Renewable energy transition

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

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

Comparing trends in worldwide energy use, the growth of renewable energy to 2015 is the green line[2]

The foremost motivation for the transition is to limit the adverse effects of energy consumption on the environment.[3] This includes reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and mitigating climate change.[4] In 2019, in the United States the cost of renewable energy reached the point where it is generally cheaper to build and operate new solar photovoltaic (PV) plants than the costs of new or even existing coal-fired power plants.[5]

Investing in innovation research is considered imperative in overcoming problems related to renewable energy, such as efficiency, energy storage, reliability, and variability. For energy transportation and flexibility, storage is vital for the renewable energy transition due to the intermittency of many renewable energy sources.[6][7]

The transition relies upon alternatives to fossil fuel and natural gas.

Driving factors[edit]

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

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

Climate change can be attributed to the use of fossil fuel energy and the contribution of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.[8][9][10][11] This increased level of greenhouse gas emissions creates adverse effects on a changing climate such as increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters.[12] The IPCC has said with high certainty that society has 12 years to complete an entire transition to avoid catastrophic climate change.[13] This reality has motivated the conversation of a renewable energy transition as a mitigation tactic.

The fossil fuel industry faces risk completely separate from the impacts of climate change. Fossil fuels are a limited resource and are at risk of reaching a peak in which diminishing returns will become prevalent.[14] Uncertainty with the supply of this resource questions the security of the industry and the investments in fossil fuel companies. These driving conversations are motivating organizations to reconsider the future of the energy sector.


Gold Ray Dam on the Rogue River upstream of Gold Hill in the U.S. state of Oregon. Fish ladder visible on the far bank. The dam, which made fish passage difficult, was removed later in 2010.
An aerial view of the Power County wind farm in Idaho, United States.[15]
Photovoltaic array at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center in Montezuma County, Colorado. This site uses 95% renewable energy and is an example of the renewable energy transition occurring.
The Salt Tanks provide efficient thermal energy storage[16][17] The 280 MW Solana Generating Station is designed to provide six hours of energy storage, allowing generation of ~38 percent of its rated capacity over a year.[18]

The technologies that are considered the most important in the renewable energy transition are hydroelectricity, wind power, and solar power. Hydroelectricity is the largest source of renewable electricity in the world, providing 16.6% of the world's total electricity in 2015.[19] However, because of its heavy dependence on geography and the generally high environmental and social impact of hydroelectric power plants, the growth potential of this technology is limited. Wind and solar power are considered more scalable, and therefore have higher potential for growth.[20] These sources have grown nearly exponentially in recent decades thanks to rapidly decreasing costs. In 2018, wind power supplied 4.8% worldwide electricity,[21] while solar power supplied 3% in 2019.[22][23]

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

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

Economic aspects[edit]

Renewable energy capacity additions in 2020 expanded by more than 45% from 2019, including a 90% rise in global wind capacity (green) and a 23% expansion of new solar photovoltaic installations (yellow).[24]
Companies, governments and households committed $501.3 billion to decarbonization in 2020, including renewable energy (solar, wind), electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure, energy storage, energy-efficient heating systems, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen.[25]

The economics behind the renewable energy transition are unlike most economic trends. Due to the lack of knowledge behind its impacts, we know little behind the long-term economics. We turn to givens, such as its impacts on GHG emissions as economic drivers. The economics behind renewable energy rely forecasts of the future to help determine efficient production, distribution, and consumption of energy.[26] In this transition, there is in an increase in General Algebraic Modeling Software to help determine economic factors such as levelized production costs and cost models.[27] The dependency of knowledge of different types of models, innovations of other countries, and different types of renewable energy markets are the key to driving the economy during this transition.[clarification needed]

Business models[edit]

Economic driving forces in the renewable energy transition take multiple approaches.[clarification needed] Businesses that have joined the renewable energy cause do so by relying on business models. The need for business models, when dealing with the economics of the renewable energy transition, are crucial due to the lack of concrete research done in this area.[28][page needed] These models show projections of marginal costs, efficiency, and demand in different periods of time.[29] Business models are financial assistants that help guide businesses, companies, and individuals looking to get involved.

