Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy Comparison: What They Are, Differences, & Examples

Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy Comparison: What They Are, Differences, & Examples

This is a comparison guide of onshore vs offshore wind energy.

We look at what each one is, their differences and examples of current large wind projects globally.

 

Summary – Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy

  • Wind energy involves the use of the wind to turn wind turbine blades, which in turn generates electricity via a generator
  • Onshore wind energy far outpaces offshore wind energy in installed capacity and electricity production/generation, but, offshore wind energy is still looked at as having good long term potential for growth
  • Offshore wind energy has traditionally been more expensive, but is becoming more price competitive recently (especially in Europe). Offshore wind energy usually has higher wind speeds available.
  • Wind energy in general has a strong future due to projected growth across a number of areas over the coming years

 

How Wind Energy Works

Wind energy is pretty simple in theory:

  • Kinetic energy from wind hits a wind turbine’s blades and turns that energy into rotational energy
  • The blades are connected to a shaft in the turbine, and this shaft is connected to a generator
  • The generator creates electrical energy through electromagnetism

– irena.org

 

Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy – What They Are

Onshore wind energy is land based wind turbines and wind farms.

Offshore wind energy is wind turbines located in seawater or freshwater sources.

A better explanation of offshore wind energy might be:

  • Offshore wind energy is the use of wind farms constructed in bodies of water, usually in the ocean on the continental shelf, to harvest wind energy to generate electricity. 
  • … [it] includes inshore water areas such as lakes, fjords and sheltered coastal areas, utilizing traditional fixed-bottom wind turbine technologies, as well as deeper-water areas utilizing floating wind turbines

– wikipedia.org

 

Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy – Differences, Costs, Power, Efficiency Etc.

Apart from the obvious location based difference between the two (land vs water based), there are additional differences between onshore and offshore wind.

Offshore wind energy has traditionally been more expensive, and higher wind speeds are usually available offshore (leading to better efficiency per capacity installed).

 

  • The cost of offshore wind power has historically been higher than that of onshore wind generation, but costs have been decreasing rapidly in recent years and in Europe has been price-competitive with conventional power sources since 2017
  • Higher wind speeds are available offshore compared to on land, so offshore wind power’s electricity generation is higher per amount of capacity installed … [and] opposition to construction is usually much weaker

– wikipedia.org

 

Wind speed can be a key variable, because:

  • Theoretically, when wind speed doubles, wind power potential increases by a factor of eight.
  • The amount of power that can be harvested from wind depends on the size of the turbine and the length of its blades. The output is proportional to the dimensions of the rotor and to the cube of the wind speed

– irena.org

 

Global Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Wind Energy

Worldwide, wind energy installed capacity, production and consumption stats are:

  • At the end of 2018, made up 24% of installed capacity for renewables
  • At the end of 2018, made up 5.5% of total global electricity production
  • At the end of 2016, was the second most consumed renewable energy source for electricity

– bettermeetsreality.com

 

  • Between 2012 to 2018, solar PV led all renewables in annual additional installed capacity by a wide margin, followed by wind energy, hydropower, and all other renewables as a group behind that (including solar CSP/thermal)

– vox.com

 

  • … in 2016 wind energy accounted for 16% of the electricity generated by renewables

– irena.org

 

Onshore vs Offshore Wind Energy Electricity Generation Globally

In 2016:

  • Onshore wind energy was responsible for 916,313 GWh of electricity generation
  • Offshore wind energy was responsible for 41,596 GWh of electricity generation

Onshore wind energy has far exceeded offshore wind energy electricity generation, even stretching back to 2010.

But, offshore wind energy offers big potential.

– irena.org

 

Investment In Wind Energy

In 2016, solar and wind energy by far had the most investment money on a global level compared to other renewable energy sources.

 

Future Growth Of Wind Energy

Wind energy is expected to continue growing strongly in the future.

 

  • Wind energy is expected to grow from 9% of total renewable energy consumption in 2017, to 12% of renewable energy consumption in 2023.

– iea.org

 

  • Wind capacity is forecast to grow by 324 GW and reach 839 GW by 2023, with offshore wind accounting for 10% of the increase
  • Offshore wind capacity is expected to almost triple to nearly 52 GW in 2023, with half the growth driven by the European Union and the other half by China and other Asian countries
  • Onshore wind capacity growth could be 25% higher globally, increasing annual additions to over 60 GW over the forecast period

– iea.org

 

Examples Onshore & Offshore Wind Energy Worldwide – Largest Wind Farms, Countries With The Largest Wind Farms

You can view lists at:

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_onshore_wind_farms
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_offshore_wind_farms

China, the US and India have some of the largest current onshore wind farms.

Europe (UK and Germany, amongst others countries) and Asia (China mainly) have some of the largest current offshore wind farms.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-that-invest-the-most-in-renewable-energy-what-they-invest-in/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-types-of-renewable-energy-sources-with-examples/

4. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/6/18/18681591/renewable-energy-china-solar-pv-jobs

5. https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/

6. https://www.iea.org/wei2018/ (includes figures for auction amounts of onshore and offshore wind)

7. https://www.irena.org/wind

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_onshore_wind_farms

9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offshore_wind_power

10. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_offshore_wind_farms

11. https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/power/

What Is The Future Of Renewable Energy?

What Is The Future Of Renewable Energy?

The aim of this guide is to get an objective idea of what the future of renewable energy might look like.

To do this, we look at some of the current trends to do with renewable energy, and look at how they might develop going forward.

 

Summary – What Is The Future Of Renewable Energy

  • The amount of renewable energy being used for electricity worldwide has significantly increased over the last few decades
  • Hydropower currently provides the most electricity of any renewable energy source
  • The next logical sectors to progress into (in terms of energy generation from renewables) over the medium to long term after the power/electricity sector are, transport, and heating and cooling, which are primarily fossil fuel driven at the moment
  • Investment in renewables has increased over the last decade – with solar and wind receiving majority of global investment money
  • The number of cities sourcing an increasing amount of their electricity from renewables has grown over the past decade (e.g. As of January 2018, 42 cities were getting at least 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, 59 cities were at at least 70%, and 22 cities at at least 50%)
  • There’s also roughly 12 countries at the moment that are sourcing over 90% of their electricity from renewables
  • Looking at these stats, and as long as investment and government support is strong, it’s expected renewable energy use will keep on growing, especially as the cost for renewables becomes more competitive compared to fossil fuels (due to economies of scale, increased demand, fossil fuels becoming more expensive with new environmental regulations and requirements for eco friendly fossil fuel plants, and so on)
  • There are many cities and countries with renewable energy targets for the future (i.e. by the years 2025, 2030, 2040 and 2050)
  • China is currently the world leader in both renewable energy generation and consumption, and renewable energy investment. But, China is also the world leader in coal use
  • There are a number of factors that can impact how quickly a country or city will look to transition to an energy mix with an increasing share of renewables and reduced fossil fuels. Each town, city, region, country (especially developed vs developing countries) has different factors, variables and scenarios they face with a transition. Some places (like the MidWest and California in the US for example) are pushing harder for renewables than others
  • There are a number of studies and published reports that indicate we can run on renewables (either in majority in an energy mix, or in full) either globally or on a country by country basis, with solar, wind and hydro (pumped hydro energy storage energy) being some of the major suggested renewable energy sources
  • There are challenges with transitioning to renewables, such as the issues faced by Germany and China (like variability, not having an power grid, not having adequate transmission lines, upfront costs, and more)
  • There are many potential benefits as well though, including addressing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, reducing air pollution, creation of jobs, addressing scarcity of fossil fuel resources, energy independence, reducing the impact of mining and other environmental issues, and more

 

Below are some relevant guides that provide more insight on where we may potentially be heading with the use of renewable energy sources in the future for both electricity, and the overall energy needs of our societies:

 

Current Energy & Electricity Mixes Of Some Of The Major Countries In The World

 

Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption Of Renewable Energy Worldwide

 

Countries & Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy

 

Countries That Invest The Most In Renewable Energy

 

Future Of Energy In China

 

Future Of Energy In The United States

 

Can Renewables Replace Fossil Fuels, Meet Demand, & Power The World?

 

Other Resources On Renewable Energy

 

Sources

1. Various BMR guides

Can Renewable Energy Replace Fossil Fuels, Meet Demand, & Power The World? (Moving Towards 100% Renewable Energy)

Can Renewable Energy Replace Fossil Fuels, Meet Demand, & Power The World? (Moving Towards 100% Renewable Energy)

We know that renewable energy is already being used in many places across the world.

But, can renewable energy replace fossil fuels, meet demand, and power the world?

Could we eventually see a world run 100% on renewable energy?

These are the questions we have to answer and summarise in this guide.

 

Summary – Can Renewable Energy Replace Fossil Fuels, Meet Demand, & Power The World?

  • Energy is required across many sectors in society
  • At the moment, renewable energy has made the biggest impact in electricity generation and consumption, with hydropower accounting for majority of the impact 
  • The transport, and heating and cooling sectors are still primarily run on fossil fuels (but in the future, there will likely be more progress made to electrify these sectors with renewable energy sources in the energy mix) 
  • Some major countries in the world like China and India still use fossil fuel heavy energy mixes, but China in particular is also the world leader in renewable energy investment
  • What we do know though, is that, as of 2018, there are at least 42 cities getting 100% of their electricity from renewable energy, with many more up around the 50% and 70% benchmarks
  • What we also know, is that, there are at least 12 countries getting 90%+ of their electricity from renewable energy
  • So, we know that it’s possible for cities, countries and regions to get majority of their electricity from renewable energy sources over fossil fuels
  • Some of these countries and cities have faced challenges and problems of varying sizes in their transition to increasing shares of renewable energy. The issues a country like Germany has faced in their transition have been well documented. Studying cities, States and countries that have already begun their transition to greater use of renewables and learning from them can help other places not make the same mistakes, and ensure a better transition with better planning and implementation
  • There are 100’s of studies and forecasts that have been published that explore the feasibility of 100% renewable energy and increasing shares of renewable energy for power worldwide, and for specific countries. Each of these studies list the benefits and challenges in transitioning to a higher share of renewable energy, and suggest different energy mixes for different regions and countries, but several summarise that there are less economic and technological barriers to increasing renewable energy share, and more political, social and cultural barriers
  • Pairing the examples of cities and countries already run on majority renewable energy with the positive studies and forecasts for increasing renewable energy in our electricity and overall energy mix worldwide, and it looks like a reality that renewables could majority or entirely take over from fossil fuels in the mid to long term future if social, cultural and political agenda leans that way
  • Solar, wind, and hydropower (to be able to store and supply energy when wind and solar aren’t producing) are suggested as the main renewable energy sources in some of the main studies and forecasts, but some also suggest energy mixes with geothermal, wave, tidal, bioenergy, and even natural gas or hydrogen
  • Overall, the factors and variables influencing the uptake of increased renewable energy share to replace fossil fuels is different in each region, town, city and country as a whole. Each one needs an individual assessment and short and long term strategy. The development and breakthroughs in new technology are a big variable too
  • The pros and cons of renewable energy have to be weighed against the pros and cons of fossil fuels in both the short and long term across social, environmental, economic and other areas. 
  • In slower transitions, it’s possible fossil fuels could compliment renewable energy in an energy mix until energy infrastructure and energy systems can fully support renewables
  • Nuclear is a forgotten energy source that fits somewhere in between fossil fuels and renewables, and could be utilised in some places. Some sources also indicate that coal fired CCS (carbon capture storage, or use) technology and some other forms of improved or hybrid fossil fuel technology could play a part in some energy mixes
  • Climate change/global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution from air contaminants (and the associated human health problems and mortality rates), an increase in the human global population (leading to increased demand for energy), growth of developing countries (leading to increased generation and consumption of energy), and the finite nature of fossil fuel resources are some of the biggest issues to consider that are related to the energy sector
  • When pursuing increased use of renewable energy sources, we might ask how effectively we are addressing each of the problems we are trying to solve (like reduced greenhouse gas emissions, peak oil, reduced air pollution), and what trade offs we are making by not pursuing the use of another energy source like fossil fuels. This can help keep an energy strategy and plan more objective as opposed to political or subjective
  • Although there are some that say that renewables are too costly and unreliable, there are others that point to the significant environmental and social costs of fossil fuels, as well as the current investment and subsidies fossil fuels have been afforded, and point out that renewables can only get better in the future with new technological breakthroughs (their potential might be a lot higher than fossil fuels). Others point out that some of the problems pointed out with renewables, apply to fossil fuels and nuclear too
  • Ultimately, a transition to 100% renewable energy systems worldwide will require a balancing of various social, economic, environmental, and other types of priorities and factors. It will involve possible breakthroughs in aspects like energy storage and back up dispatchable energy sources. And, while it’s clear there are problems like variability/intermittency of renewable energy, it’s also clear that it’s likely solutions to the current problems of renewable energy can be developed in the future. In any transition, a hybrid flexible energy system that composes of different types of energy (fossil fuels, nuclear, conventional renewables, and modern renewables) might be required as a bridging system 

 

Can Renewable Energy Replace Fossil Fuels?

Each city or country has it’s own energy mix i.e. the energy sources that provide overall energy or electricity for that city or country, and the proportions in which they provide that energy or electricity.

Some countries have an energy mix that is composed of mostly fossil fuels, whilst others have an electricity energy mix that is composed mostly of renewable energy sources.

An example of a country with majority fossil fuel energy sources is China (China is currently the world leader in coal consumption), while a country like Iceland gets 100% of it’s electricity from renewable energy sources.

So, yes, renewables can replace fossil fuels in a country or city’s energy mix in differing proportional amounts (could be anywhere from 0 to 100%).

What is important to note though is that energy is different to electricity. Electricity is a sector in itself, whilst energy stretches across various sectors – transport for example is a sector that is primarily powered by fossil fuels (although this will slowly change with more electric vehicles on the road in the future powered by renewable energy sources).

So, right now, renewable energy sources have penetrated into electricity production and consumption, but have not penetrated heavily into the transport and heating and cooling sectors – which are still both primarily fed by fossil fuels.

 

Can Renewable Energy Meet Demand?

Demand is the amount of energy or electricity required by all sectors and industries within a city or country.

Demand for energy might be classified in three categories – base load (the minimum amount of energy required to meet demand 24/7), intermediate and peak demand.

Some sources debate this, but traditionally, renewables have been a variable source of energy. Solar and wind for example provide a lot of energy when the sun shines and when winds are blowing, but that energy can drop significantly when the sun and wind drops off.

A few different approaches to address variability are:

  • Huge batteries to store solar and wind energy (as was done in South Australia). But, batteries tend to only be able to store enough energy for short term output (a few hours), and with currently technology, they are very costly the bigger they get and the more storage they have
  • Having fossil fuel or nuclear backups power plants that can ramp up quickly when solar and wind drops off
  • Having pumped hydro power with water storage (and energy storage) that can ramp up quickly when solar and wind drops off. Strategies for the future might involve using renewable solar and wind energy to power pumping water uphill to make pumped hydro completely or mostly clean energy

In Germany, variability and mismatching of the timing of energy supply and consumption, has caused a few issues such as overloading power grids, excess energy forcing utilities to have to pay customers to take excess power, and other issues.

Complimentary energy sources (in addition to wind and solar) can also help provide more power for peak energy demand periods as well.

 

Can Renewable Energy Power The Entire World?

This is perhaps too broad of a question.

Studies done on this question indicate they can, and that there are only political, social and cultural barriers, and not technological or economic.

Perhaps instead of asking if renewables can power the entire world, we look to ask if renewables can power individual towns, regions, cities and countries.

Every location has different factors and variables at play that will determine what the answer in the short, medium and long-term looks like to this question.

Also, developing countries are going to face starkly different factors and variables to developed countries.

 

Moving Towards 100% Renewable Energy …

100% renewable energy may be a goal for a city or country for electricity, or for all the major energy consuming sectors (such as transport, heating and cooling, commercial/industrial, agriculture etc.).

Some cities and countries already have a large amount of electricity sourced from renewable energy sources.

Other cities and countries have committed to certain targets to have a greater % of their electricity comes from renewables at different stages up until the year 2050.

It’s possible the transition (however slow or fast that might happen) to a greater majority of renewables in the energy mix may involve fossil fuels and nuclear as complimentary energy sources for different reasons.

Different sources point out the drawbacks of renewable energy, but, other sources point out that the drawbacks to renewable energy are nowhere near as destructive or harmful as fossil fuels in the mid to long term.

Greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, outdoor air pollution, resource depletion, and energy efficiency are some of the main issues that can be addressed in different ways by moving towards 100% RE (or majority renewable energy) in an energy or electricity supply.

 

Potential Challenges, Issues & Considerations With Moving Towards Increased Renewable Energy

Potential challenges, issues and considerations in moving towards renewable energy may include:

Challenges

  • Solar and wind can be variable sources of energy i.e. they only provide energy when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing
  • Matching the timing of variable energy generation with consumption of this energy (energy needs to be consumed when it is produced unless it gets stored), and what to do in the event a power grid is overloaded 
  • Some sources think that the challenges are not technological or economics related, but rather political, institutional, cultural/social
  • Whether or not renewables can scale up fast enough by a certain year/target time, and whether fossil fuels and nuclear energy are required in the meantime
  • Adding turbines to existing hydropower dams (when using hydro power as a backup source for solar and wind) may not physically be possible. And, discharging hydro power in some ways described by some studies and reports on future expansion of renewable energy can put unacceptable impacts on aquatic ecosystems and downstream water users
  • Upgrading and changing existing power grids to accommodate renewable energy can be expensive
  • Large scale storage batteries for renewable energy (like solar and wind) can be expensive
  • Building new transmission power lines and interconnectors to accommodate renewables can be expensive and take a lot of time
  • A divided public and government on climate change as an issue (i.e. lack of awareness of what it is, and how important it may or may not be to address with renewable energy)
  • Lobbying by groups, such as fossil fuel groups, who have a vested interest in existing energy systems, to argue only against renewables (without presenting the benefits)
  • Solar and wind farms can be land intensive compared to nuclear and fossil fuels (forbes.com) – i.e. more land is needed for the same amount of power
  • Renewables can have negative environmental and wildlife consequences e.g. wind farms can be in the way of migratory bird flight paths in some countries and regions (forbes.com)
  • Poorer countries and States might not be able to afford the sometimes more expensive upfront cost of renewables
  • Current technologies [in some US States] are intermittent, variable, and unpredictable as they depend on the weather and consequently have limited capacity factors. At the scale needed, storage is currently not a viable option as the technology is very expensive and still developing (renewableenergyworld.com)
  • Supply and demand have to be equivalent in the power market at any given time [so, making a decision of what energy source to take offline when a new renewable energy source is added can be difficult]. Also, in the short-run and in emergency situations, the grid regulators have to shut off the connection to the grid from the renewable energy sources … and this makes it more difficult for investors to recover the costs of their systems, and it also raises transmission costs for everyone else (renewableenergyworld.com)
  • Baseload power sources (coal, natural gas, and nuclear) require time to ramp up and down and thus are relatively less responsive to changes in demand … [and, this time taken to ramp up and down can be expensive] (renewableenergyworld.com)
  • Over time, operating at lower scales [for energy sources that are decreased or reduced when renewables are added] raises costs for utilities (and later the ratepayers) as they now have to operate the power plants at scales that are inefficient (renewableenergyworld.com)
  • Another issue with the large targets for renewable energy is that they create load uncertainty for nuclear power plant operators [and, as renewables become cheaper, it may lead to the shut down of nuclear plants as they may not be able to compete] (renewableenergyworld.com)
  • [When renewables are supported by government portfolio standards instead of natural market demand, subsidies might be increased in value, and this increase might be passed onto electricity ratepayers if there is no cost control in place] (renewableenergyworld.com)
  • [A shortage of strategic metals (nickel, cobalt, copper, lithium) could be a problem in the future for batteries and other renewable energy technology]
  • Barriers to electricity infrastructure like transmission lines could prevent an increase in grid capacity for renewables (renewableenergyworld.com)
  •  … diluteness, proximity, and reliability can be three [barriers to renewable energy] (lifepowered.org)
  • [Power density and how much land wind and solar need compared to fossil fuels and nuclear can be an issue – wind and solar comparatively need a lot of land for the same power – especially the big wind and solar farms. Some domestic areas can install their own solar panels] (lifepowered.org)
  • [… areas where renewables are installed are usually nowhere near where energy is needed – transmission lines can be costly and slow to build … Texas has already spent billions of dollars on thousands of miles of transmission lines that transport electricity from wind and solar farms in West Texas to cities in East Texas.] (lifepowered.org)
  • [The last issue with wind and solar is reliability/dispatchability – dispatchable generators need to be able to ramp up and down to help match elec supply with demand (and wind and solar struggle because it isn’t always windy or sunny). To supplement this – large batteries are needed for energy storage, and they can be costly] (lifepowered.org)
  • [energy grids in fossil fuel dominated places are designed on the basis of large controllable generators … and, has little energy storage. Intermittent renewable energy present a problem in this instance. However, technological advancements are presenting solutions to intermittence, such as new hybrid solar panels that can harness energy from raindrops and therefore be effective during day and night] (greenwoodsolutions.com.au)
  • … geographical distribution and variability and uncertainty in output pose challenges to the US’ electricity system with renewables (nrel.gov)
  • The Reneweconomy.com.au case study from the CSIRO referenced below lists some of the technical challenges in moving towards 100% renewables such as flexibility of the energy grid in dealing with variable energy, dispatch ability of energy sources to complement renewables, need for energy storage, the need for frequency control and the provision of inertia, price signaling and communication between distributors and the wholesale electricity market, and deciding on base load from either fossil fuels, nuclear or other renewables
  • [Some of the challenges in increasing the penetration of renewables in all sectors are electricity transmission (the way electricity is transmitted, generated and sold) … The electricity system need to be flexible to deal with variable output, and market structures need to evolve to integrate renewable power properly] (swecourbaninsight.com)
  • … political ideology and the capture of governments by powerful vested interests is a major barrier [to renewable energy growth] (reneweconomy.com.au)
  • [market designs favor fossil fuels, market failure favors fossil fuels and fossil fuels want to cling to their traditional business models] (reneweconomy.com.au)
  • Older power engineers are attached to the concepts of base load, intermediate and peak load power stations … and cannot envisage a system that contains a large fraction of variable RElec and where demand can be modified almost instantaneously (reneweconomy.com.au)
  • [Intermittency and variability, overcapacity, grid stability, variable electricity prices, back up dispatchable power sources, and energy storage are some of the biggest challenges facing a transition to renewable energy] (power-technology.com)
  • [Intermittency and variability of renewable energy means that power supply is lacking when there is less wind and sunshine, and there can be a surplus (overcapacity) supply of power when there is lots of sunshine and wind] (power-technology.com)
  • [Overcapacity is when there is an over supply of renewable energy – usually caused by the variable/intermittent nature of wind and solar. Overcapacity can overload power grids, and can lead to variable electricity prices] (power-technology.com)
  • [Grid stability can be impacted when there is an overcapacity of RE – examples of this are Poland and the Czech Republic’s power grids, which receive transmitted electricity from Germany’s power system] (power-technology.com)
  • [Variable electricity prices can be a result of the introduction of renewable energy. RE can make the price of electricity more competitive. But, RE can also create problems with pricing of electricity when there is a surplus, due to variability. Power plants might actually have to pay commercial customers to take their electricity in times of surplus. This can create uncertainty and problems for all types of energy generation – as prices aren’t predictable and stable] (power-technology.com)
  • [The variable nature of renewable energy means that back up energy sources, known as dispatchable energy sources, might be needed. These sources might need to be able to ramp up and down quickly to fill in energy gaps when renewable energy supply is down, and not overload the grid when renewable energy supply is up. Back up energy sources are usually coal or natural gas. Nuclear can also figure into this equation. Using natural gas or coal as backup energy sources can actually increase greenhouse gas emissions in the short term, as seen in Germany, and actually goes against short term carbon emission targets. Furthermore, if sufficient back up energy sources aren’t in place for some energy systems, this can lead to blackouts – as seen in South Australia] (power-technology.com)
  • [Renewable energy use, along with how competitive natural gas and coal can be without carbon pricing, can mean the closure of nuclear plants – especially if not supported by the government] (power-technology.com)
  • [Increasing installed capacity of solar and wind can have a negative impact on land use and the transformation of landscape in some countries – as solar and wind farms aren’t as land efficient as fossil fuel power plants] (power-technology.com)
  • [Capital and upfront costs, siting and transmission, market entry, an unequal playing field for different energy sources and competitors, and reliability misconceptions can be some of the challenges for renewable energy technology in general, and when it comes to expansion and increased use] (ucsusa.org) 

 

Other Considerations

  • The final energy mix a country or city uses i.e. how much of each renewable source, how much of each fossil fuel source, how much nuclear, and so on
  • Whether or not more debatable energy sources like nuclear, bioenergy, hybrid energy sources and hydrogen, and CSS fossil fuels are used in addition to modern renewables like solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and wave/tidal
  • Energy storage – whether batteries, or pumped hydro energy storage is used to store energy when variable energy sources like solar and wind are used. Other options are flexible natural gas power plants, or, adding turbines to more rapidly convert stored heat from solar thermal power plants into electricity.
  • The number of hours of energy storage available e.g. 2 hours, 12 hours, 24 hours, or more
  • The natural renewable resources each country has available e.g. Iceland’s renewable energy resources to draw from might be different to Australia (Australia is abundant in land, sun and win for example)
  • Level of financial investment in renewables (can vary from year to year, and with support from government mechanisms)
  • How much a government supports and commits to renewables, and the policies, subsidies and other incentives they introduce (subsidies on fossil fuel energy and renewable energy, subsidies for residential solar installation, carbon taxes etc.)
  • Certainty for businesses and investors in the market – they need to know (have some certainty) they can get a return and profit on investment over 20 or 30 years
  • How cheap each renewable source is to provide electricity
  • Whether or not renewable energy installations degrade grid reliability by undermining continuously operated “baseload” nuclear and coal power plants in countries like the US (spectrum.ieee.org)
  • Whether baseload power is necessary to a well-functioning electric grid or not. Some say baseload (such as fossil fuels and nuclear power) isn’t necessary, but rather a flexible and dynamic power supply from both variable and energy storage renewables will suffice. An example of this is when California utility PG&E announced plans to shut down a nuclear plant as they said this baseload plant was ill suited to help manage the California power grid which has a diverse mix of energy sources and renewables  (spectrum.ieee.org)
  • What happens to existing fossil fuel and nuclear equipment and infrastructure, and these industries as a while, when they are phased out – some future scenarios see them remodelling to supply hydrogen or synthetic gas (instead of real natural gas)
  • How fast (at what rate per year) fossil fuel is phased out
  • What happens to jobs in each industry with phase outs – are new jobs created, and are existing workers re-trained and re-skilled to work in new industries?
  • [Economically in the future, we will need large investments in grid storage, transmission to distribute power and to smooth out the issues of intermittency] (greenwoodsolutions.com.au)
  • [Politically, creation of the regulatory framework, setting standards and offering incentives to economies to make a significant shift in their energy usage to renewables will be required for increased use of renewables] (greenwoodsolutions.com.au)
  • Growth in renewable energy can be influenced by … strong lobby groups looking to support national industry … [and] National industry is in turn more likely to have grown where there are natural resources to support the early development of an industry (swecourbaninsight.com)
  • Public interest and acceptance for particular types of renewable energy are driven by multiple factors, including support of local jobs and industry, visual impacts and public awareness of climate change (swecourbaninsight.com)
  • [It’s possible there might be an] inadequate understanding of the engineering, scientific and quantitative modelling has found its way through to the political mainstream (reneweconomy.com.au)

 

IEA.org outlines some of the individual factors that might impact expansion of individual renewable energy sources globally into the future:

General

  • Market and policy framework developments (whether there are supportive government policies and market improvements)
  • Regulatory and financial challenges

Solar PV

  • Cost reductions of solar PV technology impact on technology competitiveness
  • Presence of feed in tariffs and deployment quotas

Solar CSP

  • Multilateral bank support
  • Cost reduction potential 
  • Technology risk
  • Access to financing
  • Project lead times
  • Market designs
  • Whether or not energy storage is valued 

Wind

  • Federal tax incentives
  • Presence of feed in tariffs
  • Grid integration challenges
  • Faster commissioning of transmission lines
  • Larger auction volumes (more auction activity and faster auction implementation)
  • Faster commissioning of planned projects

Hydro

  • The development of large scale hydro
  • Concerns of social and environmental impact
  • Untapped resource potential
  • Attractive economics to improve electricity access affordably
  • Completing feasibility studies, securing finance, finishing civil works
  • Full commissioning of mega projects

Geothermal

  • Demand in developing countries and emerging economies
  • Abundant resource availability
  • Support of projects by government policy
  • Pre development risks, and securing financing for projects

Marine

  • Whether a renewable technology is in the large scale stage, or small-scale demonstration and pilot project stage (like marine renewable technology is)

 

Renewableenergyworld.com writes about some practical tips for moving towards 100% renewables:

