Imagine a world free of oil accidents, coal pollution and nuclear waste. A world where we wouldn’t have to feel helpless in the face of climate change, because we did everything we could to prevent further warming. A world where energy was clean, safe and available for all.
In recent years the costs of wind and solar energy have declined substantially. Today renewable technologies are the most economical solution for new capacity in a growing number of countries and regions, and are typically the most economic solution for new grid-connected capacity where good resources are available.
Renewable energy technology is ready to go, and it is working reliably in countries around the world.
Renewable energy can meet all our energy needs in a safe and reliable way. When the shares are small, balancing supply and demand goes with the flow as part of the overall grid management. As shares of wind and solar approach 30% and more, smart integration becomes important.
The key is to have a mix of sources spread over a wide area: solar and wind power, biogas, biomass and geothermal sources. In the future, ocean energy can contribute too.
Intelligent technologies can track and manage energy use patterns, provide flexible power that follows demand through the day, use better storage options and group producers together to form virtual power plants. With all these solutions we can secure the renewable energy future needed. We just need smart grids to put it all together and effectively ‘keep the lights on’.
An electricity grid – the system that connects power stations to consumers – can handle large shares of variable renewable energy if it is designed to do so. Adding wind and solar on top of ‘business as usual’ is not how it works. What’s needed is a gradual transformation of the whole energy system to accommodate modern energy production and consumption.
Typically the ones who claim that wind and solar will bring trouble to the grid are the old players, who failed to take renewable energy seriously and over-invested in fossil fuel capacities instead. Renewable energy is now eating their profits and making their old business models out-of-date. Source
In reality, Europe, for example, can switch to 77% renewable electricity by 2030 while maintaining affordable security of supply. Source
A smart grid is a system that can connect (and switch between) a number of energy sources (solar, wind, etc.), at many different sites, to provide a constant flow of electricity to users. It allows us to create a network of electricity production sites that spread over a wide area. So for example, it would allow you to create solar power on the roof of your house, and feed extra power back into the grid. This is part of what makes the grid “smart”: components can “talk” and “listen” to each other, making the supply of electricity much more flexible, reliable, and efficient. With smart grid solutions, we are no longer just passive consumers of energy, but active producers and consumers of clean energy – prosumers!
Birds and bats: A common argument against wind farms is that they kill birds and bats. However, if environmental impact assesments are conducted and migratory and local bird population patterns are assesed before construction, this is avoided completely. It is vital that these assessments are made to ensure the safety of birds and bats, as with any development project.
Noise: Studies have shown that noise complaints, especially those related to wind farms, are often unrelated to actual noise. In most cases it was found that people were actually opposed to the farms on aesthetic grounds – which would be the same with coal or nuclear plants. It was also found that ‘noise’ complaints dropped off rapidly when local communities derived income from the renewable energy projects in question.
Land use: The land used for renewable energy projects, like wind farms, can still be used for farming and cattle grazing. International experience has shown that livestock are completely unaffected by the presence of wind farms and will often graze right up to the base of wind turbines.
Footprint of renewables: Unlike coal and nuclear RE pays off its carbon footprint and does so relatively quickly. Depending on where they are made, solar panels offset their carbon footprint in about four years.
Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution model is about a gradual transition to renewable energy. It’s a blueprint which has been developed for over 30 countries and regions for decreasing our reliance on coal, oil, gas and nuclear over time, while investing increasingly in renewables.
Fully switching over to renewable energy involves 3 steps.
Increase our energy efficiency: This is most important. It is about using our energy wisely, so that we get more done while using less and less energy.
Shift investments to renewable energy projects, and steadily increase investments over time.
Stop investing in new fossil fuels and nuclear plants whilst also shutting down old stations as they reach the end of their lifespans.
Find the sustainable energy plan for your country here: