Renewable energy transition

  (Redirected from 100% renewable energy)

The renewable energy transition is the ongoing energy transition replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy. This transition can impact many aspects of life including the environment, society, the economy and governance.[1]

The main sources of renewable electricity worldwide: wind power, hydroelectricity, and solar power

The rationale for the transition is often to limit the adverse effects of energy consumption on the environment.[2] This includes reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigating climate change.[3] In 2019 in the United States the cost of renewable energy reached the point where it is cheaper to build and operate than coal-fired power plants.[4]

Investing in new technology research is considered imperative in overcoming problems related to renewable energy, such as efficiency, storage and variability. For energy transportation and flexibility, storage is vital for the renewable energy transition due to the intermittency of many renewable energy sources.[5][6]

The renewable energy transition is reliant upon the implementation of renewable energy alternatives to replace fossil fuel and natural gas assets. Some companies have achieved this shift, such as Ørsted which has a plan to replace coal generation with 99% wind energy by 2025.[7]


Climate Change action is an integral part in addressing the IPCC Report.

Many factors are driving the increased need and interest in the renewable energy transition. Among the most important drivers are the acknowledgment of the energy system's impact on climate change, as well as the diminishing resources that threaten energy security.[citation needed]

Climate change can be attributed to the use of fossil fuel energy and the contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.[citation needed] This increased level of greenhouse gas emissions creates adverse effects on a changing climate such as increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters.[8] The IPCC has said with high certainty that society has 12 years to complete an entire transition to avoid catastrophic climate change.[9] This reality has motivated the conversation of a renewable energy transition as a mitigation tactic.

The fossil fuel industry faces risk completely separate from the impacts of climate change. Fossil fuels are a limited resource and are at risk of reaching a peak in which diminishing returns will become prevalent.[10] Uncertainty with the supply of this resource questions the security of the industry and the investments in fossil fuel companies. Companies such as Blackrock are using sustainability measures to address their strategy and structure, as these evaluated risks impact their desired level of involvement with the industry as a result.[11] These driving conversations are motivating organizations to reconsider the future of the energy sector.


Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue River upstream of Gold Hill in the U.S. state of Oregon. Fish ladder visible on the far bank. The dam, which made fish passage difficult, was removed later in 2010.
An aerial view of the Power County wind farm in Idaho, United States.[12]
Photovoltaic array at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center in Montezuma County, Colorado. This site uses 95% renewable energy and is an example of the renewable energy transition occurring.

The technologies that are considered the most important in the renewable energy transition are hydroelectricity, wind power, and solar power. Hydroelectricity is the largest source of renewable electricity in the world, providing 16.6% of the world's total electricity in 2015.[13] However, because of its heavy dependence on geography and the generally high environmental and social impact of hydroelectric power plants, the growth potential of this technology is limited. Wind and solar power are considered more scalable, and therefore have higher potential for growth.[14] These sources have grown nearly exponentially in recent decades thanks to rapidly decreasing costs. In 2018, wind power supplied 4.8% worldwide electricity,[15] while solar power supplied 3% in 2019.[16][17]

While production from most types of hydropower plants can be actively controlled, production from wind and solar power depends entirely on the weather. Hydropower is therefore considered a dispatchable source, while solar and wind are variable renewable energy sources. These sources require dispatchable backup generation or storage to provide continuous and reliable electricity. For this reason, storage technologies also play a key role in the renewable energy transition. As of 2020, the largest scale storage technology is pumped storage hydroelectricity, accounting for the great majority of energy storage capacity installed worldwide. Other important forms of energy storage are electric batteries and power to gas.

Other renewable energy sources include bioenergy, geothermal energy and tidal energy. There has been a debate around whether nuclear energy is considered renewable or not. As it is still unknown whether nuclear energy is a viable renewable energy source, it is not considered as a renewable source in this article.

Economic AspectsEdit

The economics behind the renewable energy transition are unlike most economic trends. Due to the lack of knowledge behind its impacts, we know little behind the long-term economics. We turn to givens, such as its impacts on GHG emissions as economic drivers. The economics behind renewable energy rely forecasts of the future to help determine efficient production, distribution, and consumption of energy[18]. In this transition, there is in an increase in General Algebraic Modeling Software to help determine economic factors such as levelized production costs and cost models[19]. The dependency  of knowledge of different types of models, innovations of other countries, and different types of renewable energy markets are the key to driving the economy during this transition.[clarification needed]

Business modelsEdit

Economic driving forces in the renewable energy transition take multiple approaches.[clarification needed] Businesses that have joined the renewable energy cause do so by relying on business models. The need for business models, when dealing with the economics of the renewable energy transition, are crucial due to the lack of concrete research done in this area.[20][page needed] These models show projections of marginal costs, efficiency, and demand in different periods of time.[21] Business models are financial assistants that help guide businesses, companies, and individuals looking to get involved.

Global rivalriesEdit

Global rivalries have contributed to the driving forces of the economics behind the renewable energy transition. Competition to reach ultimate efficiency with renewable energy is motivating countries to improve further and further. Technological innovations developed within a country have the potential to become an economic force.[22] In Germany, the country realized to achieve this, policy would go hand in hand with economics. Policies reflect the economy, which for the economy of the country, it would need to have strong policies in place to support the transition to renewable energy. With economic growth being a priority, renewable energy transition policies would strengthen the transition status.[23]

Renewable energy growth creates winners and losers. Fossil fuel companies risk becoming losers. To stay competitive the adaptation to join the renewable energy race is considered[24]. Global investments on renewable energy is increasing at a high rate. In 2018, the total global investment in renewable energy neared the $300 billion mark[25]. Trends in global renewable energy such as this, that show stability in the market, investments are being made profitable for the future. Competition for dominance in the renewable energy market sparks interest in trades and investments. With the United States and European Union accounting for 60 percent of the total capacity and investment in renewable energy, the two economies are likely to become the largest suppliers and consumers for the renewable energy services[24].

Economic playersEdit

Heat & Biomass HeatingEdit

In the renewable energy transition, the heating industry becomes an economic player. The heating industry is an interesting player as it entails many components.[citation needed][26] When dealing with heat and the transition to renewable resources, the entire area being heated comes into play.[citation needed][27] When assessing the economic benefits of this transition, the costs are atop of the list of information needed. In order to make this transition in the heating industry costs such as if the costs to install these systems would produce a positive turnout. A system of such was implemented in Denmark that focused on wind power to help contribute to heating.[citation needed][28] The results of this showed a decrease in heating costs from 132 kWH to roughly 60 to 80 kWH. The results draw economic improvements in this transition by showing more efficiency in the heating industry and an increased value in wind power.[29] Alternatives for heating use are being introduced. New Hampshire has been experimenting with wood energy. Wood energy is a form of biomass/renewable energy that uses various types of wood as energy alternatives[30]. The burning of wood chips is amongst the most common types of wood energy used. Wood energy maintains an environmental balance of renewable energy while experiencing financial growth. CO2 emissions see decrease of nearly 90 percent when switching from fossil fuel to wood during the burning process. Transitioning from fossil fuel to wood energy is seen as an economic booster as the introduction of more wood energy plantations would mean greater production rates of wood biomass[31]. Heating accounts for up to 40 percent of a businesses operating costs. Transitioning to wood energy, specifically the wood chip heating systems, do not come cheap. Littleton Regional healthcare transitioned to this heating system; the cost was nearly $3 million[32].

