What’s more, they find that complete de-carbonization of the global power sector using these technologies would induce only modest indirect greenhouse gas emissions — and therefore not impede the transformation towards a climate-friendly power system.
This finding refutes an argument made by some critics that even low-carbon sources of energy have so-called “hidden” greenhouse gas emissions — for instance, the energy needed to produce solar panels — that would negate their climate benefits.
“Often, people object to low-carbon energy systems pointing to the energy needed to produce all the solar cells and wind power plants,” said Edgar Hertwich
, a professor of industrial ecology at F&ES and co-author of the study. “But due to technological innovation, less and less energy will be needed to produce wind turbines and solar photovoltaic systems.”
In terms of lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, wind and solar energy provide a better greenhouse gas balance than fossil-based technologies since they don’t require additional energy for production and transport, he said.
“Hence, the overall level of greenhouse gas emissions will remain low,” Hertwich said, “which is an important confirmation of the feasibility of a low-carbon future.”
The lead author is Michaja Pehl
of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
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