New Report Outlines Clean Energy Path

[Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story reported this as the Dutch National Laboratory, when in fact it is Danish. EarthTechling regrets the error.]

Can we meet our energy needs in 2050 without adding CO2 to the atmosphere? A report from Riso, the Danish National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, says yes, but warns that it won’t happen without technological advances, an open-minded approach to controversial forms of energy production, and a concerted, aggressive push by governments.

“If we do not make efforts to promote renewable energy sources, coal and gas might easily be prevailing in the global energy supply for the rest of this century,” Riso said in announcing the release of its ninth annual energy report.

Riso Energy Report 9

image via Riso DTU

The report’s authors have high hopes for a broad range of renewable energy forms, including photovaltaic and concentrated solar, wind, wave and geothermal. These would provide the bulk of clean energy production under the Riso vision. But the report steps carefully beyond indisputably green sources to embrace biomass, nuclear and — somewhat ironically — even coal.

Riso says so-called Generation IV fast-neutron reactors, operating more efficiently and with less radioactive waste, will have a role beyond 2050. And noting the coal will continue to be easily available well into the next century, it says by figuring out carbon capture and storage — clean coal, as its promoters call it — “we can continue to burn fossil fuels even in a carbon-neutral future.” On biomass, the report’s authors write that technologies “currently being developed … will help to make bioenergy competitive when oil prices increase.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.