  • Make sure the choices of consumers in green energy are privatised
  • Consider incentives or updating portfolios and adding a nuclear energy tier, to keep nuclear power in operation in the short term [as premature shutdowns and switching to natural gas may actually increase GHG emissions]
  • Keep investing in emerging energy technology
  • Keep updating existing energy policies
  • Find more ways to make CSS and direct capture technologies more economically feasible
  • Focus on energy efficiency in the future which can help increase capacity for renewables and provide ancillary services to the grid
  • In addition to the power sector, figure out how to decarbonize the transportation, manufacturing, and agriculture industries
  • Spread low carbon energy to developing economies

 

The environmental impacts of wind, solar and hydro energy are listed at https://interestingengineering.com/is-mark-jacobsons-plan-to-use-100-renewable-energy-feasible

 

Additionally, we’ve written some guides which outline some of the other challenges in moving to renewables (generally, and for specific countries like China)

 

Benefits Of Using Increased Renewable Energy 

Potential benefits of moving to renewables over fossil fuels may include:

  • Addressing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change/global warming
  • Addressing outdoor air pollution, air quality, and the associated human health problems and mortality rate associated with it
  • Addressing future potential issues with scarcity of fossil fuel resources
  • Reduction of fossil fuel resources mining (and associated problems with mining)
  • Economic benefits like job creation, economic stimulus, additional income streams for individuals, and so on
  • Reduce costs and money spent addressing some of the other problems mentioned in this list
  • Addressing other environmental issues that happen directly or indirectly as a result of the above problems, like water pollution, land degradation, acid rain, ocean warming and acidification etc. 
  • Providing energy independence to countries who currently rely on importing fossil fuels from other countries
  • Renewable technology and equipment is only expected to get cheaper and better/more advanced in the future – leading to potentially only more favorable future outcomes
  • Renewable energy can compete with fossil fuels for cheaper wholesale electricity prices
  • Renewable energy can be brought to previously energy poor areas and address energy poverty (especially in places that are still using biofuels for indoor cooking and heating and suffer from indoor air pollution)
  • Save on other critical resources like water which is heavily used on fossil fuel plants for cooling (ucsusa.org)
  • Energy efficiency and and overall reduction in total energy use (by switching to renewables over fossil fuels)

 

You can read more about the potential benefits of using a greater share of renewables for energy and electricity in this guide:

 

Studies & Reports That Assess The Feasibility Of 100% Renewable Energy Scenarios Globally, & For Different Countries

There are various studies and reports that assess the feasibility of moving towards greater shares of renewable energy in the future, either globally, or in individual countries.

They may also list pathways of how we can get there, and what the energy mix would look like.

We’ve listed and summarised them below:

 

Wikipedia.org: (renewable energy globally, and in a range of individual countries)

  • According to a review of the 181 peer-reviewed papers on 100% renewable energy which were published until 2018, “[the] great majority of all publications highlights the technical feasibility and economic viability of 100% Renewable Energy systems
  • Mark Z Jacobsen 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’
  • 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
  • The barriers to large scale renewable energy are: climate change denial, the fossil fuels lobby, political inaction, unsustainable energy consumption, outdated energy infrastructure, and financial constraints
  • [Overall, when considering 100% renewable energy scenarios] 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
  • 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.
  • In Australia, as well as storing renewable energy as hydrogen, it is also proposed to be exported in the form of ammonia.

 

Interestingengineering.com (renewable energy globally):

  • A new Jacobson paper outlined that …
  • 139 countries can be broken down to 20 regions and the most appropriate energy storage resolution individually suited to those regions can be implemented.
  • … [first though] stability of the grid [needs to be found out] every 30 seconds in 5 years, in each region
  • 100% renewables has risk and demands a significant amount of efforts

 

Ucsusa.org: (renewable energy in the US):

  • … the U.S. can generate most of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050
  • … an 80 percent renewables future is feasible with currently available technologies, including wind turbines, solar photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, biopower, geothermal, and hydropower
  • … [a high renewable scenario can] meet electricity demand across the country every hour of every day, year-round.
  • Variable resources such as wind and solar power can provide up to about half of U.S. electricity, with the remaining 30 percent from other renewable sources.
  • [there are] multiple pathways to reach this goal
  • [to reach this goal] the right long term clean energy policies are needed, the electricity grid needs to be improved, there needs to be more advanced grid planning, there needs to be prices on carbon emissions, and there needs to be increases in funding for research and development of renewables

 

Nrel.gov (renewable energy in the US):

  • A Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures) concludes that ‘renewable electricity generation… in combination with a more flexible electric system, is more than adequate to supply 80% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2050 while meeting electricity demand on an hourly basis in every region of the country’
  • [This can happen via a] portfolio of supply- and demand-side options, including flexible conventional generation, grid storage, new transmission, more responsive loads, and changes in power system operations
  • The abundance and diversity of U.S. renewable energy resources can support multiple combinations of renewable technologies
  • [some benefits would be decreased GHG emissions and decreased water use]

– nrel.gov

 

Reneweconomy.com.au (renewable energy in Australia):

  • [the CSIRO says] there is no apparent technical impediment to reaching 100 per cent renewables for the [Aus] national electricity grid
  • … introducing renewables at a share of 10, 20 or 30 per cent is fairly trivial on the basis that the existing generation capacity has a lot of flexibility to deal with the variability
  • … existing back-up and redundancy for the current coal-dominated grid [is] already in place
  • … peaking gas, using the dispatchability of coal and the interconnection between states allow renewables to contribute to the system. That has generally been the approach in most states
  • [in South Australia, and in renewable modelling, problems can begin to occur at around 40% renewable energy share. To deal with this, you either have to add energy storage, or a dispatchable form of energy that can support renewables. Dispatchable energy could be other renewables like solar thermal or geothermal, or another form of dispatchable energy]
  • [for 100% renewable penetration into the electricity system … we might need] very, very high battery deployment to achieve that … and also technologies like biogas, which is dispatchable, and dispatchable biomass. This take care of energy balancing on a half-hour basis. There are also other issues around the need for frequency control and so forth, where you need additional technologies that provide inertia. That could include things like synchronous condensers and more advanced inverters for the battery technologies, and so forth.]
  • [it should be noted that deploying high renewable energy penetration solutions and having them work in reality can be different to simulation and modelling]
  • [price signalling and communication between technologies down at the distribution end of the market and up into the wholesale market … could be useful in the future]
  • [base load is not essential with fossil fuels if you have an energy mix of wind and solar PV, and pumped hydro storage]

 

Iflscience.com: (renewable energy in the US)

  • [when running every major energy sector on renewable energy] across all 50 states, [there was a] 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050
  • About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity
  • … clear plan[s] [have been laid out] for each state to make an 80% transition to renewable energy by 2030, and reach 100% by 2050
  • Some States will have a much more achievable plan than others
  • Initial costs will be high, but would eventually average out to roughly the current cost of fossil fuel infrastructure

 

TheConversation.com (renewable energy for the world):

  • The world can limit global warming to 1.5℃ and move to 100% renewable energy [by 2050] … without relying on technological fixes such as carbon capture and storage …
  • the gas industry can be a transition fuel … without its infrastructure becoming obsolete once natural gas is phased out
  • [there can be a] conversion of the gas industry to synthetic fuels and hydrogen over the coming decades … Natural gas will be increasingly replaced by hydrogen and/or renewable methane produced by solar power and wind turbines. While most scenarios rely on batteries and pumped hydro as main storage technologies, these renewable forms of gas can also play a significant role in the energy mix.
  • [there can be an increase in the] amount of economic output per unit of energy use
  • [there’s a relatively slow phase out of natural gas in this scenario]
  • [different types of jobs in the energy sector are impacted differently with the above scenario]

 

Stanford.edu (renewable energy for each State of America):

  • … a 50-state roadmap has been developed for transforming the United States from dependence on fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050
  • [it is designed to] maximize the renewable resource potential of each of the 50 states

 

TheGuardian.com: (renewable energy in the US)

  • This study considered only wind and solar
  • Wind, solar, and storage could meet 90–100% of America’s electricity needs [based on 36 years of hourly weather data, and the US’ electrical demand and variation over this time]
  • Wind and solar are variable – they fluctuate in space and time with their supply of energy
  • Fluctuation of these energy sources can complement each other though – solar power generation is highest in the summer and lowest in the winter. Wind power is greatest in the spring and fall. Wind turbines work at night when solar panels are dormant 
  • There were two future scenarios the authors of this study focussed on … 
  • 1. … with 100% power capacity and no mechanism to store energy, a wind-heavy portfolio is best (about 75% wind, 25% solar) and using large aggregate regions is optimal. It is possible to supply about 75-80% of US electrical needs.
  • 2. If the system were designed with excess capacity (the 150% case), the US could meet about 90% of its needs with wind and solar power.
  • … both systems could generate too much power for use. In this event, excess energy could be stored in several ways, for example in batteries or by pumping water into elevated tanks and then letting the water fall at night and turn a turbine.
  • When the above study was modified to allow up to 12 hours of US energy storage … They then found that the 100% capacity system fared even better (about 90% of the country’s energy) and the optimal balance was now more solar (approximately 70% solar and 30% wind). For the over-capacity system, the authors found that virtually all the country’s power needs could be met with wind, solar, and storage.
  • Furthermore, people are learning to use energy more wisely, either by using more efficient products or purchasing electricity during off-peak hours. These behavioral changes can also help us reach a 100% clean energy target.

 

Cnet.com: (renewable energy in Australia, and the US)

  • … simulated up to six years using real data on sun and wind and electricity demand, and in [a] peer-reviewed paper [have] shown [Australia] could have operated the national electricity market if [it had] installed enough [infrastructure] entirely on renewable energy with the same reliability as the same existing system
  • [there’s not technical challenges in this transition, but political challenges … for example, some politicians might have too close of a relationship with fossil fuel industries, or, a government may simply not show enough commitment to renewables and this can cause uncertainty for investors]
  • [the renewable energy setup would include wind, solar PV, high voltage transmission lines, pumped hydro and energy storage batteries]
  • [the US has more than enough resources to run entirely on renewables as well]
  • [challenges for a transition to renewables are mostly political, institutional, cultural]

 

Spectrum.ieee.org (renewable energy globally, and in the US):

  • [Mark Jacobsen, a Stanford University engineer, says the world can be run on solar, wind and hydro energy by mid century]
  • Critics of Jacobsen’s journal publication debate it citing invalid modeling tools, modeling errors, and “implausible and inadequately supported assumptions
  • Jacobsen’s evaluation of a renewable future does not include fossil fuels with CSS technology, or nuclear reactors
  • [Critics say that a new generation of nuclear reactors are required because renewables] cannot scale up fast enough
  • [Jacobson’s model for the US] replaces fossil fuels for heating and transportation with hydrogen and electricity generated by renewables]
  • Jacobsen’s model for the US implies a [15-fold expansion in hydropower generating capacity] as he uses hydro power for a backup to wind and solar.
  • Critics point out that Jacobsen’s approach of adding turbines to existing hydropower dams is not physically possible
  • Critics point out discharging hydro power from dams in some ways described can put unacceptable impacts on aquatic ecosystems and downstream water users
  • Critics point out that invalidating Jacobsen’s hydropower approach means blackouts and a breakdown of the system
  • But, Jacobsen says his hydropower upgrade proposals have technical and economic viability, and ‘reflect a cost that policymakers pursuing his road map would need to consider’
  • All clean energy proposals will always have trade offs compared to existing fossil fuel set-ups
  • Jacobson also has alternative sources of backup power, such as adding turbines to more rapidly convert stored heat from solar thermal power plants into electricity
  • Battery storage is yet another option, but is deemed unnecessarily costly
  • [other studies apart from Jacobsen’s have relied mostly on flexible natural gas power plants rather than dams or batteries to handle residual power demand]
  • Some say renewables may degrade the US’ power grid reliability
  • Some say base load power is necessary to a well-functioning electric grid – whilst other say flexibility is required, not base load power plants

 

Further Resources On A Future With Increased Use Of Renewable Energy 

Below are some resources that contain different information relevant to a future with increased use of renewable energy. We’ve summarised (paraphrased) each:

 

Renewableenergyworld.com:

  • Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards require the utilities to generate or procure a minimal percentage of energy in their portfolios from renewables energy
  • [favorable technical potentials in a State can lead to more of a particular renewable energy being established]

 

Lifepowered.org:

  • … policies, such as renewable energy subsidies and mandates and extra taxes on fossil fuels [can be economically devastating]

 

Iflscience.com:

  • each region or State in a country has current energy demands, and these energy demands might change over time 
  • energy use [might be divided] into four sectors: residential, commercial, industrial and transportation

 

Wikipedia.org:

  • As of 2019, however, [renewable energy] needs to grow six times faster to limit global warming to 2 °C (3.6 °F)
  • [After the power sector, the transport and heating and cooling sectors could be next to be electrified by renewable energy sources]

 

Cnet.com:

  • Outlines reasons why some countries aren’t using renewables
  • Every country has different natural renewable resources and potential available – for example, Iceland gets it’s electricity from hydro power and geothermal sources. Australia, on the other hand, is a country rich in large scale solar and wind potential because of the amount of land it has (so much so, that there is potential to export solar energy to Asia in the future). Texas has one of the biggest capacities for wind in the US
  • How much a government commits to renewables can determine their uptake in a State or country
  • Hydropower has traditionally been cheapest way to source renewable electricity, but solar and wind are starting to outpace and become cheaper than hydro economically
  • Solar panels can either be installed on buildings and feed energy into a battery, or they can be set up in solar farms and feed directly into the grid
  • Government incentive in Germany encouraged much more solar installation than in a country like Australia
  • Batteries to store wind and solar energy can be expensive if you need one for more than a day’s worth of energy (South Australia recently installed one as an example) – they are good for short term bursts of power, like for example an energy peak demand period which might last 2 or 3 hours
  • Solar and wind can be variable sources of energy i.e. energy is produced more when there is wind and sunlight, but less when there isn’t
  • Two of the main sources of hydro energy are hydroelectric plants, and pumped storage hydro energy
  • Pumped storage hydro energy is a cheaper way of storing renewable energy than using batteries
  • Pumped storage hydro energy could be used as a backup to solar and wind energy (seeing as though solar and wind are variable)
  • It’s possible South Australia could have prevented their last blackout if they had pumped hydro storage energy to compliment their current renewable energy sources
  • Successful use of hydro can maintain electricity during times of drought

 

Sciencealert.com:

