Energy [R]evolutionWe often hear about how the world "can’t" reduce emissions as much as it needs to, that we "have to" keep using coal because it’s abundant, that renewables "can’t" replace fossil fuels because of intermittency and cost, and that shifting to a clean energy economy would be "too expensive."

As I’ve said here many times, this use of categoricals is meant to shut down debate. And it’s not true — the word is not "can’t," it’s "won’t." If we set our minds to it, of course it’s possible. If you like to know how, I commend your attention to Energy [R]evolution, a report developed by Greenpeace "in conjunction with specialists from the institute of Technical Thermodynamics at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and more than 30 scientists and engineers from universities, institutes and the renewable energy industry around the world."

The report shows in detail how we can reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions over 60 percent by 2080 and eliminate fossil-fuel use by 2090, while maintaining economic growth (particularly rapid growth in the developing world) and heeding issues of equity and fairness. It’s a three-step approach:

Step 1: Electrical efficiency
* Exploit all technical potential for electrical efficiency via technical standards

Step 2: Structural changes
* Change the way we produce energy in large centralised power stations towards a decentralised energy system, using large-scale renewable resources that use locally available energy sources such as wind, sun or geothermal
* Cogeneration — end the huge amounts of waste energy via cooling towers

Step 3: Energy-efficient transport
* Build up efficient public transport systems
* Implement efficient cars, trucks, etc.

The needed investments between now and 2030 will amount to around $14.7 trillion (more than the IEA’s projected $11.3 invested under business-as-usual), but crucially, the long-term focus is not only on reducing emissions but on reducing and stabilizing energy costs:

If we carry on with business as usual, electricity supply costs will nearly double by 2020. Unchecked growth in energy demand, increases in fossil fuel prices and the cost of CO2 emissions result in the total electricity supply costs rising from today’s USD 1,750 billion per year to more than USD 3,800 billion in 2020.

The Energy [R]evolution Scenario not only complies with global CO2 reduction targets, it also helps to stabilise energy costs and relieve the economic pressure on society. Increasing energy efficiency and shifting energy supply to renewables leads to long-term costs for electricity supply that are one-third lower than if we continue in our current trends. It becomes clear that pursuing stringent environmental targets in the energy sector also pays off financially.

You can read a short summary [PDF] or, if you’re feeling ambitious, dig into the full 212-page report [PDF]. There’s also a good write-up on Reuters.

The release of the report was accompanied by this deeply creepy video, which I hesitate to include at all, but do so nonetheless just to immortalize its weirdness:

Anyway, bookmark the link, for the next time you hear the word “can’t.”