Global rivalries[edit]

Global rivalries have contributed to the driving forces of the economics behind the renewable energy transition. Competition to reach ultimate efficiency with renewable energy is motivating countries to improve further and further. Technological innovations developed within a country have the potential to become an economic force.[30] In Germany, the country realized to achieve this, policy would go hand in hand with economics. Policies reflect the economy, which for the economy of the country, it would need to have strong policies in place to support the transition to renewable energy. With economic growth being a priority, renewable energy transition policies would strengthen the transition status.[31]

Renewable energy growth creates winners and losers. Fossil fuel companies risk becoming losers. To stay competitive the adaptation to join the renewable energy race is considered.[32] Global investments on renewable energy is increasing at a high rate. In 2018, the total global investment in renewable energy neared the $300 billion mark.[33] Trends in global renewable energy such as this, that show stability in the market, investments are being made profitable for the future. Competition for dominance in the renewable energy market sparks interest in trades and investments. With the United States and European Union accounting for 60 percent of the total capacity and investment in renewable energy, the two economies are likely to become the largest suppliers and consumers for the renewable energy services.[32]

Economic players[edit]

[clarification needed]


The energy-intensive heating industry plays a central role in the renewable energy transition.[34] When dealing with heat and the transition to renewable resources, the entire area being heated comes into play.[35] When assessing the economic benefits of this transition, the costs are atop of the list of information needed. In order to make this transition in the heating industry costs such as if the costs to install these systems would produce a positive turnout. A system of such was implemented in Denmark that focused on wind power to help contribute to heating.[36] The results of this showed a decrease in heating costs from 132 kWH to roughly 60 to 80 kWH. The economic improvements result from increased efficiency and use of wind power.[37]

New Hampshire has been experimenting with renewable wood fuels. Wood biomass includes various types of wood as energy alternatives.[38] Using wood chips as fuel is amongst the most common types of wood energy. CO2 emissions can be decreased by nearly 90 percent when switching from fossil fuel to wood.[citation needed] Transitioning from fossil fuel to wood energy is seen as an economic booster with increased biomass production in wood plantations.[39] Heating accounts for up to 40 percent of a businesses operating costs. Transitioning to wood energy, specifically based on wood chips, do not come cheap. Littleton Regional healthcare transitioned to this heating system; the cost was nearly $3 million.[40]

Energy market[edit]

The costs for renewable energies have decreased dramatically. For solar and wind power, the costs have dropped up to 60 to 80 percent.[41]

Wind Turbine Total Costs[42]

Wind energy is growing in usage, and much of this is due to the increase in wind energy production. Transitioning to wind energy assists in altering a countries dependency on foreign sources when it comes to energy. Allowing countries to build their economies from within, while helping the environment is a more common thought. While a setback to this method of energy is that it requires specifics in land available and location of land, there has still been an increase in wind turbines. From 2007–2017, the US wind energy consumption increased 590%.[43] The transition is viewed as a way to ensure the economies environmental sustainability.

Wind/Power systems[edit]

Power systems are economic players that take many contributors into account. When looking for economic benefits behind power systems, savings and costs are crucial topics being addressed. A determinant in addressing the costs and savings of power systems is the alternative routes to GHG emissions. Egypt introduced a plan to do so by stopping conventional power plants and converting them over to hybrid and wind farm plants.[citation needed][44] The results of this were seen to decrease carbon dioxide emissions and save the state up to $14 million.[45]

Determining the economic value of wind farms is the main predictor of production. The biggest cost occurred in wind farms are for the turbines themselves. With turbines varying in size, the smaller turbines are used at a more local and person level are more expensive on a per kilowatt of energy capacity rate, while larger ones are less expensive on these dynamics. Wind farms look at the total area of power it can produce, for a 500 MW wind farm, nearly 200,000 wind farms can be generated.[42] Many question whether having a small number of turbines would still be beneficial or not, and worth the cost. The intermittency costs of turbines show that they are less than one percent of the price of the wind energy price. This is shown by detailing that the addition of more turbines throughout an area increase the intermittency of individual turbines, allowing the farms with a lower supply to gain by another farm with larger supply of turbines.[46] Small residential and small commercial have the most profitability due to their low energy cost and short payback period. Specifically, this becomes more profitable with a 10 kW system.[47]

Social aspects[edit]


The energy transition discussion is heavily influenced by contributions from the oil industry.[48] The oil industry controls the larger part of the world's energy supply and needs as petroleum continues to be the most accessible and available resource present today.[49] With a history of continued success and sustained demand, the oil industry has become a stable aspect of society, the economy and the energy sector. To transition to renewable energy technologies, the government and economy must address the oil industry and its control of the energy sector.[50]

A booth for the Citizens' Climate Lobby, at a rally for science in Minnesota, 2018.[51]

One way that oil companies are able to continue their work despite growing environmental, social and economic concerns is through lobbying efforts within local and national government systems. Lobbying is defined as to conduct activities aimed at influencing public officials and especially members of a legislative body on legislation[52]

Historically, the fossil fuel lobby has been highly successful in limiting regulations on the oil industry and enabling business-as-usual techniques. From 1988 to 2005, Exxon Mobil, one of the largest oil companies in the world, spent nearly $16 million in anti-climate change lobbying and providing misleading information about climate change to the general public.[53] The oil industry acquires significant support through the existing banking and investment structure.[54] The stable nature of oil stock throughout history makes it a great option for investors.[citation needed] By investing in the fossil fuel industry, it is provided with financial support to continue its business ventures.[55] The concept that the industry should no longer be financially supported has led to the social movement known as divestment. Divestment is defined as the removal of investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds in oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons[56]