  • Outlines the potential that pumped storage hydro energy has for the future to provide enough stored energy to power the world
  • Thousands of new pumped storage hydro energy sites have been found worldwide via an algorithm
  • These sites still have to pass on-site inspections and tests (there’s several factors that need to be checked off for a site to be suitable), but if only 1% of them pass final assessment, they will have adequate storage capacity for the world
  • The big positive that pumped storage hydro energy offers is that it can store energy. Solar and wind energy don’t have this ability
  • In the future, we might see pumped storage hydro energy sites that use wind and solar energy to pump water up to the top water reservoir – providing almost a completely clean form of energy 

 

  • apart from the electricity sector, there are the heat and transport sectors which could become renewable powered. Right now, transport, through the use of petrol and diesel-fuelled cars; and for heating, through the use of oil and natural gas boilers in buildings [are fossil fuel powered]
  • [we could switch to bio fuel or electric and hybrid cars]
  • [we could switch to district heating or electrification of heat]
  • [Although each country has different renewable energy resources … this difference is thought to be smaller than those relating to fossil fuel reserves]
  • [It’s expected as renewables become cheaper, subsidies will drop away – which is good, and brings the market back into play for pricing, as opposed to regulation controlling pricing]
  • [One of the biggest challenges in the future with renewables is matching timing of energy supply with demand]
  • Digitalisation, energy storage and demand response are the keys to helping future energy systems maintain balance
  • The generation of energy for heat, electricity and transport is interconnected through storage, monitored through smart meters, and changed through voluntary shifting of demand

– swecourbaninsight.com

 

  • [Several types of renewable energy can provide baseload power such as] … geothermal energy is available at all times, concentrated solar thermal energy has storage capability, and wind energy can be stored in compressed air
  • It will be over a decade before we can produce sufficient intermittent renewable energy to require high levels of storage, and there are several promising energy storage technologies

– skepticalscience.com

 

  • [The fact that carbon isn’t priced in some countries allows coal to beat out nuclear and other energy sources]
  • [Some people say that renewables aren’t reliable enough to provide baseload energy because of their intermittency, whilst others say renewables can provide a flexible and dispatchable grid, and can be designed for reliability, security and affordability]
  • … several of the [renewable energy] simulation studies achieve reliability with zero or negligible base-load capacity
  • … for a reliable generating system [it is unnecessary for renewable power stations to be dispatchable
  • [Increased demand for energy in the future doesn’t take into account the increased] energy efficiency renewables can provide … [or the facts that] a unit of electricity from wind and solar uses three times less energy to produce than fossil fuels, and EVs half as much as internal combustion engines
  • The capacity factors of different energy sources matter in calculations and models
  • [100% renewable electricity supply system are possible even if] RElec is limited to technologies that are commercially available now. Regions with insufficient local RE resources will in future be able to import RE via transmission line and/or tanker carrying renewable fuels

– reneweconomy.com.au

 

  • [Even though a country or city might have an average % of it’s electricity provided by renewable energy sources, on some days that are very sunny and breezy, that % can significantly increase. For example, Germany had an average at the end of 2017 of around 36%, but on very sunny and breezy days, that number can jump up as high as 86%. On those days, coal plants and nuclear plants may either not be in use, or severely reduced in use.]
  • [Intermittency and variability, overcapacity, grid stability, volatile electricity prices, back up dispatchable power sources, and available energy storage are some of the problems that face increased use of renewable energy]
  • [Intermittence and variability is the nature of how consistent the energy supply is from renewables i.e. whether the sun and wind are consistent and how consistent the resulting energy supply is to the grid]
  • [Overcapacity is when a power grid gets flooded with surplus/excess energy – usually caused by very sunny and highly windy conditions]
  • [Grid stability is a grid’s ability to deal with excess power being pushed through it, and the result of that extra power i.e. are there blackouts and shutdowns, or is there a non destructive way that excess energy is dealt with and used such as filtering off to the power grids of other States and countries who need it]
  • [Volatile energy prices can be a result of overcapacity – when there is too much electricity – it pushes prices down … sometimes in the negative. Volatile prices not only reduce profits, but increase uncertainty for investors and energy suppliers]
  • [Backup energy sources that are dispatchable are needed when renewable energy is highly variable and there is inadequate forms of energy storage in place. These dispatchable energy sources like coal and natural gas need to be able to ramp up and down quickly when more power is needed, or when power needs to be reduced quickly]
  • [Energy storage can be important in a renewable energy system. If there is stored energy, then this energy can be used in the event that there is lower renewable energy being supplied due to poor wind and sun conditions]
  • [Some regulations, like those in Germany, require renewable energy to be used first in the grid, so fossil fuel energy is pushed out of the grid and used by neighboring countries when there is an excess of renewable energy. Countries like Poland and Czech Republic have suffered overloaded power grids as a result of variable energy from Germany]
  • [Germany energy suppliers have also experienced volatile electricity prices, which have sometimes gone in the negative, as a result of overcapacity and variability. This means power plants have to pay commercial customers to take their electricity]
  • [Volatile electricity prices] can be somewhat addressed by replacing the feed-in tariff subsidy with a market-responsive auction system based on pre-set RES capacity growth caps
  • [In Germany, because of a lack of Government support for nuclear, natural gas and coal power are usually the back up sources of power for variable renewable energy sources. This has led to a short term increase in greenhouse gas emissions]
  • [Because of intermittency, even in a given year when solar and wind installed capacity increases, poor wind and sun conditions can lead to an overall drop in solar and wind energy generation]
  • [Intermittency and overcapacity, without adequate back up energy sources, or without proper energy storage, can lead to blackouts]
  • [South Australia is an example of a place that has experienced blackouts as a result of renewable energy and a lack of adequate energy back up … although they have now got a giant energy storage battery installed]
  • [California is an example of a State that has experienced issues with intermittency and overcapacity of renewable energy]
  • [Some estimates of what Germany would need to do to go 100% renewable, is build a hugely expansive solar and wind system compared to what they have now, and also invest in a significant energy storage system compared to what they have now … so there are costs to expansion]. This could cause a host of problems related to overcapacity, energy spot prices and carbon-intensive back-up power when RES output falls, not to mention the landscape impact of wind turbine installation on this scale and the resistance this might cause. [Also, in this scenario] … If the back up power sources are replacing expensive gas fuel by cheap lignite – then GHGs will increase 
  • [Increased production by intermittent renewable energy sources may not be the way to go as there would also be huge tradeoffs on land use and how landscape is transformed with solar and wind farms that take up far more land than fossil fuel power plants. Wind converters and transmission lines also take up a lot of land. For these reasons and others …] countries might look at other forms of CO2 free energy production
  • [Ultimately, a transition to renewables isn’t going to be without challenges] … It requires balancing environmental efficiency, energy security and harmonious electricity markets is a complex task that will take many decades to solve
  • [An approach that falls somewhere between supporting existing energy systems and new renewable energy systems might be required]
  • Nuclear power could play an important role in providing low-carbon baseload or back-up power, although its suitability for dispatchable capacity is limited by how slowly nuclear plants can ramp up or down on demand when compared to gas turbines. Public and political appetite for significant nuclear fleet expansion is also low in many countries, with Germany proving particularly nuclear-averse.
  • [A strategy that provides solutions and components in moving towards increased use of renewables might involve] back-up dispatchable power, demand response and energy efficiency measures, distributed generation, data-driven smart technologies, grid-level energy storage and more integrated networks. The EU, through its harmonised policy environment, has an opportunity to take the lead on common energy markets and interconnected grids, although technical, political and financial obstacles to this are currently formidable
  • … If you want to use fluctuating renewable power, you have to upgrade the grids across Europe
  • Given the extended timespan of the challenge [of moving towards 100% renewables], breakthrough power sources such as fusion energy – which could provide emissions-free baseload power in virtually unlimited amounts – could emerge as well. Large-scale energy storage is still in the early stages of development with several competing technologies; the efficiency of dispatchable storage will be a concern moving forward, but breakthroughs in this area could also have a decisive effect on the feasibility of greater RES predominance.
  • While it’s undeniable that RES intermittency and overcapacity are significant problems for the energy systems of today, a host of options can be developed to create solutions for the energy systems of tomorrow. But until fully clean energy systems become technologically and economically feasible, some level of hybridism will be needed to offset the variability of intermittent renewables

– power-technology.com

 

  • [some of the barriers and challenges for renewable energy technology are …]
  • [Capital Costs – such as the upfront of building solar and wind farms compared to fossil fuel plants. Higher costs can lead to less investment by investors in some places. Over time though, costs can average out, and renewables seem to be getting cheaper and more affordable over time too. It’s also worth noting that new coal and natural gas plants that have to meet environmental regulations are becoming increasingly expensive as they have to have certain systems and devices fitted to decrease emissions and pollution]
  • [Decentralization, Siting and Transmission – fossil fuels are centralized generally to one spot, where as renewables like solar and wind can be decentralized i.e. spread out providing energy from many locations … solar for example can come from utility solar farms, or from distributed solar panels on buildings and in residential locations. Siting renewable energy that is decentralized can present issues with] negotiations, contracts, permits, and community relations, all of which can increase costs and delay or kill projects … [Transmission can also be an issue as power lines, interconnectors, power grids, and other infrastructure are required or need to be upgraded in order to get energy] from where it is to where it needs to be. [Areas that have the best renewable energy expansion potential for large solar and wind farms might be located far away from where the power is actually needed, which might be in cities for example … and it might be very difficult and expensive to build new infrastructure to service this expansion]
  • [Market Entry – fossil fuels are well established and developed industries with] existing infrastructure, expertise, and policy. [Renewable energy sources are less established and developed, and it can be harder for renewable sources in general, and individual renewable competitors to take a foot hold] Increased government investment in clean energy—in the form of subsidies, loan assistance, and research and development—would help
  • [Unequal Playing Field – fossil fuels might have political support, as well as subsidies, tax breaks and other incentives and loop holes available that renewables don’t have. It’s also possible investment and support for fossil fuels in the past could have went to renewables or energy efficiency instead. Fossil fuels, unless forced to have new environmentally friendly systems that minimize emissions and pollution, don’t pay the full environmental and social cost of their operation] Emission fees or caps on total pollution, potentially with tradable emission permits, are examples of ways we could use to help remove this barrier
  • [Reliability Misconceptions – such as pointing out that RE is variable and needs the support of other energy sources to meet base load requirements. But, renewables can be more predictable] when spread across a large enough geographic area—and paired with complementary generation sources. Modern grid technologies like advanced batteries, real-time pricing, and smart appliances can also help solar and wind be essential elements of a well-performing grid. Tests performed in California … a place with high renewable energy use … shows real-world validation for the idea that solar and wind can actually enhance grid reliability. Many utilities, though, still don’t consider the full value of wind, solar, and other renewable sources. Energy planners often consider narrow cost parameters, and miss the big-picture, long-term opportunities that renewables offer. [So, there needs to be more awareness around this and a willingness to go beyond these misconceptions]

– ucsusa.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-cities-that-get-most-of-their-electricity-from-renewable-energy-sources/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-that-invest-the-most-in-renewable-energy-what-they-invest-in/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

5. https://www.sciencealert.com/scientists-spot-530-000-potential-pumped-hydro-sites-to-meet-all-our-renewable-energy-needs

6. https://www.cnet.com/news/if-renewable-energy-can-power-entire-countries-why-isnt-everyone-doing-it/

7. https://spectrum.ieee.org/energywise/energy/renewables/can-the-us-grid-work-with-100-renewables

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels-vs-nuclear-comparison-guide/

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/economic-impact-benefits-of-renewable-energy-clean-energy/

10. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-renewable-alternative-energy-now-into-the-future/

11. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2018/mar/26/study-wind-and-solar-can-power-most-of-the-united-states

12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100%25_renewable_energy

13. https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/february/fifty-states-renewables-022414.html

14. https://www.iflscience.com/environment/here-s-roundmap-get-us-run-100-renewable-energy-2050/

15. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/smart-energy-solutions/increase-renewables/renewable-energy-80-percent-us-electricity.html

16. https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/05/06/the-reason-renewables-cant-power-modern-civilization-is-because-they-were-never-meant-to/#47301a3aea2b

17. https://theconversation.com/heres-how-a-100-renewable-energy-future-can-create-jobs-and-even-save-the-gas-industry-110285

18. https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/power/

19. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/reasons-why-we-dont-use-more-renewable-energy-worldwide-barriers-obstacles-challenges-in-switching-over-to-renewables/

20. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-challenges-with-chinas-transition-from-coal-to-natural-gas-renewable-energy/

21. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/considerations-when-choosing-different-energy-sources-in-the-future-social-environmental-economic-practical-more/

22. https://www.renewableenergyworld.com/ugc/articles/2019/04/02/why-100-renewable-energy-goals-are-not-practical-policies.html

23. https://lifepowered.org/challenges-for-100-renewable-energy/

24. https://www.greenwoodsolutions.com.au/news-posts/a-100-renewable-energy-future-whats-the-reality

25. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/barriers-to-renewable-energy

26. https://reneweconomy.com.au/the-fake-arguments-against-100-renewable-energy-65406/

27. https://www.power-technology.com/features/featureovercapacity-and-the-challenges-of-going-100-renewable-5872868/

28. https://interestingengineering.com/is-mark-jacobsons-plan-to-use-100-renewable-energy-feasible

29. https://www.swecourbaninsight.com/urban-energy/the-limits-to-renewable-energy/

30. https://skepticalscience.com/renewable-energy-baseload-power.htm

31. https://www.nrel.gov/analysis/re-futures.html

32. https://reneweconomy.com.au/csiro-says-australia-can-get-100-per-cent-renewable-energy-86624/

Countries & Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy For Electricity

Countries & Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy For Electricity

Across the world, the number of countries and cities getting their electricity from renewable energy sources is increasing.

In this guide, we list the countries and cities that are getting the most of their electricity from renewable energy sources as a % of the overall energy mix.

*Note – It’s likely this list will change significantly from year to year as renewable energy becomes more commonplace and technology continues to advance.