Energy marketEdit

The energy market, in relation the economics behind the renewable energy transition, is its insurance policy.[clarification needed] In the past, inconsistencies in the renewable energy field had caused skepticism. The increase in returns in the market has changed that perception. Recently, the costs for these energies have been reduced dramatically. For solar and wind power, the costs have dropped up to 60 to 80 percent.[33]

Wind Turbine Total Costs[34]

Wind energy is growing in usage, and much of this is due to the increase in wind energy production. Transitioning to wind energy assists in altering a countries dependency on foreign sources when it comes to energy. Allowing countries to build their economies from within, while helping the environment is a more common thought. While a setback to this method of energy is that it requires specifics in land available and location of land, there has still been an increase in wind turbines. From 2007–2017, the US wind energy consumption increased 590%[35]. The transition is viewed as a way to ensure the economies environmental sustainability.

Wind/Power systemsEdit

Power systems are economic players that take many contributors into account. When looking for economic benefits behind power systems, savings and costs are crucial topics being addressed. A determinant in addressing the costs and savings of power systems is the alternative routes to GHG emissions. Egypt introduced a plan to do so by stopping conventional power plants and converting them over to hybrid and wind farm plants.[citation needed][36] The results of this were seen to decrease carbon dioxide emissions and save the state up to $14 million.[37]

Determining the economic value of wind farms is the main predictor of production. The biggest cost occurred in wind farms are for the turbines themselves. With turbines varying in size, the smaller turbines are used at a more local and person level are more expensive on a per kilowatt of energy capacity rate, while larger ones are less expensive on these dynamics. Wind farms look at the total area of power it can produce, for a 500 MW wind farm, nearly 200,000 wind farms can be generated[38]. Many question whether having a small number of turbines would still be beneficial or not, and worth the cost. The intermittency costs of turbines show that they are less than one percent of the price of the wind energy price. This is shown by detailing that the addition of more turbines throughout an area increase the intermittency of individual turbines, allowing the farms with a lower supply to gain by another farm with larger supply of turbines[39]. Small residential and small commercial have the most profitability due to their low energy cost and short payback period. Specifically, this becomes more profitable with a 10 kW system[40].

Social AspectsEdit


To gather a realistic understanding of the renewable energy transition, influences should be analyzed to understand the scope of the environment and conversation surrounding the transition. One of these influences is that of the oil industry. The oil industry controls the large majority of the world's energy supply and needs as it is the most accessible and available resource present today.[41] With a history of continued success and sustained demand, the oil industry has become a stable aspect of society, the economy and the energy sector. To transition to renewable energy technologies, the government and economy must address the oil industry and its control of the energy sector.[42]

Citizen's Climate Lobby in action[43]

One way that oil companies are able to continue their work despite growing environmental, social and economic concerns is through lobbying efforts within local and national government systems. Lobbying is defined as to conduct activities aimed at influencing public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation[44]

Historically, the climate lobby has been highly successful in limiting regulations on the oil industry and enabling business as usual techniques. From 1988 to 2005, Exxon Mobil, one of the largest oil companies in the world, spent nearly $16 million in anti-climate change lobbying and providing misleading information about climate change to the general public.[45] It is examples such as these, that show the significance of the oil industry as stakeholders within the government. In order for the renewable energy transition to succeed, the oil lobbying should be addressed and met with a strong economic, social and environmental case. The oil industry acquires much support through the banking and investment structure.[46] The stable nature of oil stock throughout history makes it a great option for investors.[citation needed] By investing in the fossil fuel industry, it is provided with financial support to continue its business ventures.[47] The concept that the industry should no longer be financially supported has led to the social movement known as divestment. Divestment is defined as the removal of investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds in oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons[48]

Banks, investing firms, governments, universities, institutions and businesses are all being challenged with this new moral argument against their existing investments in the fossil fuel industry and many such as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the University of California, New York City and more have begun making the shift to more sustainable, eco-friendly investments.[49]


The renewable energy transition has many benefits and challenges that are associated with it. One of the positive social impacts that is predicted is the use of local energy sources to provide stability and economic stimulation to local communities.[50] Not only does this benefit local utilities through portfolio diversification, but it also creates opportunities for energy trade between communities, states and regions.[51] Additionally, energy security has been a struggle worldwide that has led to many issues in the OPEC countries and beyond. Energy security is evaluated by analyzing the accessibility, availability, sustainability, regulatory and technological opportunity of our energy portfolio. Renewable Energy presents an opportunity to increase our energy security by becoming energy independent and have localized grids that decrease energy risks geopolitically.[52] In this sense, the benefits and positive outcomes of the renewable energy transition are profound.

There are also risks and negative impacts on society because of the renewable energy transition that need to be mitigated. The coal mining industry plays a large part in the existing energy portfolio and is one of the biggest targets for climate change activists due to the intense pollution and habitat disruption that it creates. The transition to renewable is expected to have decrease the need and viability of coal mining in the future.[53] This is a positive for climate change action, but can have severe impacts on the communities that rely on this business. Coal mining communities are considered vulnerable to the renewable energy transition. Not only do these communities face energy poverty already, but they also face economic collapse when the coal mining businesses move elsewhere or disappear altogether.[54] These communities need to quickly transition to alternative forms of work to support their families, but lack the resources and support to invest in themselves. This broken system perpetuates the poverty and vulnerability that decreases the adaptive capacity of coal mining communities.[54] Potential mitigation could include expanding the program base for vulnerable communities to assist with new training programs, opportunities for economic development and subsidies to assist with the transition.[55] Ultimately, the social impacts of the renewable energy transition will be extensive, but with mitigation strategies, the government[whose?] can ensure that it becomes a positive opportunity for all citizens.[56]

The Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is an 845 megawatt (MW) wind farm in the U.S. state of Oregon.
The 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California.
The 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California: The facility's three towers.
Construction of the Salt Tanks which provide efficient thermal energy storage [57] so that output can be provided after the sun goes down, and output can be scheduled to meet demand requirements.[58] The 280 MW Solana Generating Station is designed to provide six hours of energy storage. This allows the plant to generate about 38 percent of its rated capacity over the course of a year.[59]
Comparing trends in worldwide energy use, the growth of renewable energy to 2015 is the green line[60]

Reasons for a fast energy transitionEdit

6 advantages of an energy transition (for example in Europe) - Energy Atlas 2018

Solving the global warming problem is regarded as the most important challenge facing humankind in the 21st century.[61] The capacity of the earth system to absorb greenhouse gas emissions is already exhausted, and under the Paris climate agreement, emissions must cease by 2040 or 2050.[62] Barring a breakthrough in carbon sequestration technologies, this requires an energy transition away from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, lignite, and coal. This energy transition is also known as the decarbonization of the energy system or "energy turnaround". Available technologies are nuclear power (fission) and the renewable energy sources wind, hydropower, solar power, geothermal, and marine energy.

A timely implementation of the energy transition requires multiple approaches in parallel. Energy conservation and improvements in energy efficiency thus play a major role. Smart electric meters can schedule energy consumption for times when electricity is abundant, reducing consumption at times when the more variable renewable energy sources are scarce (night time and lack of wind).

Technology has been identified as an important but difficult-to-predict driver of change within energy systems.[63] Published forecasts have systematically tended to overestimate the potential of new energy and conversion technologies and underestimated the inertia in energy systems and energy infrastructure (e.g. power plants, once built, characteristically operate for many decades). The history of large technical systems is very useful for enriching debates about energy infrastructures by detailing many of their long-term implications.[64] The speed at which a transition in the energy sector needs to take place will be historically rapid.[65] Moreover, the underlying technological, political, and economic structures will need to change radically — a process one author calls regime shift.[66]

Risks and barriersEdit

Despite the widespread understanding that a transition to renewable energy is necessary, there are a number of risks and barriers to making renewable energy more appealing than conventional energy. Renewable energy rarely comes up as a solution beyond combating climate change, but has wider implications for food security and employment.[67] This further supports the recognized dearth of research for clean energy innovations, which may lead to quicker transitions.[68] Overall, the transition to renewable energy requires a shift among governments, business, and the public. Altering public bias may mitigate the risk of subsequent administrations de-transitioning - through perhaps public awareness campaigns or carbon levies.[69]


A large portion of the global workforce works directly or indirectly for the fossil fuel economy.[70] Moreover, many other industries that are dependent on unsustainable energy sources (such as the steel industry or cement and concrete industry). Transitioning these workforces during the rapid period of economic change requires considerable forethought and planning. The international labor movement has advocated for a just transition that addresses these concerns.