Banks, investing firms, governments, universities, institutions and businesses are all being challenged with this new moral argument against their existing investments in the fossil fuel industry and many such as Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the University of California, New York City and more have begun making the shift to more sustainable, eco-friendly investments.[57]


The renewable energy transition has many benefits and challenges that are associated with it. One of the positive social impacts that is predicted is the use of local energy sources to provide stability and economic stimulation to local communities.[58] Not only does this benefit local utilities through portfolio diversification, but it also creates opportunities for energy trade between communities, states and regions.[59] Additionally, energy security has been a struggle worldwide that has led to many issues in the OPEC countries and beyond. Energy security is evaluated by analyzing the accessibility, availability, sustainability, regulatory and technological opportunity of our energy portfolio. Renewable Energy presents an opportunity to increase our energy security by becoming energy independent and have localized grids that decrease energy risks geopolitically.[60] In this sense, the benefits and positive outcomes of the renewable energy transition are profound.

There are also risks and negative impacts on society because of the renewable energy transition that need to be mitigated. The coal mining industry plays a large part in the existing energy portfolio and is one of the biggest targets for climate change activists due to the intense pollution and habitat disruption that it creates. The transition to renewable is expected to have decrease the need and viability of coal mining in the future.[61] This is a positive for climate change action, but can have severe impacts on the communities that rely on this business. Coal mining communities are considered vulnerable to the renewable energy transition. Not only do these communities face energy poverty already, but they also face economic collapse when the coal mining businesses move elsewhere or disappear altogether.[62] These communities need to quickly transition to alternative forms of work to support their families, but lack the resources and support to invest in themselves. This broken system perpetuates the poverty and vulnerability that decreases the adaptive capacity of coal mining communities.[62] Potential mitigation could include expanding the program base for vulnerable communities to assist with new training programs, opportunities for economic development and subsidies to assist with the transition.[63] Ultimately, the social impacts of the renewable energy transition will be extensive, but with mitigation strategies, the government[whose?] can ensure that it becomes a positive opportunity for all citizens.[64]

Reasons for a fast energy transition[edit]

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

Solving the global warming problem is regarded as the most important challenge facing humankind in the 21st century.[65] The capacity of the earth system to absorb greenhouse gas emissions is already exhausted[citation needed], and under the Paris climate agreement, emissions must cease by 2040 or 2050.[66] Barring a breakthrough in carbon sequestration technologies, this requires an energy transition away from fossil fuels such as oil, natural gas, lignite, and coal. This energy transition is also known as the decarbonization of the energy system or "energy turnaround". Available technologies are nuclear power (fission) and the renewable energy sources wind, hydropower, solar power, geothermal, and marine energy.

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

Technology has been identified as an important but difficult-to-predict driver of change within energy systems.[67] Published forecasts have systematically tended to overestimate the potential of new energy and conversion technologies and underestimated the inertia in energy systems and energy infrastructure (e.g. power plants, once built, characteristically operate for many decades). The history of large technical systems is very useful for enriching debates about energy infrastructures by detailing many of their long-term implications.[68] The speed at which a transition in the energy sector needs to take place will be historically rapid.[69] Moreover, the underlying technological, political, and economic structures will need to change radically — a process one author calls regime shift.[70]

Risks and barriers[edit]

Despite the widespread understanding that a transition to renewable energy is necessary, there are a number of risks and barriers to making renewable energy more appealing than conventional energy. Renewable energy rarely comes up as a solution beyond combating climate change, but has wider implications for food security and employment.[71] This further supports the recognized dearth of research for clean energy innovations, which may lead to quicker transitions.[72] Overall, the transition to renewable energy requires a shift among governments, business, and the public. Altering public bias may mitigate the risk of subsequent administrations de-transitioning - through perhaps public awareness campaigns or carbon levies.[73]

Amongst the key issues to consider in relation to the pace of the global transition to renewables is how well individual electric companies are able to adapt to the changing reality of the power sector. For example, to date, the uptake of renewables by electric utilities has remained slow, hindered by their continued investment in fossil fuel generation capacity.[74]


A large portion of the global workforce works directly or indirectly for the fossil fuel economy.[75] Moreover, many other industries are currently dependent on unsustainable energy sources (such as the steel industry or cement and concrete industry). Transitioning these workforces during the rapid period of economic change requires considerable forethought and planning. The international labor movement has advocated for a just transition that addresses these concerns.