 

Summary – Countries & Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy For Electricity

  • Apart from total MWh, renewable energy use can be measured in terms of total % it makes up of the overall electricity energy sources. This gives smaller cities and countries a chance to show their level of commitment to renewable energy compared to bigger cities and countries
  • At the moment, renewable energy hasn’t made enough of a dent in the heating and cooling and transport sectors – electricity generation and consumption is where most of the momentum has been gained
  • CDP.net has a map that shows that in just the period of 2015 to 2018, the number of cities getting at least 50%, 70% or 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources has increased significantly
  • As of January 2018, 42 cities were getting at least 100% of their electricity from renewable energy sources, 59 cities were at at least 70%, and 22 cities at at least 50% (according to CDP.net’s interactive map)
  • According to CDP.net, cities are so important to focus on because they ‘are responsible for 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions … [and have 50% of the world’s population, generate 80% of the world’s GDP and two-thirds of the world’s energy is consumed by cities]
  • According to wikipedia.org, the number of countries getting at least 90% of their electricity from renewable energy sources was 12 countries

 

Cities That Use The Most Renewable Energy For Electricity

Out of 620+ global cities that reported to CDP.net, the following is a list of over 100 cities that now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind:

  • Akureyri, Iceland
  • Alba-Iulia, Romania
  • Alcaldía de Córdoba, Venezuela
  • Angra dos Reis, Brazil
  • Aparecida, Brazil
  • Aracaju, Brazil
  • Arendal, Norway
  • Aspen, USA
  • Assis, Brazil
  • Asunción, Paraguay
  • Auckland , New Zealand
  • Bærum Kommune, Norway
  • Bangangté, Cameroon
  • Basel, Switzerland
  • Belém, Brazil
  • Belo Horizonte, Brazil
  • Birigui, Brazil
  • Bogotá , Colombia
  • Bolzano, Italy
  • Braga, Portugal
  • Brasília, Brazil
  • Brotas, Brazil
  • Brusque, Brazil
  • Burlington, USA
  • Cabreúva, Brazil
  • Cajamar, Brazil
  • Campinas, Brazil
  • Campos de Goytacazes, Brazil
  • Canoas, Brazil
  • Capivari, Brazil
  • Cascais, Portugal
  • Caxias do Sul, Brazil
  • Cerquilho, Brazil
  • Chorrera, Panama
  • Curitiba, Brazil
  • Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania
  • Estância Climática de São Bento do Sapucaí, Brazil
  • Estância Hidromineral de Águas de São Pedro, Brazil
  • Estância Turística de Guaratinguetá, Brazil
  • Estância Turística de ITU, Brazil
  • Eugene, USA
  • Extrema, Brazil
  • Fafe, Portugal
  • Fernandópolis, Brazil
  • Florianópolis, Brazil
  • Foumban, Cameroon
  • Gladsaxe Kommune, Denmark
  • Goiânia, Brazil
  • Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Hobart, Australia
  • Ibagué, Colombia
  • Inje , South Korea
  • Jaboatão dos Guararapes, Brazil
  • Kapiti Coast , New Zealand
  • Kisumu, Kenya
  • Lausanne, Switzerland
  • León de los Aldamas, Mexico
  • Limeira, Brazil
  • Lorena, Brazil
  • Maceió, Brazil
  • Mairiporã, Brazil
  • Medellín, Colombia
  • Moita, Portugal
  • Montes Claros, Brazil
  • Montreal, Canada
  • Nairobi, Kenya
  • Nakuru, Kenya
  • Niterói, Brazil
  • North Vancouver, Canada
  • Nova Odessa, Brazil
  • Nyon, Switzerland
  • Oristano, Italy
  • Oslo, Norway
  • Palmas, Brazil
  • Porto, Portugal
  • Prince George, BC, Canada
  • Quelimane, Mozambique
  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Reykjavík, Iceland
  • Salvador, Brazil
  • Santiago de Cali, Colombia
  • Santos, Brazil
  • São Caetano, Brazil
  • São Gonçalo, Brazil
  • São João da Boa Vista, Brazil
  • São José do Rio Preto, Brazil
  • São José dos Campos, Brazil
  • Seattle, USA
  • Stadt Zürich, Switzerland
  • Stockholm, Sweden
  • Tatuí, Brazil
  • Temuco, Chile
  • Uberlândia, Brazil
  • Vancouver, Canada
  • Vinhedo, Brazil
  • Vitória, Brazil
  • Wellington, New Zealand
  • Winnipeg, Canada

– CDP.net

You can view a full interactive map of these countries and other countries using renewable energy sources at https://www.cdp.net/en/cities/world-renewable-energy-cities

 

  • Examples of cities powered 100% by renewables for electricity are Burlington (USA), Reykjavik (Iceland), and Basel (Switzerland)

– originenergy.com.au

 

  • In the United States, 58 cities and towns have now committed to transition to 100% clean
  • Over 80 UK towns and cities commit to run on 100% clean energy by 2050 …

– cdp.net

 

  • Omitted from the CDP’s analysis are a few smaller American towns that lean entirely on renewables including Rock Port, Missouri (100 percent wind), Greensburg, Kansas (wind, solar, geothermal) and Kodiak, Alaska (wind and hydro).
  • … [of the CDP reported cities] a total of 275 global cities are now using hydropower, 189 are tapping into wind power and 184 have embraced solar photovoltaic panels. Sixty-five cities harness geothermal energy while 164 generate clean energy using biomass.

– mnn.com

 

There is a list of cities, towns and countries that are using 90%+ of renewable energy in their electricity mix at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100%25_renewable_energy

 

Countries That Use The Most Renewable Energy For Electricity

In 2016, the countries that produced 90% or more of their electricity from renewable energy sources were:

  • Albania – 100%
  • Democratic Republic Of The Congo – 100%
  • Iceland – 100%
  • Paraguay – 100%
  • Namibia – 99.3%
  • Costa Rica – 97.7%
  • Tajikistan – 97.5%
  • Norway – 97.2%
  • Uruguay – 96.5%
  • Zambia – 95%
  • Ethiopia – 93.6%
  • Kenya – 90.7%

– wikipedia.org

As a % of total electricity energy mix, you can see the countries that generate the most renewable energy electricity at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production_from_renewable_sources

 

  • The US (at 98), and Germany (at 71), lead the world in cities and regions that are aiming for 100 percent renewable energy

– cleanenergywire.org

 

A list of cities, counties and states in the US that are aiming for 100% renewable energy power, or are powered by 100% renewable power can be found at https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/commitments

 

Which Renewable Energy Sources Are Being Used To Produce Electricity Worldwide?

You can read more in this guide which outlines data on installed capacity, production and consumption of renewable energy sources.

 

Sources

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_electricity_production_from_renewable_sources

2. https://www.cdp.net/en/cities/world-renewable-energy-cities

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

4. https://www.originenergy.com.au/blog/lifestyle/did-you-know-there-are-now-more-than-100-cities-mostly-powered-b.html

5. https://www.cdp.net/en//articles/cities/over-100-global-cities-get-majority-of-electricity-from-renewables

6. https://www.cdp.net/en/cities

7. https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/energy/blogs/cities-that-rely-mostly-only-renewable-energy

8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/100%25_renewable_energy

9. https://www.cleanenergywire.org/news/germany-and-us-top-list-countries-most-regions-and-cities-aiming-100-percent-renewable-energy-irena

10. https://www.sierraclub.org/ready-for-100/commitments

Why Do We Still Use Fossil Fuels Instead Of Renewable Energy?

Why Do We Still Use Fossil Fuels Instead Of Renewable Energy

This is a very short guide outlining why we still use fossil fuels in some countries and parts of the world instead of renewables.

 

Summary – We We Still Use Fossil Fuels Instead Of Renewable Energy

  • Obviously the complete picture of why a country or region still uses fossil fuels can be more complex/detailed depending on the specific country or region 
  • But, in general, fossil fuels have been an abundant/readily available, cheap, and reliable source of energy with well developed technology and infrastructure for countries to build their economies and societies with
  • Much of the focus, investment and government support has been for fossil fuels in the past for these reasons (amongst others)
  • However, over the last decade, investment in renewable energy has been climbing quickly, and the use of coal as an energy source is declining in several world leading countries
  • Countries that have already moved away from coal have gone towards using a majority of, or a combination of, natural gas, nuclear and renewables, for electricity

*Note – this guide mainly focuses on coal as a fossil fuel. Oil as a fossil fuel in the transport sector has some of it’s own barriers when considering a switch to hybrid, electric and other alternative fuel vehicles.

 

Why We’ve Used Fossil Fuels In The Past

  • Have Traditionally Been Profitable For Investors & Energy Suppliers

Older coal plants for example were highly profitable for those who invested in, built and operated them. But, this has also traditionally come at the cost of society and the environment because of the range of health and environmental problems that coal mining and coal power plant emissions cause.

This is changing because new regulations mean that new coal power plants have to be fitted with anti pollution and anti emission devices and systems – which is increasing costs and reducing profits. Carbon and pollution taxes are also making coal plants less profitable.

 

  • Provided Cheap Electricity 

Cheap power plants meant cheap electricity for consumers. Cheaper electricity prices were also influenced by how abundant and easily available coal was.

 

  • Incentivized & Subsidised

Fossil fuels have traditionally been subsidised and incentivized far more than cleaner forms of energy in the past by the governments of many countries. This leads to more development and ultimately more energy from fossil fuel sources.

Consider this from Cleantechnica.com: “fossil fuels have received government subsidies for 100 or so years. These days, fossil fuel subsidies reportedly total approximately $5 trillion globally each year. Despite tremendous health costs, climate costs, and countless premature deaths caused by pollution … . Renewable energy also receives subsidies, but not to the same degree.”

reneweconomy.com.au also outlines the extent of subsidies for fossil fuel in Australia (link provided in resources list below)

 

  • Reliable

Fossil fuel energy has always been reliable. This is due to many factors such as well established infrastructure and technology, down to the power density and other performance features of fossil fuels.

 

  • Provided Baseload & Peak Energy Demand

Energy sources need to be able to meet baseload and peak power demand, especially in highly populated areas or areas where there is a high demand for energy.

Fossil fuels are so good at this that they are still used today to compliment renewables in an energy mix to meet baseload and peak energy demand.

 

  • Easily Accessible Everywhere – Abundant Supplies

Developed countries might import some of their energy, which can be cheap and easy. But, many of them also had abundant and accessible supplies they could mine domestically and use.

 

  • Well Developed Technology, & Infrastructure Set Up For It

Fossil fuel technology is well developed, and infrastructure like power grids, transmission lines, pipelines, and more, are well set up to transport and deliver fossil fuel energy.

 

  • Renewable Technology & Economies Of Scale Just Weren’t There Yet

In the past, renewable technology may not have been adequate for energy requirements in certain ways in certain countries, and the economies of scale for capital and ultimately a renewable energy service simply weren’t there yet.

Demand, investment and economic growth all drive cheaper and more competitive renewable energy prices comparatively to renewables.

 

  • Uncertainty Surrounding Renewables

In the past, there was far more uncertainty and less support for renewables in the mainstream public.

 

  • Wasn’t As Much Pressure On Energy Suppliers & Governments In The Past To Hold Polluters Accountable

There wasn’t as much awareness in the past on the dangers of fossil fuel energy. As a result, there was less pressure on governments, investors and energy suppliers to start providing safer, healthier and ultimately more sustainable and cleaner forms of energy.

 

Why We Still Use Fossil Fuels Today Instead Of Renewables Today

Firstly, you can view the energy mix of different major countries around the world in this guide (which energy sources they get their energy from).

Secondly, obviously, in poorer countries, lack of proper infrastructure and funding can be an issue.

Thirdly, there are various reasons why developed countries still use differing levels and types of fossil fuels in their overall energy mix.

We’ve already written two guides which explain these reasons quite well:

These guides outlines the general barriers to using more renewable energy, and how/why China (the highest coal using country in the world) might struggle in it’s transition away from coal.

 

Sources

1. Various BMR articles

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/reasons-why-we-dont-use-more-renewable-energy-worldwide-barriers-obstacles-challenges-in-switching-over-to-renewables/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-challenges-with-chinas-transition-from-coal-to-natural-gas-renewable-energy/

4. https://reneweconomy.com.au/global-fossil-fuel-subsidies-reach-5-2-trillion-and-29-billion-in-australia-91592/

5. https://cleantechnica.com/2018/01/26/renewable-energy-doesnt-get-subsidies-fossil-nuclear-sources-gotten-continue-get/

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-energy-source-is-the-most-dangerous-harmful-which-is-safest/

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

Economic Impact & Benefits Of Renewable Energy & Clean Energy

Economic Impact & Benefits Of Renewable Energy & Clean Energy

What is clear is that the economic impact and benefits of renewable and clean energy are far ranging, and go deeper than just job creation.

In this guide, we list and explain the full range of economic benefits that renewable/clean energy provides, and can provide into the future.

 

Summary – Economic Impact & Benefits Of Renewable Energy & Clean Energy

  • Ultimately, the economic impact and benefits of different renewable and clean energy sources will differ between countries, states and regions because of the individual variables and factors in each location e.g. state of the economy, energy policy, investment in clean energy, energy infrastructure, and so on
  • But, some of the general economic benefits experienced worldwide or in specific countries has been …
  • An increase in total jobs, as well as an increase in the range of jobs and quality of jobs
  • A potentially better ROI on money invested in renewable energy compared to some fossil fuels
  • Stimulation of the economy and growth of the GDP, as well as servicing specific regions, and rural locations
  • Can lift poorer regions out of the poverty cycle (and provide more basic rights and ways of living to these regions)
  • A lowering and stabilisation of the wholesale price of electricity for consumers when renewables are included in an energy mix with an inefficient fossil fuel source (like an old coal or natural gas power plant)
  • Trade, import and export benefits
  • National energy independence and control
  • Creates additional income sources and economic opportunities for individuals
  • Increases locally made and sourced goods and services
  • Save costs on air pollution related health problems
  • Save costs on addressing climate change and global warming
  • Save costs on other environmental and social issues
  • Save on energy costs with increased energy efficiency and reduced consumption
  • Other indirect economic benefits

*Note – It would also be worthwhile to note that renewable energy and clean energy can extend from the commonly recognised areas like solar, wind, hydro, geothermal etc., to nuclear and even energy efficiency areas like building design, energy efficiency upgrades and other aspects of reducing energy use.

 

Job Creation

*It’s important to note the difference between direct and indirect, and full time and part time jobs. It’s also important to look at how the number of jobs provided by each energy source, comparative to the installed capacity, production and consumption of each energy source. 

But, job creation in renewable energy tends to be greater than fossil fuels across a range of measures, such as per dollar invested, and per MWh of electricity produced, just to name a few.

Jobs are across a range of areas, and can be safer, higher quality and sometimes higher paying.

Job growth also looks positive in the clean energy industries into the future with continued investment and continued clean energy friendly government policies. Several projections into 2030 and 2050 forecast that the number of jobs with an increasing electricity supply sourced from renewables will actually increase the total number of jobs vs if the energy mix was more fossil fuel heavy.

