25 Reasons Why We Don't Use More Renewable Energy Worldwide (Barriers/Obstacles, & Challenges In Switching Over To Renewables)

25 Reasons Why We Don’t Use More Renewable Energy Worldwide (Barriers/Obstacles, & Challenges In Switching Over To Renewables)

Some people fully support some type of transition to renewable energy, whilst others don’t.

In this guide, we list various reasons why we don’t use more renewable energy right now worldwide (or on a country by country basis).

 

Summary – Reasons Why We Don’t Use More Renewable Energy Worldwide

Some of the reasons include: 

  • Financial reasons (lack of funding or investment)
  • A reliance in the past on fossil fuels to grow the economy
  • There is significant existing investment in coal or another fossil fuel energy source
  • Existing electricity infrastructure (such as the power grid) is designed and set up to take fossil fuel energy right now
  • The past 15 years or past number of years of energy strategy is in implementation now, and there is a lag between strategy proposal and implementation
  •  The profit margin of coal and other fossil fuel energy is high in some countries (for mining companies, coal plant investors and so on)
  • Subsidies and protectionism of fossil fuels
  • Environmental laws and regulations are too relaxed when it comes to dirtier energy sources
  • Fines and penalties for dirtier energy aren’t big enough, and don’t dissuade companies and individuals from using these dirtier energy sources
  • Technology (and variability) can be a limiting factor
  • Speed of transition can cause job losses and other issues
  • Some small populations and towns are reliant on fossil fuels for their livelihood
  • Geographical unsuitability
  • The use of renewables can introduce other environmental and sustainability issues
  • Conflict of interest, questionable motives/intentions or even corruption from those making key decisions on energy supply
  • Renewable energy being more expensive than fossil fuels in some countries
  • Additional renewable equipment like batteries can add to the cost of renewables
  • Politicians and key decision makers might believe their careers are tied to the support of the fossil fuel industry
  • Politicians or key decision makers don’t understand or believe in the negative environmental impact of fossil fuel compared to renewables
  • The general public/society has cultural or social beliefs that fossil fuels are a better option right now than renewables
  • There is a perceived risk or uncertainty with renewables
  • Cities/countries might be choosing to transition to natural gas or nuclear first before renewables
  • Importing energy that is sourced from renewable sources has barriers
  • Some cities or countries simply don’t have the natural or renewable resources for some types of renewable energy
  • There can be misleading reports published about renewable energy by those with vested interest in fossil fuel industries

Overall, from the data, it makes sense that most cities and countries should consider renewable energy at the very least as a partial component of their entire energy mix i.e. as a supplementary or complementary source.

Some countries may even benefit from making renewables the majority of where they get their energy from (although they have to factor in the variability of some renewable sources like wind and solar, and complement it with a consistent energy source like hydropower, nuclear or existing fossil fuels for example).

Air contamination (outdoor air pollution and lowering of air quality), emission of greenhouse gases, potential future scarcity of non renewable resources, and other issues should be considered with continuing to use fossil fuels.

*Note – the reasons for pursuing different energy mixes is a city specific or country specific choice. Each city or country usually has different variables/factors to consider when choosing how their energy sources will be set up, and how they will run. This is how we end up with different timelines for energy supply mixes, and overall different energy supply mixes in each city worldwide.

 

1. Financial reasons (lack of funding or investment)

  • A simple reason is that some countries of cities simply don’t have the finances or investment available to fund new renewable energy development.
  • This could be because their budget is going towards existing energy sources, or they just lack the money in general (especially true for unstable economies, or lower income countries)

 

2. A reliance in the past on fossil fuels for economic growth

  • Countries like China in particular have relied on coal to increase their economic growth in recent decades 
  • Fossil fuels can be an option that some believe deliver better security and performance for a growing economy

 

3. There is significant existing investment in coal or another fossil fuel source

  • There is a lot of existing heavy investment in coal in a country like China for example
  • Heavy investment generally means there is already a surplus or over supply of coal power plants
  • This investment also means that if there is a switch to renewables, there can be stranded/sunk investments in the form of coal power plants and coal infrastructure – so people are losing money or not getting their money back