Just transitionEdit

Just Transition is a framework developed by the trade union movement[71] to encompass a range of social interventions needed to secure workers' rights and livelihoods when economies are shifting to sustainable production, primarily combating climate change and protecting biodiversity. The concept can be considered an ecological application of economic conversion, which was developed in the 1980s when anti-war activists sought to build a coalition with military workers and give them a stake in the peace economy.

Climate goals and global climate change agreements set standards for a clean economy. In the process, sectors such as energy, manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry, which employ millions of workers, must restructure. There is a concern that periods of economic structural change in the past have left ordinary workers, their families, and communities to bear the costs of the transition to new ways of producing wealth, leading to unemployment, poverty, and exclusion for the working class, in contrast to business owners who are able to afford the transition.[72] Just Transition addresses this concern by promoting sustainable actions that help workers. Uniting social and climate justice by means of a Just Transition means to comply with demands for fairness for coal workers in coal-dependent developing regions who lack employment opportunities beyond coal; fairness for workers in emerging economies that demand their share of the “industrialisation dividend”; fairness for those having to leave their homes as sea levels rise and engulf coastal regions and islands as a consequence of climate change; fairness for populations affected by the air pollution and broader environmental impacts of coal use etc. For example, the Green New Deal outlines goals to protect the climate, and a Just Transition framework outlines strategies to accomplish these goals while protecting workers.[73]

It has been endorsed internationally by governments in different arenas, including the International Labour Organization (ILO)'s 2015 "Guidelines on a Just Transition towards environmentally-sustainable economies and societies for all," the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)'s Paris Agreement, and the Katowice Climate Conference (COP24)'s 2018 Solidarity and Just Transition Silesia Declaration.[74][75][76]


Possible energy transition timeline. The energy transition on this timeline is too slow to correspond with the Paris Agreement.

After a transitional period, renewable energy production is expected to make up most of the world's energy production. The risk management firm, DNV GL, forecasts that, by 2050, the world's primary energy mix will be split equally between fossil and non-fossil sources.[77] A 2011 projection by the International Energy Agency expects solar PV to supply more than half of the world's electricity by 2060, dramatically reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.[78]

The GeGaLo index of geopolitical gains and losses assesses how the geopolitical position of 156 countries may change if the world fully transitions to renewable energy resources. Former fossil fuels exporters are expected to lose power, while the positions of former fossil fuel importers and countries rich in renewable energy resources is expected to strengthen.[79]

Status in specific countriesEdit

Global energy consumption by source.
Global energy consumption by source (in %).

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that, in 2013, total global primary energy supply (TPES) was 157.5 petawatt hours or 1.575×1017 Wh (157.5 thousand TWh; 5.67×1020 J; 13.54 billion toe) or about 18 TW-year.[80] From 2000–2012 coal was the source of energy with the total largest growth. The use of oil and natural gas also had considerable growth, followed by hydropower and renewable energy. Renewable energy grew at a rate faster than any other time in history during this period. The demand for nuclear energy decreased, in part due to nuclear disasters (Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011).[81][82] More recently, consumption of coal has declined relative to renewable energy. Coal dropped from about 29% of the global total primary energy consumption in 2015 to 27% in 2017, and non-hydro renewables were up to about 4% from 2%.[83]


Australia has one of the fastest deployment rates of renewable energy worldwide. The country has deployed 5.2 GW of solar and wind power in 2018 alone and at this rate, is on track to reach 50% renewable electricity in 2024 and 100% in 2032.[84] However, Australia may be one of the leading major economies in terms of renewable deployments, but it is one of the least prepared at a network level to make this transition, being ranked 28th out of the list of 32 advanced economies on the World Economic Forum's 2019 Energy Transition Index.[85]


The 22,500 MW Three Gorges Dam hydroelectric power plant in China, the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.
China's primary energy production and consumption 1980 to 2011

Ensuring adequate energy supply to sustain economic growth has been a core concern of the Chinese government since 1949.[86] The country is the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and coal in China is a major cause of global warming.[87] However, from 2010 to 2015 China reduced energy consumption per unit of GDP by 18%, and CO2 emissions per unit of GDP by 20%.[88] On a per-capita basis, it was the world's 51st largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2016.[89]

China is also the world's largest renewable energy producer.[90] China is the largest producer of hydroelectricity, solar power and wind power in the world.

Details for the power sector are likely to be released winter 2021/22 for the 14th five-year plan,[91] and this is expected to determine whether the country builds more coal-fired power stations, and thus perhaps whether global climate goals are met.[92]

European UnionEdit


Austria embarked on its energy transition (Energiewende) some decades ago. Due to geographical conditions, energy production in Austria relies heavily on renewable energies, notably hydropower. 78.4% of domestic production in 2013 came from renewable energy, 9.2% from natural gas and 7.2% from petroleum. (rest: waste). On the basis of the Federal Constitutional Law for a Nuclear-Free Austria, no nuclear power stations are in operation in Austria. But domestic energy production makes up only 36% of Austria's total energy consumption, which among other things encompasses transport, electricity production, and heating. In 2013, oil accounts for about 36.2% of total energy consumption, renewable energies 29.8%, gas 20.6%, and coal 9.7%. In the past 20 years, the structure of gross domestic energy consumption has shifted from coal and oil to new renewables, in particular between 2005 and 2013 (plus 60%). The EU target for Austria require a renewables share of 34% by 2020 (gross final energy consumption). Austria is on a good way to achieve this target (32.5% in 2013). Energy transition in Austria can be also seen on the local level, in some villages, towns and regions. For example, the town of Güssing in the state of Burgenland is a pioneer in independent and sustainable energy production. Since 2005, Güssing has already produced significantly more heating (58 gigawatt hours) and electricity (14 GWh) from renewable resources than the city itself needs.[93]


Denmark, as a country reliant on imported oil, was impacted particularly hard by the 1973 oil crisis. This roused public discussions on building nuclear power stations to diversify energy supply. A strong anti-nuclear movement developed, which fiercely criticized nuclear power plans taken up by the government,[94] and this ultimately led to a 1985 resolution not to build any nuclear power stations in Denmark.[95] The country instead opted for renewable energy, focusing primarily on wind power. Wind turbines for power generation already had a long history in Denmark, as far back as the late 1800s. As early as 1974 a panel of experts declared "that it should be possible to satisfy 10% of Danish electricity demand with wind power, without causing special technical problems for the public grid."[96] Denmark undertook the development of large wind power stations — though at first with little success (like with the Growian project in Germany).

