Renewable Energy Myths

6 myths about renewable energy,
blown away

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.

That world is within our reach now.

The evidence is in: Renewable energy is viable, reliable, and ready to go – all that’s needed for a clean energy revolution.

On this page we’ve grouped together some of the most common myths about renewable energy, explaining why they are just that – myths that don’t stand up to reality.

But here’s the thing, although we’ve busted the myths here, we need you to make the myth busting go beyond this page.

Please share it widely. Tweet, Facebook, and talk about it freely.

Now, let’s get going!

Myth 1

Renewable energy is too expensive

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.

• Citigroup: The age of renewable energy is beginning. Increasingly cost competitive with coal, gas and nuclear in the US. Source • HSBC: Wind energy is now cost competitive with new-build coal capacity in India. Solar to reach parity around 2016-18. Source • Deutsche Bank: solar now competitive without subsidies in at least 19 markets globally. In 2014 prices to decline further. Source • Unsubsidised renewable energy is now cheaper than electricity from new coal and gas fired power plants in Australia. Source
But it doesn't stop there. There are no input costs for wind and solar energy. So for example, while one needs to buy coal for a coal-fired power plant to generate electricity (and coal mining itself has massive environmental costs), solar and wind energy don’t have input costs like that – sunlight and wind are free. As a result, they replace more expensive production in the electricity market, lowering wholesale electricity prices. This is good for consumers but – unsurprisingly – upsets the producers of dirty energy.

The Hidden Costs of Coal and Nuclear

Market price aside, coal and nuclear power have huge hidden costs that aren’t included in the price that you and I pay for electricity.

We’re talking about the costs of water pollution, health impacts, the plant’s huge water footprint, and climate change.

For instance, in the United States, accounting for these hidden costs, conservatively doubles to triples the price of electricity from coal per kWh generated. In South Africa, the Energy utility Eskom is currently building a coal-fired power plant, and it’s estimated that the plant will cause damage of up to 5.7 bln US$ for every year it operates.

These massive costs aren't taken into account when the price of coal power is calculated -- but they are still very real!


Myth 2



Renewable energy technology is ready to go, and it is working reliably in countries around the world.

1. International Energy Agency: Any country can reach high shares of wind, solar power cost-effectively. Source

2. By 2050 almost all of global energy needs can be met with renewables. Source

3. Germany, Europe's biggest economy, already gets 25% of it’s electricity from renewables, and is aiming for 80% by 2050. Source

4. Wind power was Spain's top source of electricity in 2013, ahead of nuclear, coal & gas. Source

5. Renewables supplied 42% of mainland Spain’s electricity in 2013. Source

6. In 2012 China’s wind power generation increased more than generation from coal. Source

7. Portugal generated more than 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources during the first quarter of 2013. Source
8. In the US, nine states are getting 12% or more of their electricity from wind. Iowa & South Dakota exceed 25%. Source

9. Philippines produces 29% of its electricity with renewables, targeting 40% by 2020. Source

10. Denmark is going to produce 100% of its heat and power with renewable energy by 2035 and all energy by 2050. Source

World electricity needs could be met almost 100% w renewable energy in 2050. Greenpeace energy [r]evolution scenario.


Myth 3

Renewable energy can’t supply electricity 24/7

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’.

Infographic: a decentralised energy future


Myth 4


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

What is a smart grid?

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!

Infographic: electricity generation structure under  reference & energy [r]evolution scenarios

Myth 5

Renewable Energy is bad for the environment

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.


Myth 6

Greenpeace wants to turn off all coal and nuclear power plants today

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:


Where to from here?

The good news is that clean energy revolution has already started – but we must speed it up. Given the incredible renewable energy potential the world has, the millions of jobs that could be created and millions of lives that could be saved from air pollution and other hazards of the current energy system, the benefits of a clean energy future are undisputable.

We have created a global blueprint for just how such a revolution could take place – in every corner of the world. Click here to download the Energy [r]evolution report and find out more – and don’t forget to share this page so it can live up to its true myth-busting potential!

Download the Revolution

Renewable energy loading...