 

4. Existing electricity and grid infrastructure is set up for fossil fuel 

  • Existing energy infrastructure (mainly the power grid) can be designed and set up to take fossil fuel energy
  • As a result, there can be technical or other issues connecting into the grid with renewables. It also creates a path dependency that relies on fossil fuels in the present
  • There can also be renewable power lost or wasted because of this because for example solar panel farms might not be able to feed all their collected energy into the grid 
  • Retrofitting and modifying existing infrastructure can be costly financially and from a time perspective

 

5. The existing power supply can be a result of the last 15 years of energy development strategy

  • In some cases in some countries, energy sector implementation lags behind strategy by many year – up to 15 years in the case of some cities (this is particularly applicable on large scale projects and modification)
  • If you want renewable energy now, you should have been strategizing to implement it years prior to prevent a lag

 

6. Coal in some instances can have a high profit margin (for investors and those funding it)

  • The profit incentive in some countries to continue with coal is strong
  • This is especially true considering how cheap coal is in some countries
  • Mining companies and coal plant investors can benefit immensely from this

 

7. Government subsidies and protection for coal and fossil fuels

  • The government can subsidise and protect coal and other fossil fuels in different ways (through laws, concessions, tax cuts or advantages etc.) in some countries
  • The same may not be done for set up and installation of new renewable energy equipment comparatively (incentives for citizens to install solar for example may be decreased)
  • This gives an advantage to setting up and continuing to run fossil fuel energy
  • One example of a country that gave huge incentive to it’s citizens to install household solar was Germany

 

8. There can be a relaxation on environmental laws regulating dirtier energy

  • If laws aren’t strict enough or well enough enforced for fossil fuel energy or dirtier energy (that contaminates the air and emits greenhouse gases) – these energy sources will continue to prosper
  • Environmental laws need to balance jobs and the economy, but also serve society in the short and long term environmentally

 

9. Fines and penalties for dirty energy in some instances aren’t big enough

  • If fines and penalties for dirtier energy aren’t heavy enough, companies will be willing to pay fines over implementing cleaner energy strategies and using cleaner energy sources

 

10. Technology of renewables can sometimes be a limiting factor

  • In some countries, the technological aspect of renewable energy can impact it’s efficiency, operation and maintenance costs in many ways
  • Variability of power supply can also be an issue with renewable energy, and technology and other energy sources have to be available or sufficiently developed to deliver a consistent power supply
  • For example, solar can be fed into the grid directly from solar farms, but can also be stored in batteries when panels are installed on family homes and buildings. Batteries big enough to store lots of energy are expensive, and batteries are good for short, rapid bursts of power but not sustained non variable energy (pumped hydropower is one way of getting around this)

 

11. Speed of transition can lead to other issues like job loss, loss of disposable income and so on

  • Sometimes, a city might propose to transition too fast
  • This can cause various issues that citizens haven’t had time to prepare for – such as a loss of a job in the fossil fuel industry, or an increase in energy prices
  • Price reforms to the cost of energy can be a problem (energy prices might be increased which can really affect low income earners)

 

12. Some small populations and towns have almost a complete reliance on fossil fuels for their livelihood

  • There can also be job loss and a loss of disposable income from shutting down fossil fuel operations in – this can particularly cripple smaller towns and communities with a reliance on it – whether it’s in the mining industry or working for a fossil fuel plant or energy provider

 

13. Geographical (un)suitability 

  • As one example of geographical suitability (or unsuitability) … Many of the massive showcase renewable projects in the outer provinces of China are too far away from the energy-hungry cities and industrial centres of the east, and transmission lines and the grid haven’t been upgraded to utilise the power

 

14. Renewable energy can cause other environmental/sustainability issues

  • Solar farms can degrade land, contribute to land scarcity or exacerbate existing environmental problems in places where these issues already exist (such as land scarce towns in China)
  • Renewable equipment like solar panels or batteries also use precious/rare metals – so there can be short term or long term supply issues if alternatives aren’t developed or there are other supply issues