Small facilities prevailed instead, often sold to private owners such as farms. Government policies promoted their construction; at the same time, positive geographical factors favored their spread, such as good wind power density and Denmark's decentralized patterns of settlement. A lack of administrative obstacles also played a role. Small and robust systems came on line, at first in the power range of only 50-60 kilowatts — using 1940s technology and sometimes hand-crafted by very small businesses. In the late seventies and the eighties a brisk export trade to the United States developed, where wind energy also experienced an early boom. In 1986 Denmark already had about 1200 wind power turbines,[97] though they still accounted for just barely 1% of Denmark's electricity.[98] This share increased significantly over time. In 2011, renewable energies covered 41% of electricity consumption, and wind power facilities alone accounted for 28%.[99] The government aims to increase wind energy's share of power generation to 50% by 2020, while at the same time reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40%.[100] On 22 March 2012, the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building published a four-page paper titled "DK Energy Agreement," outlining long-term principles for Danish energy policy.[101]

The installation of oil and gas heating is banned in newly constructed buildings from the start of 2013; beginning in 2016 this will also apply to existing buildings. At the same time an assistance program for heater replacement was launched. Denmark's goal is to reduce the use of fossil fuels 33% by 2020. The country is scheduled to attain complete independence from petroleum and natural gas by 2050.[102]


Electricity production in France.

Since 2012, political discussions have been developing in France about the energy transition and how the French economy might profit from it.[103]

In September 2012, Minister of the Environment Delphine Batho coined the term "ecological patriotism." The government began a work plan to consider starting the energy transition in France. This plan should address the following questions by June 2013:[104]

  • How can France move towards energy efficiency and energy conservation? Reflections on altered lifestyles, changes in production, consumption, and transport.
  • How to achieve the energy mix targeted for 2025? France's climate protection targets call for reducing greenhouse gas emissions 40% by 2030, and 60% by 2040.
  • Which renewable energies should France rely on? How should the use of wind and solar energy can be promoted?
  • What costs and funding models will likely be required for alternative energy consulting and investment support? And how about for research, renovation, and expansion of district heating, biomass, and geothermal energy? One solution could be a continuation of the CSPE, a tax that is charged on electricity bills.

The Environmental Conference on Sustainable Development on 14 and 15 September 2012 treated the issue of the environmental and energy transition as its main theme.[105]

On 8 July 2013, the national debate leaders submits some proposals to the government. Among them, there were environmental taxation, and smart grid development.[106]

In 2015, the National Assembly has adopted legislation for the transition to low emission vehicles.[107]

France is second only to Denmark as having the world's lowest carbon emissions in relation to gross domestic product.[108]


Market share of Germany's power generation 2014[109]
Energy transition scenario in Germany
Photovoltaic array and wind turbines at the Schneebergerhof wind farm in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz
Parabolic trough power station for electricity production, near the town of Kramer Junction in California's San Joaquin Valley

Germany has played an outsized role in the transition away from fossil fuels and nuclear power to renewables. The energy transition in Germany is known as die Energiewende (literally, "the energy turn" indicating a turn away from old fuels and technologies to new one. The key policy document outlining the Energiewende was published by the German government in September 2010, some six months before the Fukushima nuclear accident; legislative support was passed in September 2010.

The policy has been embraced by the German federal government and has resulted in a huge expansion of renewables, particularly wind power. Germanys share of renewables has increased from around 5% in 1999 to 17% in 2010, reaching close to the OECD average of 18% usage of renewables.[110] Producers have been guaranteed a fixed feed-in tariff for 20 years, guaranteeing a fixed income. Energy co-operatives have been created, and efforts were made to decentralize control and profits. The large energy companies have a disproportionately small share of the renewables market. Nuclear power stations were closed, and the existing nine stations will close earlier than necessary, in 2022.

The reduction of reliance on nuclear stations has had the consequence of increased reliance on fossil fuels. One factor that has inhibited efficient employment of new renewable energy has been the lack of an accompanying investment in power infrastructure to bring the power to market. It is believed 8300 km of power lines must be built or upgraded.[110]

Different Länder have varying attitudes to the construction of new power lines. Industry has had their rates frozen and so the increased costs of the Energiewende have been passed on to consumers, who have had rising electricity bills. Germans in 2013 had some of the highest electricity costs in Europe.[111] Nonetheless, for the first time in more than ten years, electricity prices for household customers fell at the beginning of 2015.[112]


The energy policy of India is largely defined by the country's expanding energy deficit and increased focus on developing alternative sources of energy, particularly nuclear, solar and wind energy.[113] India attained 63% overall energy self-sufficiency in 2017.[114][115]

The primary energy consumption in India grew by 2.3% in 2019 and is the third biggest after China and USA with 5.8% global share.[116][117] The total primary energy consumption from coal (452.2 Mtoe; 55.88%), crude oil (239.1 Mtoe; 29.55%), natural gas (49.9 Mtoe; 6.17%), nuclear energy (8.8 Mtoe; 1.09%), hydro electricity (31.6 Mtoe; 3.91%) and renewable power (27.5 Mtoe; 3.40%) is 809.2 Mtoe (excluding traditional biomass use) in the calendar year 2018.[118] In 2018, India's net imports are nearly 205.3 million tons of crude oil and its products, 26.3 Mtoe of LNG and 141.7 Mtoe coal totaling to 373.3 Mtoe of primary energy which is equal to 46.13% of total primary energy consumption. India is largely dependent on fossil fuel imports to meet its energy demands – by 2030, India's dependence on energy imports is expected to exceed 53% of the country's total energy consumption.[119] About 80% of India's electricity generation is from fossil fuels. India is surplus in electricity generation and also marginal exporter of electricity in 2017.[120] Since the end of calendar year 2015, huge power generation capacity has been idling for want of electricity demand.[121] India ranks second after China in renewables production with 208.7 Mtoe in 2016.[114]

In 2017-18, the per-capita energy consumption is 23.355 Giga Joules (0.558 Mtoe) excluding traditional biomass use and the energy intensity of the Indian economy is 0.2332 Mega Joules per INR (56 kcal/INR).[122][123] Due to rapid economic expansion, India has one of the world's fastest growing energy markets and is expected to be the second-largest contributor to the increase in global energy demand by 2035, accounting for 18% of the rise in global energy consumption.[124] Given India's growing energy demands and limited domestic oil and gas reserves, the country has ambitious plans to expand its renewable and most worked out nuclear power programme.[125] India has the world's fourth largest wind power market and also plans to add about 100,000 MW of solar power capacity by 2020.[126][127] India also envisages to increase the contribution of nuclear power to overall electricity generation capacity from 4.2% to 9% within 25 years.[128] The country has five nuclear reactors under construction (third highest in the world) and plans to construct 18 additional nuclear reactors (second highest in the world) by 2025.[129] During the year 2018, the total investment in energy sector by India was 4.1% (US$ 75 billion) of US$ 1.85 trillion global investment.[130]

Indian solar power PV tariff has fallen to 2.44 (3.4¢ US) per kWh in May 2017 which is lower than any other type of power generation in India.[131] In the year 2020, the levelized tariff in US dollars for solar PV electricity has fallen to 1.35 cents/kWh.[132][133] Also the international tariff of solar thermal storage power plants has fallen to US$0.063/kWh, which is cheaper than fossil fuel plants.[134][135][136] The cheaper hybrid solar power (mix of solar PV and solar thermal storage power) need not depend on costly and polluting coal/gas fired power generation for ensuring stable grid operation.[137] Solar electricity price is going to become the benchmark price for deciding the other fuel prices (petroleum products, natural gas/biogas/LNG, CNG, LPG, coal, lignite, biomass, etc.) based on their ultimate use and advantages.[138][139][140]

India: Total primary energy use of 882 Mtoe in 2017[141]

  Coal (44.3%)
  Biomass and waste (21.2%)
  Petroleum & oth. liquids (25.3%)
  Natural gas (5.8%)
  Nuclear (1.1%)
  Hydroelectric (1.4%)
  Other renewables (0.9%)


