Decarbonising energy will save £12tn by 2050, says study

Oxford research says costs of renewables will be much lower than expected

Sandbaai House in South Africa with Naked Energy photovoltaic–thermal tubes

Completely decarbonising the energy system by 2050 is expected to save at least $12tn globally, compared with continuing with current levels of fossil fuel use, according to a new study by researchers at the Oxford Martin School Institute for New Economic Thinking.

Published in the journal Joule, the study shows that a ‘fast transition’ to a fossil-free energy system by mid-century would provide 55% more energy globally than today. This would be generated through ramped up deployment of solar, wind, batteries, electric vehicles, and clean fuels, such as green hydrogen.

Concerns about costs have been a ‘barrier’ to implementing such technologies, the study says, but past modelling has ‘badly overestimated’ the future costs of key clean energy technologies over the past 20 years.

The real cost of solar energy has dropped twice as fast as the most ambitious projections in past models, it adds.

The study was conducted using data that predates the war in Ukraine, say the authors. However, the subsequent skyrocketing price of gas and oil underscores the study’s finding and demonstrates the risks of continuing to rely on ‘expensive, insecure’ fossil fuels.

‘A rapid green-energy transition will likely result in overall net savings of many trillions of dollars – even without accounting for climate damages or co-benefits of climate policy,’ the study says.

Professor Doyne Farmer, who led the team, said: ‘Renewable costs have been trending down for decades. They are already cheaper than fossil fuels in many situations, and our research shows they will become cheaper than fossil fuels across almost all applications in the years to come.’