Is the sun setting on fossil fuels?

Coal plant

Group director says fossil fuels could be phased out in 10 years

With the switch to renewable energy sources happening quickly in various regions across the globe, it’s no surprise that dependence on fossil fuels is waning. But an energy group in the UK is taking it a bit further, saying that fossils fuels could be phased out completely in the next 10 years.

A recent study by the Sussex Energy Group of the University of Sussex analyzed energy transitions throughout history and examined how those past transitions may correlate with the current transition to renewable energy sources.

Past may not be predictive of the immediate future

Professor Benjamin Sovacool, Director of the Sussex Energy Group, said that while switching from wood to coal in Europe, for example, took between 96 and 160 years, that doesn’t mean that we can expect the current transition to renewable sources to take 60 or 70 years.

“Left to evolve by itself – as it has largely been in the past – this can indeed take many decades. A lot of stars have to align all at once. But we have learnt a sufficient amount from previous transitions that I believe future transformations can happen much more rapidly.” — Professor Benjamin Sovacool

While there are example like the aforementioned transition from wood to coal that took many decades, Sovacool said, there are also recent examples of faster turnarounds. For example, Ontario transitioned away from coal in just over a decade, from 2003 to 2014.

There are many factors that point to a relatively quick transition right now, Sovacool said: the scarcity of resources, the threat of climate change, improved technology and rapid innovation.

Collaborative effort needed

While the transition from fossil fuels like coal to renewable energy sources like wind energy and solar energy could occur within roughly a decade, the effort needs collaboration and political cooperation to have a chance.

“Moving to a new, cleaner energy system would require significant shifts in technology, political regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, and the behaviour of users and adopters.” — Professor Sovacool

Source → University of Sussex