To attain gigaton scale, a single technology must reduce annual emissions of carbon dioxide and equivalent greenhouse gases (CO2e) by at least 1 billion metric tons — a gigaton — by 2020. For an electricity generation technology, this is equivalent to an installed capacity of 205 gigawatts (GW) of carbon-free energy (at 100% capacity) in 2020. The 9 technologies we analyzed are examples of the potential to scale up clean energy technology:
• Building efficiency
• Concentrating solar power
• Solar photovoltaics
Scaled up, the 8 feasible pathways could collectively offset more than 8 billion tons (gigatons) of CO2e annually in 2020 and supply the equivalent of 55 quads (billion British thermal units [BTUs])of power annually, more than achieving current climate stabilization targets as well as meeting up to 50% of new energy demand worldwide. This exceeds by a factor of 5 current projections, which show clean energy technologies meeting less than 10% of new global energy demand in 2020. Under the Gigaton Throwdown scenario, clean energy technologies would add an estimated 4.5 million direct jobs to the economy and many more indirect jobs.
Of the 8 technologies, only one, wind power, is currently growing fast enough to achieve gigaton scale. By 2020, wind is projected to have an installed based of more than 852 gigawatts, avoiding more than 1.5 gigatons of CO2e emissions annually. The other 7 technologies are not scaling up fast enough in our assessment
The rate of scale-up can be significantly influenced by policy action today. Just as policy-makers laid the foundation for the high-tech revolution with telecommunications reforms in the 1990s, action is again required to accelerate clean energy technology and spur innovation and investment to achieve what we now know is possible in a trillion-dollar sector that is already providing millions of jobs.