar power by postcode, based on the latest data from the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator, shows that people on lower incomes are more likely to install panels.
THE state government may have acted unlawfully when it suspended the state's solar panel tariff system - and angry panel installers and customers are mustering for a class action.
The government failed to publish the change in the Government Gazette beforehand or state that the scheme had reached maximum capacity of 300 megawatts - technicalities which may mean the scheme should not have been suspended last Friday.
An environmental law lecturer at the Australian National University, James Prest, said the announcement has exposed the power utilities to potential court action for not certifying people's connections to the power grid.
''Until the change is subject to legislation or has been gazetted, the distribution network service providers are potentially in breach of their licence conditions and they would be liable for damages,'' Dr Prest said.
''In his rush to kill off the solar bonus scheme, Energy Minister Chris Hartcher bypassed his legal requirements and exposed the state to the risk of an expensive class action,'' said the Greens MP John Kaye.
The industry was also digesting news yesterday the federal government would reduce subsidies for panel installation from a peak of up to $6200 to June 30 this year to about $1200 for a basic 1.5kw system after July 1, 2013.