On 14 September 2012 the Japanese government decided at a ministerial meeting in Tokyo to phase out nuclear power by the 2030s, or 2040 at the very latest. The government said that it would take "all possible measures" to achieve this goal.[142] A few days later the government retrenched the planned nuclear phaseout after the industry pushed for reconsideration. Arguments cited were that a nuclear phaseout would burden the economy and that imports of oil, coal, and gas would bring high added costs. The government then approved the energy transition, but left open the time-frame for decommissioning the nuclear power stations.[143]

South KoreaEdit

The basic ideology of the Korean energy transition can be found in the remarks by President Moon Jae-in at a ceremony marking the permanent closure of the Kori No.1 nuclear reactor (19 June 2017). In his remarks, he mentioned that since "an understanding that the lives and safety of the people are more important than anything else has been firmly established as a social consensus, the national energy policy should also be in step with these changes" and that "an era of clean energy, in which public safety is the top priority, is the goal that our energy policy should pursue." [144]

The Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) has claimed that an energy transition is necessary in order to comply with the public's demands for their lives, their safety, and the environment. In addition, the ministry has stated that the direction of the future energy policy is "to transition (from conventional energy sources) to safe and clean energy sources." Unlike in the past, the keynote of the policy is to put emphasis on safety and the environment rather than on stability of supply and demand and economic feasibility and is to shift its reliance on nuclear power and coal to clean energy sources like renewables.[145]

The energy transition in South Korea is a transition towards safe and clean energy with priority given to renewables. In 1981, the primary energy was sourced predominantly by oil and coal with oil accounting for 58.1% and coal 33.3%. As the shares of nuclear power and liquefied natural gas have increased over the years, the share of oil has decreased gradually. The primary energy broke down as follows in 1990: 54% oil, 26% coal, 14% nuclear power, 3% liquefied natural gas, and 3% renewables. Later on, with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country through international cooperation and to improve environmental and safety performances, it broke down as follows in 2017: 40% oil, 29% coal, 16% liquefied natural gas, 10% nuclear power, and 5% renewables. [146] Under the 8th Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity Supply and Demand, presented at the end of 2017, the shares of nuclear and coal are getting decreased while the share of renewables is expanding.

In June 2019, the Korean government confirmed the Third Energy Master Plan, also called a constitutional law of the energy sector and renewed every five years. Its goal is to achieve sustainable growth and enhance the quality of life through energy transition. There are five major tasks to achieve this goal. First, with regards to consumption, the goal is to improve energy consumption efficiency by 38% compared to the level of 2017 and to reduce energy consumption by 18.6% below the BAU level by 2040. Second, with respect to generation, the task is to bring a transition towards a safe and clean energy mix by raising the share of renewable energy in power generation (30~35% by 2040) and by implementing a gradual phase-out of nuclear power and a drastic reduction of coal. Third, regarding the systems, the task is to raise the share of distributed generation nearby where demand is created with renewables and fuel cells and to enhance the roles and responsibility of local governments and residents. Fourth, with regards to the industry, the task is to foster businesses related to renewables, hydrogen, and energy efficiency as a future energy industry, to help the conventional energy industry develop higher value-added businesses, and to support the nuclear power industry to maintain its main ecosystem. The fifth task is to improve the energy market system of electricity, gas, and heat in order to promote energy transition and is to develop an energy big data platform in order to create new businesses. [147] [148]

<Progress in the Korean Energy Transition - Policies and Plans>[149]
Title Date Contents
Energy Transition Road Map October 2017 · policy direction of a gradual nuclear phase-out

· cancellation of plans for new nuclear reactors,

no extension of lifespan of old reactors

Renewable Energy 3020 Plan December 2017 · measures to improve renewables deployment

in order to raise its share in the power generation

to 20% by 2030(7.6% as of 2017)

The 8th Basic Plan for Long-term

Electricity Supply and Demand

December 2017 · configuration measures for power facilities with

improved environmental and safety performances

by 2030

Energy Transition(Nuclear)

Complementary Measure

May 2018 · follow-up and complementary measures for the

neighboring areas (industry, human resources) in

the process of a gradual phase-out

Solutions to Side Effects of Solar

and Wind Energy

June 2018 · solutions to side effects such as environmental

damage, NIMBY, real estate speculation, consumer

damage, etc.

Hydrogen Economy Road Map January 2019 · development of hydrogen industry ecosystem with

hydrogen vehicles and fuel cells

Reinforcement of Renewable

Energy Competitiveness

April 2019 · laying the groundwork for domestic renewable

industry and strengthening its global competitiveness

The Third Energy Master Plan June 2019 · a mid- and long-term vision of energy transition

with respect to energy generation, distribution,

consumption, industry, etc.

The National Plan for Energy

Efficiency Innovation

June 2019 · a mid- and long-term plan to innovate the energy

consumption structure by 2030

The 9th Basic Plan for Long-term

Electricity Supply and Demand

The 5th National Basic Plan for

New and Renewable Energy



United KingdomEdit

By law production of greenhouse gas emissions by the United Kingdom will be reduced to net zero by 2050. To help in reaching this statutory goal national energy policy is mainly focusing on the country's wind power, and in particular is strongly promoting the expansion of offshore wind power. The increase in national renewable power together with the 20% of electricity generated by nuclear power in the United Kingdom meant that by 2019 low carbon British electricity had overtaken that generated by fossil fuels.[150]

In order to meet the net zero target energy networks must be strengthened.[151] Electricity is only a part of energy in the United Kingdom, so natural gas used for industrial and residential heat[152] and petroleum used for transport in the United Kingdom must also be replaced[153] by either electricity or another form of low-carbon energy, such as sustainable bioenergy crops[154] or green hydrogen.[155]

Although the need for the renewable energy transition is not disputed by any major political party, in 2020 there is debate about how much of the funding to try and escape the COVID-19 recession should be spent on the transition, and how many jobs could be created, for example in improving energy efficiency in British housing.[156] Some believe that due to post-covid government debt that funding for the transition will be insufficient.[157] Brexit may significantly affect the energy transition, but this is unclear as of 2020.[158] The government is urging UK business to sponsor the climate change conference in 2021, possibly including energy companies but only if they have a credible short term plan for the energy transition.[159]

United StatesEdit

U.S. energy consumption by source.

The Obama administration made a large push for green jobs, particularly in his first term.[160]

In the United States, the share of renewable energy (excluding hydropower) in electricity generation has grown from 3.3 percent (1990) to 5.5 percent (2013).[161] Oil use will decline in the USA owing to the increasing efficiency of the vehicle fleet and replacement of crude oil by natural gas as a feedstock for the petrochemical sector. One forecast is that the rapid uptake of electric vehicles will reduce oil demand drastically, to the point where it is 80% lower in 2050 compared with today.[162]

In December 2016, Block Island Wind Farm became the first commercial US offshore wind farm. It consists of five 6 MW turbines (together 30 MW) located near-shore (3.8 miles (6.1 km) from Block Island, Rhode Island) in the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, Norway-based oil major Statoil laid down nearly $42.5 million on a bid to lease a large offshore area off the coast of New York.[163]

Energy Policy of the United StatesEdit

The energy policy of the United States is determined by federal, state, and local entities in the United States, which address issues of energy production, distribution, and consumption, such as building codes and gas mileage standards. Energy policy may include legislation, international treaties, subsidies and incentives to investment, guidelines for energy conservation, taxation and other public policy techniques.

Several mandates have been proposed over the years, such as gasoline will never exceed $1.00/gallon (Nixon) ($0.26 per liter), and the United States will never again import as much oil as it did in 1977 (Carter),[164] but no comprehensive long-term energy policy has been proposed, although there has been concern over this failure.[165] Three Energy Policy Acts have been passed, in 1992, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2009[166] which include many provisions for conservation, such as the Energy Star program, and energy development, with grants and tax incentives for both renewable energy and non-renewable energy.