Read more in these guides:

 

Other information on job growth and creation in renewables and clean energy are:

  • Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital-intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor intensive … This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.
  • … in 2017, wind power technician was the fastest growing job in the country
  • [renewable energy jobs may also be safer and cleaner compared to coal mining or coal plants with coal dust, air pollution and coal ash waste present]
  • … wind has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs [nationally in the US] in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • Ten of the 12 states in the US MidWest have more rural clean energy jobs than rural fossil fuel jobs

– insideclimatenews.org

 

  • [clean energy tends to produce more direct and indirect jobs than fossil fuel energy – more than three times the amount per $1 million invested]
  • … substantially higher quality and higher pay nature of clean energy jobs relative to fossil fuel employment
  • … energy efficiency investment of $1 million creates 66 job years (this includes both direct and indirect jobs)
  • [more jobs are created for clean energy per GWh produced than fossil fuels]
  • [other studies show renewable energy can create up to 6.7 more times than some fossil fuel energy sources]
  • Clean energy jobs also generally are more distributed and are largely higher quality jobs 

– greenbiz.com

 

  • [renewable energy] jobs are created in manufacturing, project development, construction and turbine installation, operations and maintenance, transportation and logistics, and financial, legal, and consulting services [and across a range of other areas]

– ucsusa.org

 

  • Among all renewable sources of energy, bioenergy arguably has the most lasting influence, locally and regionally. This could be due to the fact that the fuel is created, prepared and transported within a small area. It is also extremely labor-intensive.
  • Hydropower and wind power constructions create most jobs during the project development and construction phase. After the system is completed and commissioned, only a few personnel are required to carry out the limited operational work.
  • Data released by a trade association of wind and marine energy providers suggest that three to four indirect jobs were generated for every person employed directly within the wind industry.

– business.com

 

Money Investment On Renewables Might Have Better ROI & More A Bigger Trickle Down Effect Across A Range Of Economic Areas

The ROI on renewable and clean energy can be higher per dollar invested, and there can be a trickle down effect from investors to cities/towns, businesses and individuals.

 

  • [renewables] generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • In addition to the jobs directly created in the renewable energy industry, growth in clean energy can create positive economic “ripple” effects. For example, industries in the renewable energy supply chain will benefit, and unrelated local businesses will benefit from increased household and business incomes

– ucsusa.org

 

Growing The Economy (Economic Stimulus) and GDP Country Wide, As Well As In Specific Regions, & Rurally

Renewable and clean energy can create large amounts of economic stimulus not only nationally, but in states and regions of a country where investment and clean energy friendly policy is in place.

Smaller communities and rural areas can benefit immensely from renewables like solar and wind which can provide economic stimulus where no other business or investment might be attracted to the area.

Not only does this support and bring energy to smaller communities and rural areas, but there are other benefits like more jobs in the area, and an increased ability to keep young people in the area (rather than them having to go out to cities to find jobs).

Economic stimulus from renewables and clean energy can affect some States more than others.

 

  • According to a recent report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), if we double renewable energy’s current share in the global energy mix, global gross domestic product (GDP) would increase by as much as 1.1 percent, or approximately $1.3 trillion, by 2030.

– renewableenergymagazine.com

 

  • Advanced energy — which includes solar, wind, energy efficiency, energy storage and EVs — contributed $1.4 trillion to the global economy in 2016. (The US portion of this amount was $200 billion.)

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • … the 23 largest wind farms in Illinois … will add almost $6 billion to local economies over their lifetimes and have resulted in the creation of more than 19,000 jobs during the construction periods. The projects will also support 814 permanent jobs in the state

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • [some sources report that in places like Zion, Illinois in the US, the closure of nuclear plants has resulted in fewer police patrols, higher taxes and less business investment and business activity in general – and, the loss of about $18 million annual income]
  • [nuclear in the US is in the position though to offer good job growth in the US over the short term – roughly 23,000 jobs added over the next 5 years]

– nei.org

 

In the US, renewable energy can be stronger in some states compared to others:

  • California, a state with robust renewable energy standards and installation incentives, had the highest rate of solar power jobs per capita. In 2016, roughly 84 of every 10,000 workers in the state held full- or part-time jobs in solar. Nevada came in a close second, followed by Hawaii, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

– scottmadden.com

 

Also in the US, renewable energy employment can happen on a region and rural based level:

  • [clean energy in the MidWest in the US is responsible for contributing jobs to the rural economies of 12 Midwestern states, where these locations might otherwise struggle to attract investment and economic stimulation]

– insideclimatenews.org

 

Can Lift Poorer Regions Out Of Poverty Cycle

Worldwide, traditionally poorer countries and remote communities are benefitting from the fact that technology like solar and wind doesn’t need to be connected into the grid, and can start helping lift some of these places out of poverty and a range of other issues.

 

  • … renewable energy is scalable in areas where there is very little or no electricity
  • Even in the poorest countries, solar’s flexibility is making it desirable. In Bangladesh, more than 3.5m solar home systems have been installed in rural villages

– cleantechnica.com

 

Trade, Import & Export Benefits

Producing more renewable and clean energy locally or within a country can have a number of trade, import and export benefits.

Firstly, excess renewable energy can be exported. Secondly, there is less of a need to import certain types of energies and fuels (and there can be a reduction in imported energy overall). Thirdly, the savings and extra income from these changed importing and exporting scenarios mean that there is more money to invest locally. These things can improve a country’s trade balance and leverage in different ways.

 

  • Reducing fuel imports can improve trade balance and improve GDP. The EU33 improves its net exports by USD 15 billion when the renewables share is doubled and by USD 21 billion in the higher electrification case
  • As countries develop their individual renewable energy sectors, localising different activities in the value chain can redirect investments. These are channelled into the local economy and would otherwise have been spent on importing fossil fuels or renewable energy goods and services
  • China … Having pursued an aggressive industrial policy early on … has emerged as a major exporter of renewable energy. It exported over USD 10 billion in solar panels and cells, almost 80 times the value it exported only ten years earlier …
  • Due to increased energy efficiency and an overall decline in energy demand, Germany will also save €3,5 bn in fuel imports

– cleantechnica.com

 

National Energy Independence & Control

Pretty straight forward – producing and using renewable energy nationally and locally increases a country’s independence and control over their own energy.

This is in stark contrast to having to depend on other countries to import fossil fuels like natural gas from (e.g. the countries who rely on countries like Russia or Norway for part of their natural gas supply).

Also, not being reliant on fossil fuels like foreign oil reduces a country’s vulnerability to fluctuating oil prices. (renewableenergymagazine.com)

 

Wholesale Price Of Electricity

This is country, state, city and region specific.

But, in some places in the world such as South Australia, renewable energy like wind and solar has already had the economic benefit of both lowering and stabilising electricity prices for consumers in an energy mix with natural gas.  Parts of the MidWest in the US are seeing a similar trend.

Renewables have a lower operating costs for energy suppliers because they don’t have to purchase fuel.

Using more renewable energy can lower the prices of and demand for natural gas and coal by increasing competition and diversifying our energy supplies (ucsusa.org)

It also means the price of electricity isn’t susceptible to changes in the price of fuels, like it is with natural gas or coal (renewableenergymagazine.com)

 

Creates Additional Sources Of Income & Economic Opportunities For Individuals

Renewable and clean energy sources provide additional sources of income for individuals such as home and land owners, and in general, can provide more economic opportunities for everyone (not just energy suppliers and the government).

 

  • In the MidWest in the US, wind energy and other renewable energy sources provide additional sources income for farmers and tax revenue for communities

– insideclimatenews.org

 

  • … wind farms in the U.S. provide around $222 million every year to rural landowners who host wind farms on their property.
  • Farmers can also make money growing crops to be used as biofuels.
  • … [solar panels on houses can also increase the value of the house]

– renewableenergymagazine.com

 

  • Local governments also benefit from clean energy, most often in the form of property and income taxes and other payments from renewable energy project owners.
  • Owners of the land on which wind projects are built often receive lease payments ranging from $3,000 to $6,000 per megawatt of installed capacity, as well as payments for power line easements and road rights-of-way. They may also earn royalties based on the project’s annual revenues.
  • Farmers and rural landowners can generate new sources of supplemental income by producing feedstocks for biomass power facilities.

– ucsusa.org

 

Increase Locally Made & Sourced Goods & Services

Locally sourced and made goods and services are beneficial for economies.

It’s help more of a consumer’s money stay within the country, which adds to the ripple effect mentioned above in this article.

Renewable energy equipment in some countries is heavily manufactured at home as opposed to having to have to import equipment (although some countries still do import equipment like solar panels from countries like China).

 

  • Now, more than 50% of a U.S.-installed turbine’s value is produced in America, a twelve-fold increase from just a few years ago. Some turbine manufacturers plan to make 100% of their components in America, and the trend is expected to continue.
  • Currently, wind power contributes about $20 billion a year in value to the US economy, and it has been projected that amount will rise to $24 billion by 2020.

– cleantechnica.com

 

Save Costs On Air Pollution & Air Pollution Related Health Problems

Fossil fuels (the burning and combustion of) are one of the major causes for air pollution, and fossil fuels are often measured across different metrics as the most dangerous and harmful energy sources.

Burning fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil releases contaminants into the air, and humans can suffer a range of respiratory and heart related problems from breathing in this air frequently.

Renewables and clean energy emit less pollutants, and therefore leave us with cleaner air and better health (in theory).

This can help save billions of dollars worldwide in addressing air pollution, and treating air pollution related health problems.

 

  • In China … reducing the use of coal and eventually eliminating it would save hundreds of billions of dollars of dollars a year in various societal costs. “The  impacts found are damages due to climate change; public health damages from NOx, SO2, PM2.5, and mercury emissions; fatalities of members of the public due to rail accidents during coal transport; the public health burden in Appalachia associated with coal mining; government subsidies; and lost value of abandoned mine lands.”
  • Coal’s impact in China is even greater. In a single year, about 670,000 premature deaths have been linked to coal emissions
  • … 157 million people in China live in areas with harmful air pollution levels
  • It has been reported that China will invest $361 billion by 2020 to combat [air pollution]

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked with breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and a host of other serious problems.
  • The pollution affects everyone: one Harvard University study estimated the life cycle costs and public health effects of coal to be an estimated $74.6 billion every year.

– ucsusa.org

 

Save Costs On Climate Change & Global Warming

The burning of fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases in higher totals, and higher intensities.

Greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels are seen as one of the human causes of climate change and global warming.

Climate change is seen to have a range of costs associated with it.

 

  • … [the] climate benefit estimates [of solar and wind energy] ranged from $5 billion to $106 billion, with an additional $30 billion to $113 billion in air quality and public health benefits. And that’s just the estimated economic benefits of the averted 3,000 to 12,000 premature deaths—it doesn’t count things like sub-lethal medical issues and lost productivity, much less the personal benefits to individual lives.” On the low end, the combined values are $35 billion in benefits. At the top, it has the number at $219 billion
  • The share of national GDP at risk from climate change exceeds $1.5 trillion in the 301 major cities around the world. Including the impact of human pandemics – which are likely to become more severe as the planet warms — the figure increases to nearly $2.2 trillion in economic output at risk through 2025
  • … [this doesn’t even take into consideration factors like natural events and disease/virus outbreaks which can be linked to climate change]

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • … climate change has cost the U.S. economy around $240 billion per year over the last 10 years. 
  • another report … found that the U.S. economy will contract by up to 10 percent by the end of the century if climate change continues at its current pace.
  • These economic losses are the result of extreme weather events, worsened air quality, rising sea levels and other effects

– renewableenergymagazine.com

 

  • … a 2009 UCS analysis found that a 25 percent by 2025 national renewable electricity standard would lower power plant CO2 emissions 277 million metric tons annually by 2025—the equivalent of the annual output from 70 typical (600 MW) new coal plants
  • [a study exploring] the feasibility of generating 80 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2050 … found that renewable energy could help reduce the electricity sector’s emissions by approximately 81 percent

– ucsusa.org

 

Save Costs On Other Environmental & Social Issues & Problems 

As mentioned above, there are other environmental problems associated with the use of fossil fuels for energy production and consumption. Water pollution is one such example, with ocean acidification, ocean warming, and acid rain being just a few others.

Mining of fossil fuels also comes with a range of potential environmental issues.

Social costs include health problems, questionable working conditions in mines, and being less able to service poorer regions without access to fossil fuel based energy.

 

Save On Energy Costs With Increased Efficiency & Reduced Consumption

Renewables and clean energy can have a net effect of more efficient energy production and consumption, and reduced overall energy consumption in total.

This can result in saved money, and less wasted energy.

 

  • Due to increased energy efficiency and an overall decline in energy demand, Germany will also save €3,5 bn in fuel imports [in 2020 according to one study]
  • … more efficient energy technology can reduce waste in current systems. “India has seen other benefits to renewable energy, too … Right now, the country loses about 30 percent of the energy it generates, because of transmission line losses. By having decentralized solar power and wind, they’ve cut these losses and seen big savings in energy and money.

– cleantechnica.com

 

Other Indirect Economic Benefits

Such as:

  • Saving of precious resources like water (which we use for other parts of the economy like agriculture and households) which fossil fuel plants use for cooling in significant amounts (ucsusa.org)
  • Less chance of disruption to energy supply in the event of extreme weather and natural disasters or natural events (ucsusa.org). Losing power can be devastating for businesses in particular
  • + many other indirect economic benefits

 

Sources

1. https://cleantechnica.com/2018/03/10/renewable-energy-economic-benefits-know/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels-vs-nuclear-comparison-guide/

3. https://www.nei.org/advantages/jobs

4. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07122018/rural-jobs-clean-energy-wind-power-energy-efficiency-renewable-vs-fossil-fuels-climate-change

5. https://www.scottmadden.com/insight/fossil-50-energy-industry-jobs-yet-renewables-drive-future/

6. https://www.greenbiz.com/article/how-many-jobs-does-clean-energy-create

7. https://www.renewableenergymagazine.com/emily-folk/the-many-economic-benefits-of-renewable-energy-20190312

8. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable-power

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/how-many-jobs-does-renewable-clean-energy-create-worldwide-by-country-by-energy-source/

10. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/does-renewable-energy-create-more-jobs-than-fossil-fuels-renewable-energy-jobs-vs-fossil-fuel-jobs/

11. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-energy-source-is-the-most-dangerous-harmful-which-is-safest/

12. https://www.business.com/articles/the-impact-of-green-energy-on-the-economy/

Does Renewable Energy Create More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels? (Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs)

Does Renewable Energy Create More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels? (Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs)

Does renewable energy as an industry create more jobs than fossil fuels?

In this guide we look at how many jobs the various renewable energy sources create compared to fossil fuels like coal, natural gas and oil on a global, as well as a country based level.