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

After a transitional period, renewable energy production is expected to make up most of the world's energy production. In 2018, the risk management firm, DNV GL, forecasts that the world's primary energy mix will be split equally between fossil and non-fossil sources by 2050.[76] A 2011 projection by the International Energy Agency expects solar PV to supply more than half of the world's electricity by 2060, dramatically reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases.[77]

The GeGaLo index of geopolitical gains and losses assesses how the geopolitical position of 156 countries may change if the world fully transitions to renewable energy resources. Former fossil fuels exporters are expected to lose power, while the positions of former fossil fuel importers and countries rich in renewable energy resources is expected to strengthen.[78]

Status in specific countries[edit]

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

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that, in 2013, total global primary energy supply (TPES) was 157.5 petawatt hours or 1.575×1017 Wh (157.5 thousand TWh; 5.67×1020 J; 13.54 billion toe) or about 18 TW-year.[79] From 2000–2012 coal was the source of energy with the total largest growth. The use of oil and natural gas also had considerable growth, followed by hydropower and renewable energy. Renewable energy grew at a rate faster than any other time in history during this period. The demand for nuclear energy decreased, in part due to nuclear disasters (Three Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Fukushima in 2011).[80][81] More recently, consumption of coal has declined relative to renewable energy. Coal dropped from about 29% of the global total primary energy consumption in 2015 to 27% in 2017, and non-hydro renewables were up to about 4% from 2%.[82]


Australia has one of the fastest deployment rates of renewable energy worldwide. The country has deployed 5.2 GW of solar and wind power in 2018 alone and at this rate, is on track to reach 50% renewable electricity in 2024 and 100% in 2032.[83] However, Australia may be one of the leading major economies in terms of renewable deployments, but it is one of the least prepared at a network level to make this transition, being ranked 28th out of the list of 32 advanced economies on the World Economic Forum's 2019 Energy Transition Index.[84]


China is the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and plays a key role in the renewable energy transition and climate change mitigation. China has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2060.[85]

European Union[edit]

The European Green Deal is a set of policy initiatives by the European Commission with the overarching aim of making Europe climate neutral in 2050.[86][87] An impact assessed plan will also be presented to increase the EU's greenhouse gas emission reductions target for 2030 to at least 50% and towards 55% compared with 1990 levels. The plan is to review each existing law on its climate merits, and also introduce new legislation on the circular economy, building renovation, biodiversity, farming and innovation.[87] The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, stated that the European Green Deal would be Europe's "man on the Moon moment", as the plan would make Europe the first climate-neutral continent.[87]


Austria electricity supply by source

Austria embarked on its energy transition (Energiewende) some decades ago. Due to geographical conditions, electricity production in Austria relies heavily on renewable energies, specifically hydropower. 78.4% of domestic electricity production in 2013 came from renewable energy, 9.2% from natural gas and 7.2% from petroleum. On the basis of the Federal Constitutional Law for a Nuclear-Free Austria, no nuclear power stations are in operation in Austria.

Domestic energy production makes up only 36% of Austria's total energy consumption, which among other things encompasses transport, electricity production, and heating. In 2013, oil accounts for about 36.2% of total energy consumption, renewable energies 29.8%, gas 20.6%, and coal 9.7%. In the past 20 years, the structure of gross domestic energy consumption has shifted from coal and oil to new renewables. The EU target for Austria require a renewables share of 34% by 2020 (gross final energy consumption).

Energy transition in Austria can be also seen on the local level, in some villages, towns and regions. For example, the town of Güssing in the state of Burgenland is a pioneer in independent and sustainable energy production. Since 2005, Güssing has already produced significantly more heating (58 gigawatt hours) and electricity (14 GWh) from renewable resources than the city itself needs.[88]


Denmark electricity generation by source

Denmark, as a country reliant on imported oil, was impacted particularly hard by the 1973 oil crisis. This roused public discussions on building nuclear power stations to diversify energy supply. A strong anti-nuclear movement developed, which fiercely criticized nuclear power plans taken up by the government,[89] and this ultimately led to a 1985 resolution not to build any nuclear power stations in Denmark.[90] The country instead opted for renewable energy, focusing primarily on wind power. Wind turbines for power generation already had a long history in Denmark, as far back as the late 1800s. As early as 1974 a panel of experts declared "that it should be possible to satisfy 10% of Danish electricity demand with wind power, without causing special technical problems for the public grid."[91] Denmark undertook the development of large wind power stations — though at first with little success (like with the Growian project in Germany).

Small facilities prevailed instead, often sold to private owners such as farms. Government policies promoted their construction; at the same time, positive geographical factors favored their spread, such as good wind power density and Denmark's decentralized patterns of settlement. A lack of administrative obstacles also played a role. Small and robust systems came on line, at first in the power range of only 50-60 kilowatts — using 1940s technology and sometimes hand-crafted by very small businesses. In the late seventies and the eighties a brisk export trade to the United States developed, where wind energy also experienced an early boom. In 1986 Denmark already had about 1200 wind power turbines,[92] though they still accounted for just barely 1% of Denmark's electricity.[93] This share increased significantly over time. In 2011, renewable energies covered 41% of electricity consumption, and wind power facilities alone accounted for 28%.[94] The government aims to increase wind energy's share of power generation to 50% by 2020, while at the same time reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 40%.[95] On 22 March 2012, the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Building published a four-page paper titled "DK Energy Agreement," outlining long-term principles for Danish energy policy.[96]

The installation of oil and gas heating is banned in newly constructed buildings from the start of 2013; beginning in 2016 this will also apply to existing buildings. At the same time an assistance program for heater replacement was launched. Denmark's goal is to reduce the use of fossil fuels 33% by 2020. The country is scheduled to attain complete independence from petroleum and natural gas by 2050.[97]


Electricity production in France.