There is also criticism that federal energy policies since the 1973 oil crisis have been dominated by crisis-mentality thinking, promoting expensive quick fixes and single-shot solutions that ignore market and technology realities. Instead of providing stable rules that support basic research while leaving plenty of scope for American entrepreneurship and innovation, congresses and presidents have repeatedly backed policies which promise solutions that are politically expedient, but whose prospects are doubtful, without adequate consideration of the dollar costs, environmental costs, or national security costs of their actions.[167][168] By 2018, the US is on the verge of achieving energy security or self-sufficiency as the total export of coal, natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products are exceeding imports.[169][170] The US had a trade surplus in the energy sector by 2018.[171][172] In the second half of 2019, the US is the top producer of oil and gas in the world.[173] After becoming net exporter of crude oil and its products for a brief period of less than one year, US is expected to become net importer of crude oil and its products in 2020 due to fall in price of crude oil.[174][175]

State-specific energy efficiency incentive programs also play a significant role in the overall energy policy of the United States.[176]

The United States refused to endorse the Kyoto Protocol, preferring to let the market drive CO2 reductions to mitigate global warming, which will require CO2 emission taxation. The administration of Barack Obama proposed an aggressive energy policy reform, including the need for a reduction of CO2 emissions, with a cap and trade program, which could help encourage more clean renewable, sustainable energy development.[177] With new technologies such as fracking, the United States has in 2014 resumed its former role as the top oil producer in the world.[178] On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation.[179]

100% renewable energyEdit

Renewable energy expressed in % of total energy consumption (2015)

100% renewable energy refers to an energy system where all energy use is sourced from renewable energy sources. The endeavor to use 100% renewable energy for electricity, heating/cooling and transport is motivated by global warming, pollution and other environmental issues, as well as economic and energy security concerns. Shifting the total global primary energy supply to renewable sources requires a transition of the energy system, since most of today's energy is derived from non-renewable fossil fuels.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change there are few fundamental technological limits to integrating a portfolio of renewable energy technologies to meet most of total global energy demand. Renewable energy use has grown more quickly than even advocates anticipated.[180] As of 2019, however, it needs to grow six times faster to limit global warming to 2 °C (3.6 °F).[181]

100% renewable energy in a country is typically a more challenging goal than carbon neutrality.[citation needed] The latter is a climate mitigation target, politically decided by many countries, and may also be achieved by balancing the total carbon footprint of the country (not only emissions from energy and fuel) with carbon dioxide removal and carbon projects abroad.

In 2014, renewable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, and burnt waste provided 19% of the total energy consumed worldwide, with roughly half of that coming from traditional use of biomass.[182] The most important[clarification needed] sector is electricity with a renewable share of 22.8%, most of it coming from hydropower with a share of 16.6%, followed by wind with 3.1%.[182] As of 2018 according to REN21 transformation is picking up speed in the power sector, but urgent action is required in heating, cooling and transport.[183] There are many places around the world with grids that are run almost exclusively on renewable energy. At the national level, at least 30 nations already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of the energy supply.[citation needed]

According to a review of the 181 peer-reviewed papers on 100% renewable energy which were published until 2018, "[t]he great majority of all publications highlights the technical feasibility and economic viability of 100% RE systems." While there are still many publications which focus on electricity only, there is a growing number of papers that cover different energy sectors and sector-coupled, integrated energy systems. This cross-sectoral, holistic approach is seen as an important feature of 100% renewable energy systems and is based on the assumption "that the best solutions can be found only if one focuses on the synergies between the sectors" of the energy system such as electricity, heat, transport or industry.[184]

Professors S. Pacala and Robert H. Socolow of Princeton University have developed a series of "climate stabilization wedges" that can allow us to maintain our quality of life while avoiding catastrophic climate change, and "renewable energy sources," in aggregate, constitute the largest number of their "wedges."[185]

Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of its Atmosphere and Energy program, says that producing all new energy with wind power, solar power, and hydropower by 2030 is feasible, and that existing energy supply arrangements could be replaced by 2050.[186] Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be "primarily social and political, not technological or economic".[187] Jacobson says that energy costs today with a wind, solar, and water system should be similar to today's energy costs from other optimally cost-effective strategies.[188] The main obstacle against this scenario is the lack of political will.[189] His conclusions have been disputed by other researchers.[190] Jacobson published a response that disputed the piece point by point[191] and claimed that the authors were motivated by allegiance to energy technologies that the 2015 paper excluded.[190]

Similarly, in the United States, the independent National Research Council has noted that "sufficient domestic renewable resources exist to allow renewable electricity to play a significant role in future electricity generation and thus help confront issues related to climate change, energy security, and the escalation of energy costs ... Renewable energy is an attractive option because renewable resources available in the United States, taken collectively, can supply significantly greater amounts of electricity than the total current or projected domestic demand."[192]

The main barriers to the widespread implementation of large-scale renewable energy and low-carbon energy strategies are political rather than technological. According to the 2013 Post Carbon Pathways report, which reviewed many international studies, the key roadblocks are: climate change denial, the fossil fuels lobby, political inaction, unsustainable energy consumption, outdated energy infrastructure, and financial constraints.[193]


Using 100% renewable energy was first suggested in a paper in Science[194] published in 1975 by Danish physicist Bent Sørensen, which was followed by several other proposals.[195] In 1976 energy policy analyst Amory Lovins coined the term "soft energy path" to describe an alternative future where energy efficiency and appropriate renewable energy sources steadily replace a centralized energy system based on fossil and nuclear fuels.[196]

In 1998 the first detailed analysis of scenarios with very high shares of renewables were published. These were followed by the first detailed 100% scenarios. In 2006 a PhD thesis was published by Czisch in which it was shown that in a 100% renewable scenario energy supply could match demand in every hour of the year in Europe and North Africa. In the same year Danish Energy professor Henrik Lund published a first paper[197] in which he addresses the optimal combination of renewables, which was followed by several other papers on the transition to 100% renewable energy in Denmark. Since then Lund has been publishing several papers on 100% renewable energy. After 2009 publications began to rise steeply, covering 100% scenarios for countries in Europe, America, Australia and other parts of the world.[195]

Even in the early 21st century it was extraordinary for scientists and decision-makers to consider the concept of 100% renewable electricity. However, renewable energy progress has been so rapid that things have totally changed since then:[198]

Solar photovoltaic modules have dropped about 75 percent in price. Current scientific and technological advances in the laboratory suggest that they will soon be so cheap that the principal cost of going solar on residential and commercial buildings will be installation. On-shore wind power is spreading over all continents and is economically competitive with fossil and nuclear power in several regions. Concentrated solar thermal power (CST) with thermal storage has moved from the demonstration stage of maturity to the limited commercial stage and still has the potential for further cost reductions of about 50 percent.[198]

Renewable energy use has grown much faster than even advocates had anticipated.[180] Wind turbines generate 39[199] percent of Danish electricity, and Denmark has many biogas digesters and waste-to-energy plants as well. Together, wind and biomass provide 44% of the electricity consumed by the country's six million inhabitants. In 2010, Portugal's 10 million people produced more than half their electricity from indigenous renewable energy resources. Spain's 40 million inhabitants meet one-third of their electrical needs from renewables.[180]

Renewable energy has a history of strong public support. In America, for example, a 2013 Gallup survey showed that two in three Americans want the U.S. to increase domestic energy production using solar power (76%), wind power (71%), and natural gas (65%). Far fewer want more petroleum production (46%) and more nuclear power (37%). Least favored is coal, with about one in three Americans favouring it.[200]

REN21 says renewable energy already plays a significant role and there are many policy targets which aim to increase this:

At the national level, at least 30 nations around the world already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of energy supply. National renewable energy markets are projected to continue to grow strongly in the coming decade and beyond, and some 120 countries have various policy targets for longer-term shares of renewable energy, including a binding 20% by 2020 target for the European Union. Some countries have much higher long-term policy targets of up to 100% renewables. Outside Europe, a diverse group of 20 or more other countries target renewable energy shares in the 2020–2030 time frame that range from 10% to 50%.[201]

Nuclear power involves accident risks with substantial consequences (e.g., Fukushima nuclear disaster, Chernobyl disaster) and the expensive problem of safe long-term high-level radioactive waste management, and carbon capture and storage has rather limited safe storage potentials.[195] These constraints have also led to an interest in 100% renewable energy. A well established body of academic literature has been written over the past decade[when?], evaluating scenarios for 100% renewable energy for various geographical areas. In recent years[when?], more detailed analyses have emerged from government and industry sources.[202] The incentive to use 100% renewable energy is created by global warming and ecological as well as economic concerns, post peak oil.