 

Summary – Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs

  • It’s hard to find the complete global employment statistics on fossil fuels, but it’s easy to see how, right now, fossil fuel employment far outstrips renewable energy employment, especially considering major countries like China and India still have coal as a leading primary energy source, and many other major countries have petroleum or natural gas in their mix. Global coal mining employment currently almost exceeds global renewable energy employment in total by itself
  • Right now, in the US, fossil fuel employment still outweighs renewable energy employment by total numbers and as a % (56% to 44%)
  • However, these stats look to gradually reverse in the future with the amount of renewable energy investment we have seen over the past decade, and the strong job growth seen in renewable energy in many major countries over the past decade also
  • Solar PV in the US already provides over double the amount of jobs that coal does
  • There’s also regional trends developing – Ten of the 12 states in the US MidWest have more rural clean energy jobs than rural fossil fuel jobs (insideclimatenews.org). Some states like California who have a big renewable energy focus can see higher overall and per capita growth than other states with less renewable energy friendly policies 
  • China has already begun either reallocating or cutting jobs in the coal and steel industries, and these job declines are expected until at least 2020. It’s not hard to see other countries doing the same as old coal plants close 
  • When comparing renewable energy to fossil fuel energy in terms of job creation and employment …
  • Renewables are more labor intensive, whereas fossil fuel tend to be more capital intensive
  • Renewables generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies
  • Some studies show the renewable energy sector generates more jobs than the fossil fuel-based energy sector per unit of energy delivered (i.e., per average megawatt)
  • Renewable energy can be more expensive in some regards to set up (compared to old fossil fuel plants and technology) – but, we also have to consider the environmental and social costs we are paying for them, with air pollution, air pollution related health problems and higher mortality rates, greenhouse gases emissions – all being just a few of these costs
  • Overall, renewables, as long as they continue to receive funding and support, appear to be as beneficial for job creation and employment totals, or better, compared to fossil fuels

*Note – it’s important to note the difference between direct and indirect, and full time and part time jobs. It’s also important to look at how the number of jobs provided by each energy source, comparative to the installed capacity, production and consumption of each energy source.

 

Worldwide/Globally – Number Of Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs

Fossil Fuels

  • [In 2018, the global coal mining industry employed 8,650,211 people]

– ibisworld.com

 

Renewable Energy

  • [There were 10.3 million jobs in 2017 in renewable energy worldwide]

– irena.org

 

United States – Number Of Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuel Jobs

Renewable Energy

In 2016 in the US (of a total 1.9 million jobs in power creation):

  • Solar – 373,807
  • Bioenergy – 130,677
  • Wind – 101,738
  • Nuclear – 76,771
  • Hydroelectric – 65,554
  • Geothermal – a smaller amount than the above energy sources

– scottmadden.com

 

2016 US renewable energy employment numbers by energy source can be seen at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26052017/infographic-renewable-energy-jobs-worldwide-solar-wind-trump

 

Fossil Fuels

In 2016, in the US (of a total 1.9 million jobs in power creation):

56% of energy industry jobs involved in power creation stemmed from oil, natural gas, and coal

  • Oil – 515,518
  • Natural Gas – 398,235
  • Coal – 160,119

– scottmadden.com

 

China – Number Of Renewable Energy Jobs vs Fossil Fuels

Renewables

  • [43% of the 10.3 million jobs in 2017 in renewable energy worldwide were in China]
  • [China has 83% of worldwide solar heating and cooling jobs, 66% of the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector jobs, 44% in wind power]

– irena.org

 

  • [China is] the world leader in clean energy employment by far with nearly 4 million jobs, including hydropower [in 2016]

– insideclimatenews.org

 

Fossil Fuels

  • … by 2020 the coal sector will employ less than three million people, down from 5.29 million in 2013 

– globalresearch.ca

 

In General – Does Renewable Energy Create More Jobs Than Fossil Fuels?

Greenbiz.com outlines studies on investment in renewable energy and clean energy that point out the following:

  • [clean energy tends to produce more direct and indirect jobs than fossil fuel energy – more than three times the amount per $1 million invested]
  • … substantially higher quality and higher pay nature of clean energy jobs relative to fossil fuel employment
  • … energy efficiency investment of $1 million creates 66 job years (this includes both direct and indirect jobs)
  • [more jobs are created for clean energy per GWh produced than fossil fuels]
  • [other studies show renewable energy can create up to 6.7 more times than some fossil fuel energy sources]
  • Clean energy jobs also generally are more distributed and are largely higher quality jobs

– Greenbiz.com

 

  • Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital-intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor intensive. Solar panels need humans to install them; wind farms need technicians for maintenance. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels. That is true even when wind and solar power are cheaper for the customer
  • [renewables] are labor intensive, so they generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies

– cleantechnica.com

 

  • Renewables are more labor intensive, whereas fossil fuel tend to be more capital intensive

– ucsusa.org

 

  • … renewable energy investment and development tends to create more jobs than fossil fuel energy because a larger share of renewable energy expenditures go to manufacturing equipment, installation, and maintenance, all of which are typically
    more labor-intensive than extracting and transporting fossil fuels
  • Across a broad range of scenarios, the renewable energy sector generates more jobs than the fossil fuel-based energy sector per unit of energy delivered (i.e., per average megawatt)
  • … investing in various types of renewable energy would create approximately twice as many jobs in the USA by 2020 as investing in coal and natural gas.  Similarly, a 2001 Renewable Energy Policy Project report found that wind and solar photovoltaic investments lead to at least 40% more jobs per dollar than coal.
  • It’s a complicated comparison, because renewable energy sources tend to be more expensive than fossil fuel energy.  Thus hypothetically, the extra money invested in renewable energy could have been spent elsewhere to create new jobs in a different sector of the economy.  However, fossil fuel energy is also artificially cheap because its price does not account for various external costs like climate change and impacts on public health.  When accounting for all factors, it’s likely that renewable energy results in more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels.

– skepticalscience.com

 

What Happens To Jobs In The Future As More Energy Becomes Renewable?

In one scenario:

  • [some studies show we] can move to 100% renewable energy by 2050, while creating jobs along the way
  • [more total jobs will be created in the energy sector with this approach]
  • … metal trades are the only type of job that will experience a reduction – all other energy based jobs will see an increase. The one exception to this is China and India, for example, will both experience a reduction in the number of jobs for managers and clerical and administrative workers between 2015 and 2025.

– theconversation.com

 

  • The 2009 Union of Concerned Scientists study of a 25-percent-by-2025 renewable energy standard found that such a policy would create more than three times as many jobs (more than 200,000) as producing an equivalent amount of electricity from fossil fuels

– ucsusa.org

 

Sources

1. https://www.scottmadden.com/insight/fossil-50-energy-industry-jobs-yet-renewables-drive-future/

2. https://www.globalresearch.ca/chinas-cutback-in-coal-mining-2-3-million-new-jobs-required-by-2020/5607799

3. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26052017/infographic-renewable-energy-jobs-worldwide-solar-wind-trump

4. https://irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2018/May/IRENA_RE_Jobs_Annual_Review_2018.pdf

5. https://www.irena.org/publications/2018/May/Renewable-Energy-and-Jobs-Annual-Review-2018

6. https://www.ibisworld.com/industry-trends/global-industry-reports/mining/coal-mining.html

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

8. https://cleantechnica.com/2018/03/10/renewable-energy-economic-benefits-know/

9. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable-power

10. https://skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=371

11. https://theconversation.com/heres-how-a-100-renewable-energy-future-can-create-jobs-and-even-save-the-gas-industry-110285

12. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07122018/rural-jobs-clean-energy-wind-power-energy-efficiency-renewable-vs-fossil-fuels-climate-change

13. https://www.greenbiz.com/article/how-many-jobs-does-clean-energy-create

How Many Jobs Does Renewable & Clean Energy Create? (Worldwide, By Country, & By Energy Source)

How Many Jobs Does Renewable & Clean Energy Create? (Worldwide, By Country, & By Energy Source)

In this guide, we looks at how many jobs renewable energy helps create directly and indirectly worldwide, by country and by energy source.

We also look at future projections for renewable energy job growth and potential.

 

Summary – How Many Jobs Does Renewable & Clean Energy Create?

  • Worldwide in 2017 10.34 million people were employed directly and indirectly in renewable energy
  • Solar photovoltaic was the biggest employer, followed by bioenergy, large hydropower and then wind energy
  • Solar PV and biofuels saw an increased job growth from 2016 to 2017, whilst wind energy and solar heating and cooling saw declines
  • China is the world’s biggest employer in the renewable energy industry, with Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Japan also having a large majority of worldwide jobs on offer
  • Renewable energy sources like solar PV already offer more jobs than fossil fuel like coal in several countries
  • Renewable energy tends to provide more jobs per dollar invested, and is more labor intensive than fossil fuels (which tends to be more capital intensive) (cleantechnica.com)
  • With increased investment in renewable energy, it only looks like the total number of jobs offered by the industry will continue to grow into the future in countries who continue to invest

*Note – it’s important to note the difference between direct and indirect, and full time and part time jobs. It’s also important to look at how the number of jobs provided by each energy source, comparative to the installed capacity, production and consumption of each energy source.

 

How Many Jobs Renewable Energy Creates Worldwide

  • [There were 10.3 million jobs in 2017 in renewable energy worldwide]

– irena.org

 

2016 renewable energy employment numbers by energy source can be seen at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26052017/infographic-renewable-energy-jobs-worldwide-solar-wind-trump

 

How Quickly Are Renewable Energy Jobs Growing Worldwide?

  • [From 2012 to 2017, there has been a 1.5 times job growth in renewables]
  • [In 2017 alone, there was a 5.3% growth in renewable energy job growth for the year compared to the previous year … the renewable industry created more than 500 000 new jobs globally in 2017]
  • [Solar PV grew 9% from 2016 to 2017]
  • [Biofuels employment expanded by 12% from 2016 to 2017]
  • [Other renewables like solar heating and cooling and wind power declined

– irena.org

 

Which Countries Have The Most Jobs In Renewable Energy?

  • [In 2017 … China, Brazil, the United States, India, Germany and Japan remained the world’s biggest renewable energy employers, representing more than 70% of such jobs]
  • Four-fifths of all renewable energy jobs in 2017 were in Asia
  • Employment remains limited in Africa, but the potential for off-grid jobs is high

– irena.org

 

How Many Jobs Renewable Energy Creates In The US

  • The U.S. trails the European Union in renewable energy jobs, about 806,000 jobs to over 1.2 million [in 2016]

– insideclimatenews.org

2016 US renewable energy employment numbers by energy source can be seen at https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26052017/infographic-renewable-energy-jobs-worldwide-solar-wind-trump

 

  • There’s also regional trends developing – Ten of the 12 states in the US MidWest have more rural clean energy jobs than rural fossil fuel jobs
  • … although, this also includes energy efficiency areas such as building design, energy efficiency upgrades and other aspects of reducing energy use that save people money on energy costs while also reducing the greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet
  • [some States that have more renewable friendly government policy and higher investment may also see greater growth than others]

– insideclimatenews.org

 

How Many Jobs Renewable Energy Creates In China

  • [43% of the 10.3 million jobs in 2017 in renewable energy worldwide were in China]
  • [China has 83% of worldwide solar heating and cooling jobs, 66% of the solar photovoltaic (PV) sector jobs, 44% in wind power]

– irena.org

 

  • [China is] the world leader in clean energy employment by far with nearly 4 million jobs, including hydropower [in 2016]

– insideclimatenews.org

 

How Many Jobs Renewable Energy Creates In Europe

  • The U.S. trails the European Union in renewable energy jobs, about 806,000 jobs to over 1.2 million [in 2016]

– insideclimatenews.org

 

How Many Jobs Does Hydropower Create?

  • [In 2017, large hydropower employed 1.51 million of a total 10.34 million people employed worldwide in renewable energy]

– irena.org

 

How Many Jobs Does Bioenergy (Liquid Biofuels, Solid Biomass and Biogas) Create?

  • [In 2017, bioenergy employed 3.06 million of a total 10.34 million people employed worldwide in renewable energy]

– irena.org

 

How Many Jobs Does Solar Energy Create?

  • [In 2017, solar PV employed 3.37 million of a total 10.34 million people employed worldwide in renewable energy]
  • [In 2017, solar heating and cooling employed 0.81 million of a total 10.34 million people employed worldwide in renewable energy]

– irena.org

 

  • Solar PV creates more jobs. It accounts for the bulk of the world’s renewable energy jobs, despite being a minority of renewable energy capacity. Wind, which leads solar in capacity, creates far fewer jobs. Solar PV is very labor-intensive.

– vox.com

 

How Many Jobs Does Wind Energy Create?

  • [In 2017, wind energy employed 1.15 million of a total 10.34 million people employed worldwide in renewable energy]

– irena.org

 

How Many Jobs Do Geothermal, Small Hydropower, CSP, Heat Pumps, Waste Energy & Ocean Energy Create?

  • [In 2017, these energy source employed 0.45 million of a total 10.34 million people employed worldwide in renewable energy]

– irena.org

 

How Many Jobs Does Nuclear Energy Create?

  • The U.S. industry directly employs nearly 100,000 people in high-quality, long-term jobs. This number climbs to 475,000 when you include secondary jobs. 

– nei.org

NEI also notes the impact the nuclear industry will have on employment growth in the short term future in the US, and how the closure on nuclear plants in the US in the past has led to less police patrols, higher housing taxes and other social and economic drawbacks.

 

How Many Jobs Will Renewable Energy Help Create In The Future?

  • [renewable energy] generally create more jobs per dollar invested than conventional electricity generation technologies

– cleantechnica.com

 

What we do know is that renewable energy has seen increasing investment over the last decade, and that trend isn’t expected to decline heading towards 2050 where many countries will be aiming to achieve climate agreement targets.

So, the number of jobs in renewable energy in the future can only be expected to increase in total worldwide, or at least in the countries who are investing in the industry. It’s also possible jobs increase in States and regions with more renewable energy friendly policies, and those who invest the most.

 

Take this one prediction in the US in just the wind energy space alone:

  • To achieve 20% wind power by 2030, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the United States will require more than 100,000 additional wind turbines, creating more than 500,000 new jobs
  • … wind has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050

– cleantechnica.com

 

Other forecasts:

  • From 2014-2024, the U.S. Department of Labor predicts wind turbine technician as the fastest-growing job in America with 108% growth expected versus 7% for all U.S. occupations and 6% for installation, maintenance, and repair occupations
  • [economic and job growth in renewables in the future could happen in a] few states where the energy jobs are concentrated and more influential, such as in California due to renewables and West Virginia due to coal

– scottmadden.com

 

  • [some studies show we] can move to 100% renewable energy [worldwide] by 2050, while creating jobs along the way
  • [more total jobs will be created in the energy sector with this approach]
  • … metal trades are the only type of job that will experience a reduction – all other energy based jobs will see an increase. The one exception to this is China and India, for example, will both experience a reduction in the number of jobs for managers and clerical and administrative workers between 2015 and 2025.

