Think tank predicts end of fossil fuel in a decade


No fossil fuels from 2026?

Most supporters of the clean energy revolution have never wavered in their belief that renewables will be the dominant energy source of the future. The only question is how long before we wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

Now a think tank based in the United Kingdom has had a stab at answering this $64 question by predicting that fossil fuels could be phased out almost completely over the next decade.

The Sussex Energy Group, based at the University of Sussex, has said that a co-ordinated effort could see the switch to clean energy brought in much earlier than previously thought.

But there’s a catch. Professor Benjamin Sovacool, Director of the Group and author of the paper published in the journal Energy Research and Social Science said that such an outcome would only happen with significant government intervention and change in consumer behaviour.

“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,” he was reported as saying by

However, he believes the combination of scarcity of resources, the problem of climate change and improved technology will accelerate the move to a clean energy revolution. Prof Sovacool says we should have learned a great deal from previous transitions and therefore be able to implement the change to clean energy much faster than other energy transformations (wood to coal in Europe — 96 to 160 years and electricity — 47 to 69 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,” he added.

So what do you think? Will we see the clean energy revolution in ten years? Or is this too optimistic? Will the powerful fossil fuel lobby continue to combine with similarly fossilised sections of our administrations to stall the inevitable? Or do we dare to dream about clean energy in ten years? Interested in your thoughts.


  1. In 10 years? An absolute flight of fancy. These crazy greenies will still need to fly first class in fossil fuelled aircraft to attend their annual get-togethers in the world’s most desirable tourist locations

    • Finn Peacock says

      Hi Muzz,

      You’ve obviously studied the report in detail. Which parts of it do you disagree with?


    • Logistically it couldn’t be done, there is too much yet to do building out charging networks and building electric cars to replace them. There are a billion ICE cars world wide, there are about 300,000 EVs in N. America now.
      Recycling, re-purposing and redesigning our landfills would have to be done first, or simultaneously. People would have to agree on things. That alone guarantees failure. And transportation is only about 12% of our problem. We’ll be busy with other things too, like food.

      I’m certain weather events, probably this year (2018) will be so catastrophic that people everywhere will realize what we’re up against.
      Not having done anything significant sooner, we can expect worse storms and that should tell us that putting anything off, or bringing “too little, too late” is a death sentence.

  2. Climatologists believe we passed the 2*temperature point anywhere from 2-5 years ago. 350.0rg says it was last month and 84 months ahead of schedule.
    With Politicians signing off at COP 21 in Paris that they would not allow an increase in World wide temperatures beyond 1.5* it gives you some idea of how serious they are about Climate Change and how little they are paying attention to the facts. So it’s not a question of whether we move to renewables in 10 years or not. Our survival on this planet is totally dependent on it.

  3. Let’s just look at fossil fuels for electricity generation, and replace them with solar and wind. Globally, solar is at about 1% of the total, and wind is at about 3% of the total. Assuming that the total remains constant, and solar and wind continue to grow at the current rate of 30% per year, then compounding after 10 years, we reach about 14% for solar, and 41% for wind, giving a total of 55%. So we can get halfway there for electricity, if we continue strong growth from a low base. This will also require a massive expansion of storage in the form of cheap batteries, which are just starting to come down in cost.

    With regards to fossil fuels for transport, we probably can’t replace air and sea transport with battery electric power until batteries get much lighter. Battery electric passenger cars are already on the road, and although expensive, cheaper models will soon emerge (Tesla model 3, Chevy Bolt etc.) In my guesstimation, in 10 years, they will be cheaper than petroleum fueled cars, but it will take a further 10 years before they make up 50% of the cars on the road.

  4. With the two major parties blocking the transition and actively encouraging the old ways, there’s no way this will happen in Australia in ten years, as much as I wish it would.
    We have to remember that these are representatives of the people who voted them in. This means that the society in Australia is also not yet ready to transition. Or will they all vote the Greens, the only party with a transition plan, this time round?

    Industry sector:
    The Industry Sector hasn’t yet grasped what will hit them.

    Residential Sector:
    Considering that 6-star homes are still considered a very good standard – which is laughable being a standard that is not measured/tested after the build – and the head head of the Qld builders association saying about passive house ‘eskys’ that ‘Queenslanders always were living with open windows in summer’, I’m not holding my breath a lot will happen in a short time. And Australians are in the top group of energy wasters on this planet. So much for behaviour change.

    Transport sector:
    That Nissan isn’t selling the NEW version Leaf in Australia, a decent vehicle with 250km of range (30kWh battery) speaks volumes about the willingness of the auto industry to move beyond fossil fuels. V8’s rock!

    Electricity industry:
    As long as the networks are still paid a fixed revenue on their investments, nothing will change. This will cement the central electricity model. The regulator is not really doing something against it. The networks have an incentive not to be efficient and to invest more in their networks. It’s a hidden tax that goes to the state government. Everyone knows it, but nobody wants to talk about it. All the talk about moving to peak tariffs is just a way to secure their guaranteed revenue.

    So Australia moving away from fossil fuels in ten years? I don’t think so.

    That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try everything to make it happen. Support groups like, getup, Solar Citizens and others because they have a big influence on policy and politicians.

  5. Comparisons of selected historical changes say little. We need better engineering plans, rather than ouija boards.
    The ‘successful’ decade long transitions are;
    “At the state or national scale, almost complete transitions
    to oil and electricity in Kuwait, natural gas in the Netherlands, and
    nuclear electricity in France took only a decade, roughly, to occur.”

    They are examples of change from distributed, lower density energy sources, to higher density sources. Solar is the reverse. What may be next? Fusion would fit the pattern. There are several research projects underway. One is backed by Jeff Bazos and Bill Gates.
    Long term prospects, but more likely than the stagnating promises of the current renewables.

    Scale is a huge problem. Recently, is was calculated that the solar panels currently installed in the US, would pave the National Highway system. Unfortunately, the output represents 0.47% of electricity production.
    A ten fold increase would be 5%, yet still not impact the other sources of carbon emissions. Coal generators are casually biding their time, I expect.

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