Since 2012, political discussions have been developing in France about the energy transition and how the French economy might profit from it.[98]

In September 2012, Minister of the Environment Delphine Batho coined the term "ecological patriotism." The government began a work plan to consider starting the energy transition in France. This plan should address the following questions by June 2013:[99]

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

The Environmental Conference on Sustainable Development on 14 and 15 September 2012 treated the issue of the environmental and energy transition as its main theme.[100]

On 8 July 2013, the national debate leaders submits some proposals to the government. Among them, there were environmental taxation, and smart grid development.[101]

In 2015, the National Assembly has adopted legislation for the transition to low emission vehicles.[102]

France is second only to Denmark as having the world's lowest carbon emissions in relation to gross domestic product.[103]


Market share of Germany's power generation 2014[104]
Energy transition scenario in Germany

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

The policy has been embraced by the German federal government and has resulted in a huge expansion of renewables, particularly wind power. Germanys share of renewables has increased from around 5% in 1999 to 17% in 2010, reaching close to the OECD average of 18% usage of renewables.[105] Producers have been guaranteed a fixed feed-in tariff for 20 years, guaranteeing a fixed income. Energy co-operatives have been created, and efforts were made to decentralize control and profits. The large energy companies have a disproportionately small share of the renewables market. Nuclear power stations were closed, and the existing nine stations will close earlier than necessary, in 2022.

The reduction of reliance on nuclear stations has had the consequence of increased reliance on fossil fuels. One factor that has inhibited efficient employment of new renewable energy has been the lack of an accompanying investment in power infrastructure to bring the power to market. It is believed 8300 km of power lines must be built or upgraded.[105]

Different Länder have varying attitudes to the construction of new power lines. Industry has had their rates frozen and so the increased costs of the Energiewende have been passed on to consumers, who have had rising electricity bills. Germans in 2013 had some of the highest electricity costs in Europe.[106] Nonetheless, for the first time in more than ten years, electricity prices for household customers fell at the beginning of 2015.[107]

South Korea[edit]

The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy (MOTIE) has claimed that an energy transition is necessary in order to comply with the public's demands for their lives, their safety, and the environment. In addition, the ministry has stated that the direction of the future energy policy is "to transition (from conventional energy sources) to safe and clean energy sources." Unlike in the past, the keynote of the policy is to put emphasis on safety and the environment rather than on stability of supply and demand and economic feasibility and is to shift its reliance on nuclear power and coal to clean energy sources like renewables.[108]

In 1981, the primary energy was sourced predominantly by oil and coal with oil accounting for 58.1% and coal 33.3%. As the shares of nuclear power and liquefied natural gas have increased over the years, the share of oil has decreased gradually. The primary energy broke down as follows in 1990: 54% oil, 26% coal, 14% nuclear power, 3% liquefied natural gas, and 3% renewables. Later on, with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the country through international cooperation and to improve environmental and safety performances, it broke down as follows in 2017: 40% oil, 29% coal, 16% liquefied natural gas, 10% nuclear power, and 5% renewables.[110] Under the 8th Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity Supply and Demand, presented at the end of 2017, the shares of nuclear and coal are getting decreased while the share of renewables is expanding.

In June 2019, the Korean government confirmed the Third Energy Master Plan, also called a constitutional law of the energy sector and renewed every five years. Its goal is to achieve sustainable growth and enhance the quality of life through energy transition. There are five major tasks to achieve this goal. First, with regards to consumption, the goal is to improve energy consumption efficiency by 38% compared to the level of 2017 and to reduce energy consumption by 18.6% below the BAU level by 2040. Second, with respect to generation, the task is to bring a transition towards a safe and clean energy mix by raising the share of renewable energy in power generation (30~35% by 2040) and by implementing a gradual phase-out of nuclear power and a drastic reduction of coal. Third, regarding the systems, the task is to raise the share of distributed generation nearby where demand is created with renewables and fuel cells and to enhance the roles and responsibility of local governments and residents. Fourth, with regards to the industry, the task is to foster businesses related to renewables, hydrogen, and energy efficiency as a future energy industry, to help the conventional energy industry develop higher value-added businesses, and to support the nuclear power industry to maintain its main ecosystem. The fifth task is to improve the energy market system of electricity, gas, and heat in order to promote energy transition and is to develop an energy big data platform in order to create new businesses.[111][112]


Due to the high share of hydroelectricity (59.6%) and nuclear power (31.7%) in electricity production, Switzerland's per capita energy-related CO2 emissions are 28% lower than the European Union average and roughly equal to those of France. On 21 May 2017, Swiss voters accepted the new Energy Act establishing the 'energy strategy 2050'. The aims of the energy strategy 2050 are: to reduce energy consumption; to increase energy efficiency ; and to promote renewable energies (such as water, solar, wind and geothermal power as well as biomass fuels).[113] The Energy Act of 2006 forbids the construction of new nuclear power plants in Switzerland.[113]

United Kingdom[edit]

Primary energy mix in the United Kingdom over time, differentiated by energy source (in % of the total energy consumption)

By law production of greenhouse gas emissions by the United Kingdom will be reduced to net zero by 2050. To help in reaching this statutory goal national energy policy is mainly focusing on the country's wind power, and in particular is strongly promoting the expansion of offshore wind power. The increase in national renewable power together with the 20% of electricity generated by nuclear power in the United Kingdom meant that by 2019 low carbon British electricity had overtaken that generated by fossil fuels.[114]

In order to meet the net zero target energy networks must be strengthened.[115] Electricity is only a part of energy in the United Kingdom, so natural gas used for industrial and residential heat[116] and petroleum used for transport in the United Kingdom must also be replaced[117] by either electricity or another form of low-carbon energy, such as sustainable bioenergy crops[118] or green hydrogen.[119]

Although the need for the renewable energy transition is not disputed by any major political party, in 2020 there is debate about how much of the funding to try and escape the COVID-19 recession should be spent on the transition, and how many jobs could be created, for example in improving energy efficiency in British housing.[120] Some believe that due to post-covid government debt that funding for the transition will be insufficient.[121] Brexit may significantly affect the energy transition, but this is unclear as of 2020.[122] The government is urging UK business to sponsor the climate change conference in 2021, possibly including energy companies but only if they have a credible short term plan for the energy transition.[123]

United States[edit]

U.S. energy consumption by source.
Parabolic trough power station for electricity production, near the town of Kramer Junction in California's San Joaquin Valley

The Obama administration made a large push for green jobs, particularly in his first term.[124] The Trump administration, however, took action to reverse the pro-environmental policies of his predecessor, including withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accords.[125]

In the United States, the share of renewable energy in electricity generation has grown to 21% (2020).[126] Oil use is expected to decline in the US owing to the increasing efficiency of the vehicle fleet and replacement of crude oil by natural gas as a feedstock for the petrochemical sector. One forecast is that the rapid uptake of electric vehicles will reduce oil demand drastically, to the point where it is 80% lower in 2050 compared with today.[127]

In December 2016, Block Island Wind Farm became the first commercial US offshore wind farm. It consists of five 6 MW turbines (together 30 MW) located near-shore (3.8 miles (6.1 km) from Block Island, Rhode Island) in the Atlantic Ocean. At the same time, Norway-based oil major Statoil laid down nearly $42.5 million on a bid to lease a large offshore area off the coast of New York.[128]

100% renewable energy[edit]

The Shepherds Flat Wind Farm is an 845 megawatt (MW) wind farm in the U.S. state of Oregon.
The 550 MW Desert Sunlight Solar Farm in California.
The 392 MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in California: The facility's three towers.
Construction of the Salt Tanks which provide efficient thermal energy storage[16] so that output can be provided after the sun goes down, and output can be scheduled to meet demand requirements.[17] The 280 MW Solana Generating Station is designed to provide six hours of energy storage. This allows the plant to generate about 38 percent of its rated capacity over the course of a year.[18]
a survey by isos shows that global support is strongest for solar and wind, followed by (in declining order) hydro, natural gas, coal and nuclear
Global public support for different energy sources (2011) based on a poll by Ipsos Global @dvisor[129]

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

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change there are few fundamental technological limits to integrating a portfolio of renewable energy technologies to meet most of total global energy demand. Renewable energy use has grown more quickly than even advocates anticipated.[130] As of 2019, however, it needs to grow six times faster to limit global warming to 2 °C (3.6 °F).[131]

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

In 2014, renewable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, and burnt waste provided 19% of the total energy consumed worldwide, with roughly half of that coming from traditional use of biomass.[132] The most important[clarification needed] sector is electricity with a renewable share of 22.8%, most of it coming from hydropower with a share of 16.6%, followed by wind with 3.1%.[132] As of 2018 according to REN21 transformation is picking up speed in the power sector, but urgent action is required in heating, cooling and transport.[133] There are many places around the world with grids that are run almost exclusively on renewable energy. At the national level, at least 30 nations already have renewable energy contributing more than 20% of the energy supply.[citation needed]