 

15. Questionable motives/intentions and conflict of interest from those making decisions on energy supply 

  • In some countries, business and political elites are making millions and billions from fossil fuel industries
  • Some call this corruption, whilst others call it questionable motives/bad intentions or a conflict of interest

 

16. In some countries, renewable electricity is expensive compared to fossil fuel

  • Renewable energy can be more expensive than renewable energy in some cities and countries compared to coal
  • This happens for various reasons, with overall demand being low, or technology not yet being advanced enough being a few examples

 

17. Unless energy is fed into the grid, some renewables need batteries, which add to the price

  • There’s two ways to use some renewable energy – storing energy in batteries, and feeding energy straight into the grid.
  • When using batteries, they can be expensive because of how big they are
  • Additionally, batteries are usually only good for short term energy supply before they have to be recharged or topped up. So, a more consistent power supply is needed in this case

 

18. Politicians and key decision makers might believe their careers are tied to the support of the fossil fuel industry

  • Some politicians and key decision makers may believe their career prospects and livelihood is linked to supporting fossil fuels over renewables
  • This may influence them to make decisions in favor of fossil fuels over renewables

 

19. Politicians or key decision makers don’t understand, or believe in the negative environmental impact of fossil fuel compared to renewables

  • Some decision makers may still be in doubt , or are skeptical about the role fossil fuels in issues like air pollution, carbon emissions and other environmental and sustainability issues.
  • This can influence their decision making on energy supply strategy 
  • Some politicians even believe the strength of support around renewables might be in some way a conspiracy by other major countries to sabotage their economy (although this is just hearsay)

 

20. The general public/society has cultural or social beliefs that fossil fuels are a better option right now than renewables

  • For reasons such as employment, keeping the economy strong, jobs, reliability, certainty etc.
  • This obviously impacts how people vote for their governments

 

21. There is a perceived risk or uncertainty with renewables

  • That it will be unreliable or not cost effective
  • Especially by governments or business or investors
  • Investors and energy suppliers want to know they will get their money back and make a profit for sure over a certain period of time

 

22. Cities/countries might be choosing to transition to natural gas or nuclear first before renewables

  • If a city or country has a transition plan, then transition to renewables might be scheduled to happen after an initial transition to natural gas or nuclear first
  • This can be for variability reasons, power density or power output reasons, or many other reasons

 

23. Importing energy that is sourced from renewable sources can have barriers

  • Some cities and countries import a portion of their energy
  • Importing renewable energy might have barriers or difficulties that make it difficult

 

24. Some cities or countries simply don’t have the natural or renewable resources for some types of renewable energy

  • Iceland is an example of country with good natural resources for geothermal energy and hydroelectricity energy – which they use a lot of
  • But some countries or cities don’t have enough natural resources for some types of renewables
  • For example, they might not have enough land for solar farms, enough sun for solar in general, enough wind for wind energy in general, enough suitable places for hydroelectricity damn installation and so on

 

25. There can be misleading reports published about renewable energy by those with vested interest in fossil fuel industries

  • This is more of a subjective reason, but some sources indicate that some reports on renewable energy might be misleading information that gets published by fossil fuel companies or those with a vested interest in fossil fuels and other non renewable energy. These reports obviously change people’s opinions and mislead them

 

Sources

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

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

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

1 thought on “25 Reasons Why We Don’t Use More Renewable Energy Worldwide (Barriers/Obstacles, & Challenges In Switching Over To Renewables)”

  1. “Some cities or countries simply don’t have the natural or renewable resources for some types of renewable energy” True, but its very important to keep in mind that the switch to electric from fossil fuels doesn’t require renewable energy. A fossil fuelled power plant powering a city of electric cars would emit a fraction of the Co2 that thousands of individual gas engines would. Electric motors are 90-95% efficiency compared to 33% for the ICE. The transition to electric cars is vital step, regardless of whether the power source is renewables, fossil fuel, or nuclear.

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