– theconversation.com

 

Sources

1. https://cleantechnica.com/2018/03/10/renewable-energy-economic-benefits-know/

2. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/6/18/18681591/renewable-energy-china-solar-pv-jobs

3. https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable-power

4. https://irena.org/-/media/Files/IRENA/Agency/Publication/2018/May/IRENA_RE_Jobs_Annual_Review_2018.pdf

5. https://www.irena.org/publications/2018/May/Renewable-Energy-and-Jobs-Annual-Review-2018

6. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-that-invest-the-most-in-renewable-energy-what-they-invest-in/

7. https://www.nei.org/advantages/jobs

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

9. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26052017/infographic-renewable-energy-jobs-worldwide-solar-wind-trump

10. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/07122018/rural-jobs-clean-energy-wind-power-energy-efficiency-renewable-vs-fossil-fuels-climate-change

11. https://www.scottmadden.com/insight/fossil-50-energy-industry-jobs-yet-renewables-drive-future/

12. https://theconversation.com/heres-how-a-100-renewable-energy-future-can-create-jobs-and-even-save-the-gas-industry-110285

Which Renewable Or Green Energy Source Is The ‘Best’?

Which Renewable Or Green Energy Source Is The 'Best'?

There’s been a lot of investment in renewable and green type energy sources over the last decade or so.

In addition to that, the amount of electricity we produce globally from renewables has gradually been increasing.

With these things in mind, we thought we’d put a quick guide together outlining which renewable or green energy source might be the ‘best’.

This is obviously a subjective thing, so to give the answer some objectivity, we’ve assessed ‘best’ by comparing energy sources across various factors.

 

Summary – Which Renewable Or Green Energy Source Is The ‘Best’?

  • Renewable energy sources generally include solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, wave, tidal, and bioenergy/biomass/biofuel
  • If we add green energy sources to the mix, nuclear energy can be included too
  • Although nuclear energy has many pros including great power density and essentially emission and pollution free operation, the mining required for uranium and radioactive waste produced as a waste product does means that it probably loses points overall as a green energy compared to some renewables
  • Hydropower currently provides around 50% of the electricity provided globally by renewables
  • Over the last 10 years or so, solar and wind have by far received the most investment money
  • Solar (PV) and wind (mainly onshore) appear to be the ‘best’ renewable and green forms of energy going forward into the future (although, you could add hydropower to the list as well based on the current picture of renewable energy installed capacity, production and consumption). They are relatively affordable energy sources in terms of cost per unit of electricity produced, that can be set up to provide electricity at decent scale, and also have good resource to electricity conversion efficiency. They aren’t perfect though – they do usually need a complimentary energy source (usually a fossil fuel like coal or natural gas, or even nuclear) to help meet baseload power demand, and sometimes to meet peak load demand. So, the ‘best’ energy source or sources may still be supported by another less ideal energy source in the overall energy mix for logistical reasons 
  • The ‘best’ energy source can also be country and even city or region specific – different countries, cities and regions have different challenges, logistics and natural resources to consider in setting up the best short and long term energy mix for them. So, this should be taken into account to provide a city, state/province and country level solution/answer.
  • A good understanding of the pros and cons of renewable energy in general, as well as the different renewable energy sources helps is coming up for an energy solution for each city, state or province, or country

 

Below, we summarise the leading energy sources by the following aspects:

  • Cost per unit of electricity produced for investors and energy suppliers
  • Wholesale price of electricity for consumers
  • How dangerous and safe each energy source is towards humans
  • Impact on environment and wildlife
  • Capability based on installed capacity, production and consumption
  • Investment and what that means for the future
  • Number of jobs provided
  • Practical and logistical considerations
  • Country, city and region based considerations

 

Cost Per Unit Of Electricity Produced

Cost per unit of electricity produced can be measured among a few factors, such as capital costs, and the levelized cost of electricity which tries to capture the lifecycle costs that contribute to making a unit of electricity.

What we see is a changing picture when it comes to cost.

Fossil fuels used to be cheaper across many measures (because old plants didn’t have to have pollutant or emissions controls or systems), but increasing controls and regulations for fossil fuel plants to meet emissions and pollution requirements is lifting the cost of fossil fuels, and economies of scale and advancements in technology are reducing the price of renewables. Subsidies can also play a role here.

By the 2020’s, it is expected renewables will be cheaper than fossil fuels per unit of electricity produced.

As far as capital costs go for renewables, offshore wind and advanced nuclear tend to be expensive. Solar PV and onshore wind tend to be cheaper and affordable.

As far as LCOE, onshore wind and solar PV are expected to be very cheap in some countries by the early 2020’s.

Read more about capital costs, LCOE and cost per unit of electricity of energy sources in this guide

 

Wholesale Price Of Electricity 

Wholesale price of electricity for consumers can differ between countries, and between states/provinces and regions within a country.

It depends on factors like local energy mix, government policies and local energy suppliers.

There is already evidence though that renewable energy is wind and solar is bringing wholesale electricity prices down in an energy mix that also includes natural gas in South Australia.

 

How Dangerous Is Each Energy Source To Humans?

When looking at health problems caused by outdoor air pollution from the burning of energy sources, carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and energy operations, and accidents in the energy sector – nuclear, solar, wind and hydropower are among the safest energy sources compared to fossil fuels.

 

Impact On Environment & Wildlife

Nuclear requires mining of uranium, which has a range of potential environmental problems such as land degradation, water pollution, air pollution, and destruction of ecosystems and wildlife habitats (among other issues).

Each renewable energy source has both a carbon footprint, and water footprint to consider throughout the entire lifecycle of the energy process.

Renewables can have several issues to do with the environment – the building of dams and storage areas for hydropower degrades rivers and water sources, solar farms can take up a lot of land space (and introduce industrial issues to remote areas), wind farms that are set up off-shore can displace reefs, seabeds and aquatic habitats.

Renewables can have several issues to do with wildlife – wind generators can cause problems for flying animals, hydropower for marine life and aquatic species, bioenergy can cause land clearing and a range of agricultural related issues if grown as crops.

But overall, renewables tend to be more eco and animal friendly because of they tend not to have emissions, air pollutants or waste products when in operation.

Solar equipment also has to be either recycled or dumped to landfill once it reaches the end of it’s lifespan, and the materials used to make solar panels, wind generators, dams etc. still might have to be mined or require a raw production process that uses a lot of energy. Solar panels even include plastic in them – and plastic comes from petroleum as one ingredient.

Read more about eco and wildlife impact of energy sources in these guides:

 

Capability Based On Installed Capacity, Production & Consumption

Hydropower leads installed capacity, production and consumption across many measures, comprising of around 50% of total renewable end user consumer electricity. 

But, solar and wind follow behind hydropower across many measures too.

Read more in this guide about installed capacity, production and consumption of the different renewable energy sources.

But, it’s important to consider that nuclear also plays a major role in some countries such as the United States, where it provides 9.6% of overall energy, and around 19% of overall electricity.

 

Investment 

Solar and wind energy are receiving the most investment money by far of all the renewable energy sources over the past decade or so.

 

Jobs Provided 

  • When accounting for all factors, it’s likely that renewable energy results in more jobs per dollar invested than fossil fuels
  • … [one report found that] wind and solar photovoltaic investments lead to at least 40% more jobs per dollar than coal

– skepticalscience.com

 

Practical & Logistical Considerations

Practical and logistical considerations of the energy sources are location and technology specific.

They centre around things like budgets/funding, investing and profitability/return on investment, energy independence, subsidies, exports and imports, abundance of natural and renewable resources, variability, dispatchability, power density, the existing power grid, infrastructure like transmission lines, ability to meet low demand, baseload power and peak demand, as well as considerations for not just electricity, but the heating and cooling and transport sectors (for electric vehicles for example). These are just some practical considerations and logistics – there are many more.

Solar and wind tend to be variable power sources that need another energy source like a fossil fuel or nuclear to help meet base load and sometimes peak energy demand.

Hydropower is pretty flexible, but it’s long term generation capacity and potential can be limited.

Nuclear tends to be far more expensive in some Western countries than some Asian countries, and is therefore is priced out as a power source in these countries.

These are just examples of some of the logical and practical considerations for different energy sources. 

 

Country, City & Region Based Considerations

Each country, city and region will have different considerations in choosing their final short term and long term energy mix.

Country wide trends can differ to city, and region specific trends.

Consider that some regions of the MidWest in the US are seeing rapid growth in wind energy, which goes against the country wide trend and some future projections for energy growth.

Also consider that ‘cities use a higher percentage of renewable electricity than countries. Already, there are at least 100 cities around the world using between 90 and 100 percent renewable electricity’. Cities can often better implement and test renewable energy sources compared to countries where nationwide uptake can be very slow and cumbersome for various reasons.

China as a whole faces an interesting situation whereby they are the leaders in renewable energy investment, installed capacity, production and consumption across many measures, but they also face existing issues in transitioning away from coal energy in the short to medium term (because of factors like investment in existing coal plants, and a power grid and infrastructure set up for fossil fuels) 

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/countries-that-invest-the-most-in-renewable-energy-what-they-invest-in/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/installed-capacity-production-consumption-of-renewable-energy-worldwide-by-country-by-source/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels-vs-nuclear-comparison-guide/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/which-energy-source-is-the-most-dangerous-harmful-which-is-safest/

5. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/energy-sources-energy-mix-by-country-where-major-countries-in-the-world-get-their-energy-from/

6. https://skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=371

7. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/future-of-energy-energy-outlook-in-the-united-states/

8. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/future-of-energy-in-china-energy-outlook/

9. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-renewable-alternative-energy-now-into-the-future/

What Is Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy, & What Are The Different Types/Sources?

What Is Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly Energy, & What Are The Different Green Energy Types/Sources

Green energy can sometimes get called renewable energy, and vice versa.

But, what some people don’t know is that renewable energy actually falls under the broader category of green/clean/sustainable/eco friendly energy.

In this short guide, we outline what green energy is, and what the different types/sources are.

 

Summary – What Is Green Energy, & What Are The Different Types

  • Green energy, which might also be referred to as clean, sustainable or eco friendly energy, doesn’t have one single official definition
  • One way to describe is though, is, energy that comes from natural resources, is renewable (and not finite or scarce), is sustainable to use in the long term, has minimal negative impact of the environment, and has zero waste. How ‘green’ an energy source is can be determined by the operation stage of the energy process, or even better – over the entire lifecycle of the energy process
  • We can see that renewable energy fits under this broader description of clean energy. Renewable energy comes from natural resources and can be replenished quickly ( within the lifespan of humans or muck quicker) 
  • Fossil fuels are not renewable because they take thousands or millions of years to regenerate, making them finite in supply (we have not assessed fossil fuels in the guide below as a result)
  • Renewable energy isn’t always green energy, but the greenest energy always tends to be renewable
  • Green energy includes all of the renewable energy sources, and nuclear energy (because of it’s zero emission operation stage)
  • Wind and solar are probably the greenest energy sources over the entire lifecycle when compared to other green energy sources

*Note – hydrogen is not yet produced at scale by renewable energy (it is mainly being produced by fossil fuels and natural gas), so we have omitted it from this guide.

 

What Exactly Makes An Energy Source Green/Clean/Sustainable/Eco Friendly?

There are several things that can be looked for or assessed across the entire lifecycle of the energy process:

  • if it comes from renewable, or finite resources (uranium is finite at the moment)
  • whether it is mined or not (uranium is mined)
  • whether it is grown and requires inputs such as water and other inputs to grow the resource that is to be used for energy (some bioenergy is)
  • whether the operation stage involves the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, or the release of air pollution contaminants (renewables and nuclear usually don’t, but bioenergy might)
  • whether the operation stage uses a lot of water or other important resources (nuclear reactors can use water for cooling purposes)
  • whether there is any other environmental damage or pollution such as water pollution at any stage throughout the energy process (renewables have a land footprint for their setup, and have carbon footprints still for the manufacture of equipment such as solar panels and wind generators. A little known fact is that solar panels actually include plastic as a material. Once renewable equipment reaches the end of it’s lifespan, it needs to either be recycled or sent to land fill. Bioenergy can cause a range of land clearing, resource usage, environmental pollution, emissions, and waste issues in some forms)
  • whether there is waste or by-products that are either harmful, or need to be managed/treated (nuclear has nuclear waste, whilst renewables tend to have no waste products apart from some forms of bioenergy)
  • how efficient the production stage is at turning energy from the resource into electricity (renewables all tend to be more efficient at turning their natural resources into electricity compared to fossil fuels. Biomass also isn’t as efficient as the other renewable energy sources)
  • the use of important resources like water throughout the energy process (nuclear reactors use a lot of water, and bioenergy can use water for crops or for refining biofuels)

In this guide, we look at the efficiency of the different energy sources, as well as their environmental impact.

 

What Are The Different Types/Sources Of Green Energy?

Fossil fuels, including coal, oil and natural gas, are not green energy.

The renewable energy sources are seen as green -you can read this guide for a list with examples and explanations of the different types of renewable energy sources.

The short list is:

  • Solar (PV – photovoltaic, and thermal)
  • Wind (onshore, and offshore)
  • Hydropower (run-of-river, storage, pumped-storage)
  • Geothermal (steam, and water)
  • Wave
  • Tidal
  • Biomass/Bioenergy/Biofuel

Renewable resources don’t need to be mined, have no or few emissions and air pollution during the operation stage, and produce no or few waste products.

Bioenergy is the one asterisk among this group as it can be grown from crops or come from waste products from other sectors, and can produce emissions and air contaminants when burnt or refined. It can also produce waste products like ash.

In addition to these sources, nuclear can probably also be considered a clean source of energy because it is clean during the operation stage – emitting only a clean vapor (but, uranium does require mining and is finite, and nuclear produces a radioactive waste that needs to be disposed of properly and takes many years break down safely).

 

Consider The Consumer Stage For Sustainable Energy As Well

Above, we were mainly talking about the production of green energy sources.

Some descriptions extend sustainable energy in particular out to include the consumption and use of this energy in the form of electricity as well e.g. for heating and cooling, or for electric vehicles.

Making sure that these consumer stage systems are energy efficient is one extra way that energy use can be sustainable, in addition to the sustainable production of energy.

 

Sources

1. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-fossil-fuels-vs-nuclear-comparison-guide/

2. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/pros-cons-of-renewable-alternative-energy-now-into-the-future/

3. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/renewable-energy-vs-green-energy-the-difference-between-renewable-energy-clean-green-sustainable-eco-friendly-energy/

4. https://www.bettermeetsreality.com/the-different-types-of-renewable-energy-sources-with-examples/