According to a review of the 181 peer-reviewed papers on 100% renewable energy which were published until 2018, "[t]he great majority of all publications highlights the technical feasibility and economic viability of 100% RE systems." While there are still many publications which focus on electricity only, there is a growing number of papers that cover different energy sectors and sector-coupled, integrated energy systems. This cross-sectoral, holistic approach is seen as an important feature of 100% renewable energy systems and is based on the assumption "that the best solutions can be found only if one focuses on the synergies between the sectors" of the energy system such as electricity, heat, transport or industry.[134]

Stephen W. Pacala and Robert H. Socolow of Princeton University have developed a series of "climate stabilization wedges" that can allow us to maintain our quality of life while avoiding catastrophic climate change, and "renewable energy sources," in aggregate, constitute the largest number of their "wedges."[135]

Mark Z. Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University and director of its Atmosphere and Energy program, says that producing all new energy with wind power, solar power, and hydropower by 2030 is feasible, and that existing energy supply arrangements could be replaced by 2050.[136] Barriers to implementing the renewable energy plan are seen to be "primarily social and political, not technological or economic".[137] Jacobson says that energy costs today with a wind, solar, and water system should be similar to today's energy costs from other optimally cost-effective strategies.[138] The main obstacle against this scenario is the lack of political will.[139] His conclusions have been disputed by other researchers.[140] Jacobson published a response that disputed the piece point by point[141] and claimed that the authors were motivated by allegiance to energy technologies that the 2015 paper excluded.[140]

Similarly, in the United States, the independent National Research Council has noted that "sufficient domestic renewable resources exist to allow renewable electricity to play a significant role in future electricity generation and thus help confront issues related to climate change, energy security, and the escalation of energy costs ... Renewable energy is an attractive option because renewable resources available in the United States, taken collectively, can supply significantly greater amounts of electricity than the total current or projected domestic demand."[142]

The main barriers to the widespread implementation of large-scale renewable energy and low-carbon energy strategies are political rather than technological. According to the 2013 Post Carbon Pathways report, which reviewed many international studies, the key roadblocks are: climate change denial, the fossil fuels lobby, political inaction, unsustainable energy consumption, outdated energy infrastructure, and financial constraints.[143]

Plans and models[edit]

Name of Plan Organization Regional Scale Publication (year) Warming Target Timescale Total Investments Number of Jobs Total CO2 Emissions

(gt CO2)

Primary Energy Supply


Final Energy Demand (GW) Energy Sources at End of Timeline
Solar Wind Biomass Nuclear Hydro Fossil Other
Rewiring America[144] (USA) Rewiring America USA 2020 1.5C - 2 C 2030-2050 N/A 25 million 0 0 1500 -1800 GW 32% 50% 2% 11% 3% 0% 2%
Project Drawdown[145] (Global) Project Drawdown Global Living 1.5-2C N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad[146] (USA) Biden Administration USA 2021 "below 2, preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels."[147] 2050 N/A 10 million jobs by 2030 or 2035 (Timeline uncertain)


No Data, but wants electricity sector emissions free by 2035 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 0%
Mexico's Plan for Climate Change[149] (Mexico) Mexican Government Mexico 2016 1.5-2 °C 2050 N/A 0 0 3000 N/A 30% 1% 5% 13% 83% 0%
Plan for Decarbonization in Canada[150] (Canada) Pembina Institute Canada 2019 1.5C 2050 N/A 0 13.319 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Princeton Net-Zero by 2050[151] (USA) Princeton USA 2020 N/A 2020-2050 5910 8.5 million 78 20465.29121 14582.09104 29% 53% 17% 0% 1% 0% 0%
Princeton Net-Zero by 2050 E+ RE- Princeton USA N/A 2020-2050 4010 3.75 million 78 24355.25468 14582.09104 6% 10% 14% 32% 1% 36% 1%
Princeton Net-Zero by 2050 E- Princeton USA N/A 2020-2050 5570 5.9 million 78 23409.6282 16654 13% 32% 14% 7% 1% 32% 0%
Princeton Net-Zero by 2050 E+   Princeton USA N/A 2015-2050 3990 5 million 78 19455.1902 14582.09104 17% 31% 17% 8% 2% 25% 0%
Princeton Net-Zero by 2050 E- B+ Princeton USA N/A 2011-2050 4390 5 million 78 22721.89985 16654.74 12% 23% 28% 7% 1% 30% 0%
Carbon‐Neutral Pathways for the United States: Central[152] (USA) University of San Francisco / UC Berkeley USA 2021 2, 1.5, 1C no target Decarbonization: 600/Yr 0 0 15190 0 34% 64% 0% 0% 2% <1% 0%
Carbon‐Neutral Pathways for the United States: 100% RE[152] (USA) University of San Francisco / UC Berkeley Global 2021 2C, 1.5C, and 1C 2070 0.2-1.2% of annual GDP 0 74.8 15190 0 0% Several different scenarios clearly laid out in SI 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Achieving the Paris Climate Agreement Goals Global and Regional 100% Renewable Energy Scenarios with Non-energy GHG Pathways for +1.5 °C and +2 °C[153] (Global) University of Technology Sydney - Institute for Sustainable Futures USA 2019 1.5 C by 2050 2020-2050 63500 (total investments from 2015-2020) 47.8 million 450 114444 70277 32% 17% 14% 0% 2% 0% 0%
Designing a Model for the Global Energy System—GENeSYS-MOD: An Application of the Open-Source Energy Modeling System (OSeMOSYS)[154] (Global) Workgroup for Infrastructure and Policy, TU Berlin Global 2017 650 Gt of CO2 (compared to the predicted 550-1300 emitted between 2011-2050) / 1.5-2 C

(section 3.5)

2020-2050 N/A N/A 519 N/A 97575 23% 36% 32% 0% 8% 0% 0%
Annual Energy Outlook with projections to 2050 - Low Cost Renewable[155] EIA Global 2021 0 2020-2050 N/A 0 0 0 0 0% 19%* 3% 3% 2% 76% <1%
Annual Energy Outlook with projections to 2050 - Reference[155] EIA Canada 0 2020-2050 2.849 N/A 144 34311 24525 0% * 5% 5% 2% 0% 12%
Shell Scenarios Sky[156] (Global) Shell Global 2020 1.5 C - 2 C ("well below 2C") 2020-2050 N/A N/A 1050 (energy systems, rough estimate from figure) 230060 220000 16% 11% 13% 9% N/A 46% 5%
Insights from Modeling the Decarbonization of the United States Economy by 2050[157] Vibrant Clean Energy Global 2021 net zero emissions by 2050 409 (annualized investments) N/A N/A 8000 (electricity only) 6500

(Figure on pg. 7)

12% 34% 4% 38% 5% 0% 0%
Global Energy System Based on 100% Renewable Energy[158] LUT University Global 2019 net-zero emissions by 2050 2050 7200 35 million 115 141189 134018 72% 18% 6% 0% 3% 0% 0%
Global Energy Transition[159] DNV GL Global 2020 +2 degrees C by 2050 4400 N/A 1027 158333 118056 12% 11% 11% 6% 5% 0% 0%
Canada's Energy Future[160] Canada Energy Regulator Canada 2020 None N/A N/A N/A 4242 2750 1% 4% 15% 7% 11% 0% 0%
Energy System Model (GENeSYS-MOD)[161] (Mexico) DIW Berlin, Cide Mexico Mexico 2019 Full decaronization of the energy system by 2050. n/a n/a 7.16 for renewable target and 12 for national target. P. 15 n/a 320.73 GW for national target, 842.89, GW 100% renewables 78% 22% 0% 0% <1% 0% 0%
Energy System Model (GENeSYS-MOD) - 100% RE Scenario[161] DIW Berlin, Cide Mexico Mexico Full decaronization of the energy system by 2050. N/A N/A 7.16 N/A 8835.914153 58% 27% 15% 0% 1% 0% 0%
Energy System Model (GENeSYS-MOD) - Climate Goals Scenario[161] Mexico 50% emissions reduction by 2050 N/A N/A 9.63 N/A 8819.614236 32% 15% 10% 0% 1% 41% 0%
Transformation towards a Renewable Energy System in Brazil and Mexico—Technological and Structural Options for Latin America[162] Mexico 2018 70-95% emissions reduction N/A 0 0 0 0 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%
Advanced Energy [r]evolution[163] Greenpeace Global 2021 >2 degrees 48 0 0 0 149722.222 32% 32% 1% 0% 1% 0% 34%
Basic Energy [r]evolution[163] Greenpeace Global >2 degrees 64.6 0 0 0 80277.7778 16% 30% 4% 0% 10% 2% 38%
The Energy Report[164] WWF Global 2011 n/a N/A N/A 900 N/A 72812.84606 32% 13% 40% 0% 6% 5% 5%
Global energy transformation: A roadmap to 2050[165] IRENA Global 2019 0 2200 0 827 153508.7719 97500 10% 12% N/A N/A 5% N/A 0%
100% Clean and Renewable Wind, Water, and Sunlight All-Sector Energy Roadmaps for 139 Countries of the World[166] Stanford Global/intern. 2017 Net Zero by 2050 124700 24262122 N/A N/A N/A 58% 37% 0% 0% 4% 0% -36%
Full energy sector transition towards 100% renewable energy supply: Integrating power, heat, transport and industry sectors including desalination[167] LUT University Global 2020 Net Zero by 2050 2050
Zero air pollution and zero carbon from all energy at low cost and without blackouts in variable weather throughout the U.S. with 100% wind-water-solar and storage[168] Stanford USA 2021 Net Zero by 2050 2050 0% 0%

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]