The first country to propose 100% renewable energy was Iceland, in 1998.[203] Proposals have been made for Japan in 2003,[204] and for Australia in 2011.[205] Albania, Iceland, and Paraguay obtain essentially all of their electricity from renewable sources (Albania and Paraguay 100% from hydroelectricity, Iceland 72% hydro and 28% geothermal).[206] Norway obtains nearly all of its electricity from renewable sources (97 percent from hydropower).[207] Iceland proposed using hydrogen for transportation and its fishing fleet. Australia proposed biofuel for those elements of transportation not easily converted to electricity. The road map for the United States,[208][209] commitment by Denmark,[210] and Vision 2050 for Europe set a 2050 timeline for converting to 100% renewable energy,[211] later reduced to 2040 in 2011.[212] Zero Carbon Britain 2030 proposes eliminating carbon emissions in Britain by 2030 by transitioning to renewable energy.[213] In 2015, Hawaii enacted a law that the Renewable Portfolio Standard shall be 100 percent by 2045. This is often confused with renewable energy. If electricity produced on the grid is 65 GWh from fossil fuel and 35 GWh from renewable energy and rooftop off grid solar produces 80 GWh of renewable energy then the total renewable energy is 115 GWh and the total electricity on the grid is 100 GWh. Then the RPS is 115 percent.[214]

Cities like Paris and Strasbourg in France, planned to use 100% renewable energy by 2050.[215][216]

It is estimated that the world will spend an extra $8 trillion over the next 25 years to prolong the use of non-renewable resources, a cost that would be eliminated by transitioning instead to 100% renewable energy.[217] Research that has been published in Energy Policy suggests that converting the entire world to 100% renewable energy by 2050 is both possible and affordable, but requires political support.[218][219] It would require building many more wind turbines and solar power systems but wouldn't utilize bioenergy. Other changes involve use of electric cars and the development of enhanced transmission grids and storage.[220][221] As part of the Paris Agreement, countries periodically update their climate change targets for the future, by 2018 no G20 country had committed to a 100% renewable target.[222]

Until 2018 there were 181 peer-reviewed papers on 100% renewable energy. In the same year, 100% renewable energy was also mentioned in the Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C as a potential means to "expand the range of 1.5 °C pathways", if the findings can be corroborated.[184]

Feasibility studiesEdit

In 2011, the refereed journal Energy Policy published two articles by Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of engineering at Stanford University, and research scientist Mark A. Delucchi, about changing our energy supply mix and "Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power". The articles analyze the feasibility of providing worldwide energy for electric power, transportation, and heating/cooling from wind, water, and sunlight (WWS), which are safe clean options. In Part I, Jacobson and Delucchi discuss WWS energy system characteristics, aspects of energy demand, WWS resource availability, WWS devices needed, and material requirements.[223] They estimate that 3,800,000 5 MW wind turbines, 5350 100 MW geothermal power plants, and 270 new 1300 MW hydroelectric power plants will be required. In terms of solar power, an additional 49,000 300 MW concentrating solar plants, 40,000 300 MW solar photovoltaic power plants, and 1.7 billion 3 kW rooftop photovoltaic systems will also be needed. Such an extensive WWS infrastructure could decrease world power demand by 30%.[223] In Part II, Jacobson and Delucchi address variability of supply, system economics, and energy policy initiatives associated with a WWS system. The authors advocate producing all new energy with WWS by 2030 and replacing existing energy supply arrangements by 2050. Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be "primarily social and political, not technological or economic". Energy costs with a WWS system should be similar to today's energy costs.[224]

In general, Jacobson has said wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world's energy, eliminating all fossil fuels.[225] He advocates a "smart mix" of renewable energy sources to reliably meet electricity demand:

Because the wind blows during stormy conditions when the sun does not shine and the sun often shines on calm days with little wind, combining wind and solar can go a long way toward meeting demand, especially when geothermal provides a steady base and hydroelectric can be called on to fill in the gaps.[226]

A 2012 study by the University of Delaware for a 72 GW system considered 28 billion combinations of renewable energy and storage and found the most cost-effective, for the PJM Interconnection, would use 17 GW of solar, 68 GW of offshore wind, and 115 GW of onshore wind, although at times as much as three times the demand would be provided. 0.1% of the time would require generation from other sources.[227]

In March 2012, Denmark's parliament agreed on a comprehensive new set promotional programs for energy efficiency and renewable energy that will lead to the country getting 100 percent of electricity, heat and fuels from renewables by 2050.[228] IRENEC is an annual conference on 100% renewable energy started in 2011 by Eurosolar Turkey. The 2013 conference was in Istanbul.[229][230]

More recently, Jacobson and his colleagues have developed detailed proposals for switching to 100% renewable energy produced by wind, water and sunlight, for New York,[231] California[232] and Washington[233] states, by 2050. As of 2014, a more expansive new plan for the 50 states has been drawn up, which includes an online interactive map showing the renewable resource potential of each of the 50 states. The 50-state plan is part of The Solutions Project, an independent outreach effort led by Jacobson, actor Mark Ruffalo, and film director Josh Fox.[234]

As of 2014, many detailed assessments show that the energy service needs of a world enjoying radically higher levels of wellbeing, can be economically met entirely through the diverse currently available technological and organisational innovations around wind, solar, biomass, biofuel, hydro, ocean and geothermal energy. Debate over detailed plans remain, but transformations in global energy services based entirely around renewable energy are in principle technically practicable, economically feasible, socially viable, and so realisable. This prospect underpins the ambitious commitment by Germany, one of the world's most successful industrial economies, to undertake a major energy transition, Energiewende.[235]

In 2015 a study was published in Energy and Environmental Science that describes a pathway to 100% renewable energy in the United States by 2050 without using biomass. Implementation of this roadmap is regarded as both environmentally and economically feasible and reasonable, as by 2050 it would save about $600 Billion Dollars health costs a year due to reduced air pollution and $3.3 Trillion global warming costs. This would translate in yearly cost savings per head of around $8300 compared to a business as usual pathway. According to that study, barriers that could hamper implementation are neither technical nor economic but social and political, as most people didn't know that benefits from such a transformation far exceeded the costs.[236]

In June 2017, twenty-one researchers published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America rejecting Jacobson's earlier PNAS article, accusing him of modeling errors and of using invalid modeling tools.[237][238] They further asserted he made implausible assumptions through his reliance upon increasing national energy storage from 43 minutes to 7 weeks, increasing hydrogen production by 100,000%, and increasing hydropower by the equivalent of 600 Hoover Dams.[237] Article authors David G. Victor called Jacobson's work "dangerous" and Ken Caldeira emphasized that increasing hydropower output by 1,300 gigawatts, a 25% increase, is the equivalent flow of 100 Mississippi Rivers.[237] Jacobson published a response in the same issue of the PNAS and also authored a blog post where he asserted the researchers were advocates of the fossil fuel industry.[237][239][240] Another study published in 2017 confirmed the earlier results for a 100% renewable power system for North America, without changes in hydropower assumptions, but with more realistic emphasis on a balanced storage portfolio, in particular seasonal storage, and for competitive economics.[241]

In 2015, Jacobson and Delucchi, together with Mary Cameron and Bethany Frew, examined with computer simulation (LOADMATCH), in more detail how a wind-water-solar (WWS) system can track the energy demand from minute to minute. This turned out to be possible in the United States for 6 years, including WWS variability by extreme weather events.[242] In 2017, the plan was further developed for 139 countries by a team of 27 researchers[243] and in 2018, Jacobson and Delucchi with Mary Cameron and Brian Mathiesen published the LOADMATCH results for 20 regions in which the 139 countries in the world are divided. According to this research, a WWS system can follow the demand in all regions.[244][245]

Places with near 100% renewable electricityEdit

Some countries meet 90% or more of their average yearly electricity demand with renewable energy. Some other places have high percentages, for example the electricity sector in Denmark, as of 2014, is 45% wind power, with plans in place to reach 85%. The electricity sector in Canada and the electricity sector in New Zealand have even higher percentages of renewables (mostly hydro), 65% and 75% respectively, and Austria is approaching 70%.[246] As of 2015, the electricity sector in Germany sometimes meets almost 100% of the electricity demand with PV and wind power, and renewable electricity is over 25%.[247][248] Albania has 94.8% of installed capacity as hydroelectric, 5.2% diesel generator; but Albania imports 39% of its electricity.[249][250] In 2016, Portugal achieved 100% renewable electricity for four days between 7 and 11 May, partly because efficient energy use had reduced electricity demand.[251] France and Sweden have low carbon intensity, since they predominantly use a mixture of nuclear power and hydroelectricity. In 2018 Scotland met 76% of their demand from renewable sources.[252][253]

Although electricity is currently a big fraction of primary energy; it is to be expected that with renewable energy deployment primary energy use will go down sharply as electricity use increases, as it is likely to be combined with some degree of further electrification.[254][255] For example, electric cars achieve much better fuel efficiency than fossil fuel cars, and another example is renewable heat such as in the case of Denmark which is proposing to move to greater use of heat pumps for heating buildings which provide multiple kilowatts of heat per kilowatt of electricity.

100% clean electricityEdit

Other electricity generating sources are considered clean, though not necessarily renewable, as they also do not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases and air pollutants. The largest of these is nuclear energy which produces no emissions. Carbon capture and storage projects may still use coal or natural gas but capture carbon dioxide for storage or alternative uses. Pathways to eliminate greenhouse gases may include these in addition to renewable energy so as to avoid shutting down existing plants and allow for flexibility in designing a carbon-free electric grid.

In 2018 California passed SB 100, which will mandate 100% clean, carbon-free by 2045, including a 60% renewable electricity goal by 2030.[256][257] 2019 legislation in Washington will also require 100% clean electricity by 2045, eliminating coal by 2025.[258] Further states and territories that will require 100% carbon-free electricity are Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Virginia, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC.[259]


The most significant barriers to the widespread implementation of large-scale renewable energy and low carbon energy strategies, at the pace required to prevent runaway climate change, are primarily political and not technological.[187][dubious ] According to the 2013 Post Carbon Pathways report, which reviewed many international studies, the key roadblocks are:[193]

NASA Climate scientist James Hansen discusses the problem with a rapid phase out of fossil fuels and said that while it is conceivable in places such as New Zealand and Norway, "suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy."[260][261] In 2013, Smil analyzed proposals to depend on wind and solar-generated electricity including the proposals of Jacobson and colleagues, and writing in an issue of Spectrum prepared by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, he identified numerous points of concern, such as cost, intermittent power supply, growing NIMBYism, and a lack of infrastructure as negative factors and said that "History and a consideration of the technical requirements show that the problem is much greater than these advocates have supposed."[260][262] Smil and Hansen are concerned about the variable output of solar and wind power, but American physicist Amory Lovins has said that the electricity grid can cope, just as it routinely backs up nonworking coal-fired and nuclear plants with working ones.[263]

In 1999 American academic Dr. Gregory Unruh published a dissertation identifying the systemic barriers to the adoption and diffusion of renewable energy technologies. This theoretical framework was called Carbon Lock-in and pointed to the creation of self-reinforcing feedbacks that arise through the co-evolution of large technological systems, like electricity and transportation networks, with the social and political institutions that support and benefit from system growth. Once established, these techno-institutional complexes[264] become "locked-in" and resist efforts to transform them towards more environmentally sustainable systems based on renewable sources.

Lester R. Brown founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., says a rapid transition to 100% renewable energy is both possible and necessary. Brown compares with the U.S. entry into World War II and the subsequent rapid mobilization and transformation of the US industry and economy. A quick transition to 100% renewable energy and saving of our civilization is proposed by Brown to follow an approach with similar urgency.[265]

The International Energy Agency says that there has been too much attention on issue of the variability of renewable electricity production.[266] The issue of intermittent supply applies to popular renewable technologies, mainly wind power and solar photovoltaics, and its significance depends on a range of factors which include the market penetration of the renewables concerned, the balance of plant and the wider connectivity of the system, as well as the demand side flexibility. Variability will rarely be a barrier to increased renewable energy deployment when dispatchable generation such as hydroelectricity or solar thermal storage is also available. But at high levels of market penetration it requires careful analysis and management, and additional costs may be required for back-up or system modification.[266] Renewable electricity supply in the 20-50+% penetration range has already been implemented in several European systems, albeit in the context of an integrated European grid system:[267]

In 2011, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world's leading climate researchers selected by the United Nations, said "as infrastructure and energy systems develop, in spite of the complexities, there are few, if any, fundamental technological limits to integrating a portfolio of renewable energy technologies to meet a majority share of total energy demand in locations where suitable renewable resources exist or can be supplied".[268] IPCC scenarios "generally indicate that growth in renewable energy will be widespread around the world".[269] The IPCC said that if governments were supportive, and the full complement of renewable energy technologies were deployed, renewable energy supply could account for almost 80% of the world's energy use within forty years.[270] Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, said the necessary investment in renewables would cost only about 1% of global GDP annually. This approach could contain greenhouse gas levels to less than 450 parts per million, the safe level beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible.[270]

In November 2014 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change came out with their fifth report, saying that in the absence of any one technology (such as bioenergy, carbon dioxide capture and storage, nuclear, wind and solar), climate change mitigation costs can increase substantially depending on which technology is absent. For example, it may cost 40% more to reduce carbon emissions without carbon dioxide capture. (Table 3.2)[271]

Google spent $30 million on their RE<C project to develop renewable energy and stave off catastrophic climate change. The project was cancelled after concluding that a best-case scenario for rapid advances in renewable energy could only result in emissions 55 percent below the fossil fuel projections for 2050.[272]

Seasonal energy storageEdit

Hydropower is currently the only large scale low-carbon seasonal energy storage. In countries with high variation in energy demand by season (for example the UK uses far more gas for heating in the winter than it uses electricity) but lacking hydropower electrical interconnectors to countries with lots of hydropower (e.g. UK - Norway) will probably be insufficient and development of a hydrogen economy will likely be needed: this is being trialled in the UK and 8 TWh of inter-seasonal hydrogen energy storage has been proposed.[273]

In Australia as well as storing renewable energy as hydrogen it is also proposed to be exported in the form of ammonia.[274]

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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit