Renewable energy

energy collected from renewable resources

Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale. It includes sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Renewable energy stands in contrast to fossil fuels, which are being used far more quickly than they are being replenished. Although most renewable energy sources are sustainable, some are not. For example, some biomass sources are considered unsustainable at current rates of exploitation.

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!" - Thomas Edison in a conversation shortly before his death. (1931) (A combined heat and power solar installation on a barn roof in Germany.)
"Wind [power cost] has plunged by 80% just in the past 11 or 12 years. . . . Things like wind and solar power really can already out-compete dirtier forms of electricity, and we just need to build more of them quickly; we’re not adding them fast enough." - Daniel Cohan, Rice University. (May 30, 2022) (Wind turbines in Gansu province, China.)
"The only way you can get to the very positive {CO2 reduction} scenario is by great innovation. Innovation really does bend the curve." - Bill Gates, global philanthropist and founder of Microsoft. (June 25, 2015)
"The next big act belongs to the engineers. Energy transformation for climate safety is our twenty-first-century moonshot." - Jeffrey Sachs, development economist. (Dec. 20, 2018) (Pictured above is Thomas Edison, considered one of the greatest inventors and engineers of all time.)
"A carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future." - "Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends" signed by more than 3,500 economists. (Jan. 16, 2019) (Signatories included every then-living former chair of the US Federal Reserve, from left to right: Janet Yellen, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Paul Volcker).
"Offshore wind is in a category of its own, as the only variable baseload power generation technology." - IEA special report, "Offshore Wind Outlook 2019." (Nov. 2019) (The East Anglia ONE offshore windfarm under construction in the North Sea about 43 kilometers east of the English coast.)
"Deploying today’s renewables and improving transmission couldn’t be more important. [And] even as we deploy, deploy, deploy solar and wind, the world is going to need some new clean electricity inventions too." - Bill Gates, from his book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster. (Feb. 16, 2021)
"[W]e can remake our economies, build new businesses, and put millions upon millions of people to work. . . . For too long, the climate conversation has been viewed as [one] of trade-offs: the climate or the economy. No longer." - US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, addressing the 2021 Leaders Summit on Climate. (Apr. 23, 2021)
"We can get real on coal, cars, cash and trees. . . . [W]e cannot and will not succeed by government spending alone. . . . [Let us] in the next days . . . not only continue with . . . a green industrial revolution, [but let] us also do enough to save our planet and our way of life." - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, welcoming the COP representatives to Glasgow. (Nov. 1, 2021)
"[W]ithin the growing [climate] catastrophe, I believe there’s an incredible opportunity . . . . We have the ability to invest in ourselves and build an equitable clean-energy future and in the process create millions of good-paying jobs [while we] create an environment that raises the standard of living around the world." - US President Joe Biden, addressing the COP26 international climate conference. (Nov. 1, 2021)
"India will take its non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030, [and] India will meet 50 percent of its energy requirements from renewable energy by 2030." - Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India since 2014, addressing the COP26 international climate conference. (Nov. 2, 2021)
"The electrification of things you do for climate is good for your health. The air in our homes will be cleaner, our cars zippier and community air quality better, our appliances faster and more high-tech, like smartphones compared to rotary phones. The electrified future can be awesome." - Saul Griffith, Australian-American engineer, entrepreneur and MacArthur fellow, writing on the need to "electrify everything, fast" to keep the earth habitable. (Nov. 4, 2021)
"[W]e’ll never build enough batteries to back up the grid. . . . The more robustly we deploy complementary resources, transmission, and {demand} flexibility, the less storage we will need [thereby] reducing the overall costs of electricity." - Daniel S. Cohan, from his book Confronting Climate Gridlock. (Mar. 29, 2022) (HVDC transmission lines in Europe: existing {red}, under construction {green} and proposed {blue}. Many of these lines carry power from renewable sources.)
[A] decarbonisation strategy [has been] accepted by those determined to stabilise the climate. Make the power on electric grids emissions-free, cheap and copious. Start electrifying all processes that now require fossil fuels . . . where electrification is clearly possible. It does not deliver everything that is needed. But it delivers a lot. - Vijay Vaitheeswaran, writing as climate innovation editor at The Economist. (June 25, 2022)
"Renewable energy technology has made revolutionary progress . . . . A moderate push from public policy is all that it will take to transition to a much greener economy. And the Inflation Reduction Act will provide that push." - Paul Krugman, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, in a New York Times op-ed column. (Aug. 8, 2022)
"If you want to [get to 100% renewable energy], you're going to have to solve that problem of . . . long-term storage for the grid . . . . [Y]ou could do that with gravity storage [or] with a chemical energy carrier [like] hydrogen or ammonia or another chemical energy medium which is yet to be discovered." - George Crabtree, Director of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research at Argonne National Laboratory. (Nov. 17, 2022)
"Utility-scale solar PV {photovoltaic systems} and onshore wind are [now] the cheapest options for new electricity generation in a significant majority of countries worldwide." - From the press release accompanying the IEA's "Renewables 2022" annual report. (Dec. 6, 2022) (A 4 megawatt single axis horizontal tracking system in Tamil Nadu, India.)
"[T]he change we need is to put innovation at the heart of everything we do. . . . [M]ajor challenges like energy security and net zero will be solved by innovation. The more we innovate, the more we grow." - UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak in his first major speech of 2023. (Jan. 4, 2023)
"[T]he transition to renewable forms of energy, properly managed, as well as efforts to adapt to the damage caused by climate change, are capable of generating countless jobs in different sectors." - Pope Francis, in the English language version of his "Laudate Deum" apostolic exhortation, paragraph 10. The Vatican released the document about a month before the COP28 climate conference to encourage the negotiators "to . . . allow for a decisive acceleration of energy transition." (Oct. 4, 2023)
"2023 will take the title {as the world's hottest year on record}. . . . And yet . . . [a]lmost simultaneous with the breakout in temperature, there was a breakout in the installation of renewable energy. . . . There are plenty of other technologies we’re [currently] spending money on, [but in] the next few years . . . it’s sun, wind, and batteries that matter. They’re cheap, and they’re ready." - Bill McKibben, climate change activist and author, writing in The New Yorker. (Dec. 12, 2023)

Quotes edit

Before 2001 edit

2001 to 2010 edit

  • Although photosynthesis typically has an energy conversion efficiency below three percent, it is, together with heat from the sun, the main energy source of all living organisms, and the energy source from which biomass and fossil fuels are derived. Each year the earth receives an energy input from the sun equal to 15,000 times the world's commercial energy consumption and 100 times the world's proven coal, gas and oil reserves.
    • Bernhard Scheffler, quoted by J. Clarke and D. Holt-Biddle in Coming Back to Earth, p. 78 (2002)
  • There is one forecast of which you can already be sure: someday renewable energy will be the only way for people to satisfy their energy needs. Because of the physical, ecological and (therefore) social limits to nuclear and fossil energy use, ultimately nobody will be able to circumvent renewable energy as the solution, even if it turns out to be everybody’s last remaining choice. The question keeping everyone in suspense, however, is whether we shall succeed in making this radical change of energy platforms happen early enough to spare the world irreversible ecological mutilation and political and economic catastrophe.

2011 to 2020 edit

  • More solar energy falls on Earth in one hour than all the energy our civilization consumes in an entire year. If we could harness a tiny fraction of the available solar and wind power, we could supply all our energy needs forever, and without adding any carbon to the atmosphere.
  • If you told me that innovation had been frozen and we just have today's technologies, will the world run the climate change experiment? You bet we will. We will not deny India coal plants; we will run the scary experiment of heating up the atmosphere and seeing what happens. The only reason I'm optimistic about this problem is because of innovation. . . . I want to tilt the odds in our favor by driving innovation at an unnaturally high pace, or more than its current business-as-usual course. I see that as the only thing. I want to call up India someday and say, "Here's a source of energy that is cheaper than your coal plants, and by the way, from a global pollution and local pollution point of view, it's also better."
  • We have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions. It would maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust to future developments in our understanding of climate science as well as the policy consequences of these actions.
  • The transition to renewable energy can be greatly accelerated if the world’s governments finally bring the engineers to the fore... I was recently on a panel with three economists and a senior business-sector engineer. After the economists spoke... the engineer spoke succinctly and wisely. “I don’t really understand what you economists were just speaking about, but I do have a suggestion... Tell us engineers the desired ‘specs’ and the timeline, and we’ll get the job done.” This is not bravado.... The next big act belongs to the engineers. Energy transformation for climate safety is our twenty-first-century moonshot.

2021 edit

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (book) edit

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need. Book by Bill Gates. Published by Alfred A. Knopf on February 16, 2021. ISBN 9780385546133 (hardcover), ISBN 9780385546140 (e-book).
Main Wikiquote page for How to Avoid a Climate Disaster
Wikipedia page for How to Avoid a Climate Disaster

  • [I]t's . . . possible that some innovation will come along and make [other energy storage] ideas obsolete, the way the personal computer came along and more or less made the typewriter unnecessary. Cheap hydrogen could do that for storing electricity. . . . We could use electricity from a solar or wind farm to create hydrogen, store the hydrogen as a compressed gas or in another form, and then put it in a fuel cell to generate electricity on demand. [This] would solve the location problem; . . . although you can't ship sunlight in a railcar, you can turn it into fuel first and then ship it any way you like.

COP26 Climate Conference in Scotland, UK edit

26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (or "COP26"), held in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom from October 31st to November 13th, 2021. (The quotes below are listed in the order used in the UNFCCC's "COP 26 Speeches and statements" webpage. The quotes are from the speeches as delivered; some of the English language speeches deviate slightly from the submitted speech transcripts.)

2022 edit

  • [T]he solution has to be real economy government regulations to ban or to make higher [the] cost of the brown and polluting industries. That said, there are parts of finance which are longer-term and [evaluate] climate risks . . . and these are asset owners, the pension funds, the wealth funds and the insurance companies who are not so transactional [and] they’re not [as] interested in a deal to be done today. And they are in fact often mandated by their governments to take into account climate risk. So, I think those players will step up in this instance [turmoil in energy markets following Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine] and [now who might be] investing for [an electricity generation project with a] 10-year horizon which you have to do with gas they will [say], "Let’s do it with renewables." And we’ve seen movements like that in the UK, where they’re pivoting towards onshore wind, which before the invasion was politically unviable because of the NIMBY factor. . . . [T]he pension funds and the actual asset owners . . . have a longer term of perspective. And they are actually driving the issue to their commercial managers who have to service them and they’re saying, "Look, we want you to act on climate change," and that's a huge driver.
  • The global energy crisis is driving a sharp acceleration in installations of renewable power, with total capacity growth worldwide set to almost double in the next five years, overtaking coal as the largest source of electricity generation along the way and helping keep alive the possibility of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C . . . . Global renewable power capacity is now expected to grow by 2,400 gigawatts (GW) over the 2022-2027 period, an amount equal to the entire power capacity of China today, according to Renewables 2022, the latest edition of the IEA {International Energy Agency}’s annual report on the sector. . . . The amount of renewable power capacity added in Europe in the 2022-27 period is forecast to be twice as high as in the previous five-year period, driven by a combination of energy security concerns and climate ambitions. . . . Beyond Europe, the upward revision in renewable power growth for the next five years is also driven by China, the United States and India, which are all implementing policies and introducing regulatory and market reforms more quickly than previously planned to combat the energy crisis. . . . China is expected to account for almost half of new global renewable power capacity additions over the 2022-2027 period. Meanwhile, the US Inflation Reduction Act has provided new support and long-term visibility for the expansion of renewables in the United States. . . . Utility-scale solar PV [photovoltaics] and onshore wind are the cheapest options for new electricity generation in a significant majority of countries worldwide. Global solar PV capacity is set to almost triple over the 2022-2027 period, surpassing coal and becoming the largest source of power capacity in the world. The report also forecasts an acceleration of installations of solar panels on residential and commercial rooftops . . . . Global wind capacity almost doubles in the forecast period, with offshore projects accounting for one-fifth of the growth. Together, wind and solar will account for over 90% of the renewable power capacity that is added over the next five years. . . . While China remains the dominant player [in photovoltaic supply chains], its share in global manufacturing capacity could decrease from 90% today to 75% by 2027. . . . Total global biofuel demand is set to expand by 22% over the 2022-2027 period. . . . In advanced economies . . . faster growth [in renewable power capacity] would require various regulatory and permitting challenges to be tackled and a more rapid penetration of renewable electricity in the heating and transport sectors. In emerging and developing economies, [faster growth] would mean addressing policy and regulatory uncertainties, weak grid infrastructure and a lack of access to affordable financing that are hampering new projects. . . . Worldwide, the accelerated case requires efforts to resolve supply chain issues, expand grids and deploy more flexibility resources to securely manage larger shares of variable renewables. The accelerated case’s faster renewables growth would move the world closer to a pathway consistent with reaching net zero emissions by 2050, which offers an even chance of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.
About the quote: The above quote summarizing the IEA's annual renewable energy report for 2022 contains very few links to Wikipedia pages or to any other information sources. For further information about any of the words or phrases in the quote, please refer to the report. Also, the quote changes "2 400 GW" (in the original) to "2,400 GW" (using a comma as a thousands-separator rather than a space, following the typical English-language convention).

Confronting Climate Gridlock (book) edit

Confronting Climate Gridlock: How Diplomacy, Technology, and Policy Can Unlock a Clean Energy Future. Book by Daniel S. Cohan. Published by Yale University Press on March 29, 2022. ISBN 9780300251678 (hardcover).
(All page references below are to the hardcover version of the book).

US Inflation Reduction Act edit

  • The [provisions of the proposed Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, including] expansion of the wind and solar credits, the exciting expansion, or creation, of additional credits in green hydrogen, the inclusion of hydrogen cars in electric car credits, the extension of the electric car credits - all those things are good [but they're] not enough. The question now is, what do we do next?
  • The Inflation Reduction Act calls for spending less than $500 billion over a decade, compared with the American Rescue Plan’s $1.9 trillion in a single year . . . . But if the spending isn’t very large, how can it have such a big impact? The answer is that right now we’re sitting on a sort of cusp. Renewable energy technology has made revolutionary progress, and renewables are already cheaper in many areas than fossil fuels. A moderate push from public policy is all that it will take to transition to a much greener economy. And the Inflation Reduction Act will provide that push.

COP27 Climate Conference in Egypt edit

27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (or "COP27"), held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt from November 6th to 18th, 2022

2023 edit

  • I think [it’s] to be determined {whether the post-pandemic, low-interest-rate-fueled investment spike which flowed to non-governmental fusion companies will actually result in commercially viable fusion power}. . . . When interest rates were low, people were willing to make long-term bets. [However, the] level of investment was substantial, and it should yield technological progress.
  • If the world is to decarbonise, then more clean energy is needed, fast. [To meet current UNFCCC pledges, countries must] raise global renewable-energy capacity to 11,000 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. [However, supply chain problems and rising interest rates cloud the industry's future. Another obstacle is slow permitting] approval, which delays projects for years and can needlessly tie up capital, lowering returns. [And,] too little development is happening in the global south [because investors require a premium when venturing money in emerging markets]. A last obstacle is protectionism, which raises costs and threatens shortages. . . . Rather than micromanaging production, governments should unleash investment, by acting boldly to strip back permitting rules and ease the risk of projects in the global south [which can come from blending in government money in southern projects that assumes some risk]. They also need to face up to the fact that protectionism frustrates their climate goals. It leads to lower returns, higher prices for power and more broken promises over decarbonisation.
    • The Economist (in keeping with longstanding tradition Economist articles are typically unsigned, which permits the news magazine to speak with one collective voice). Excerpted from an article in a Dec. 9th - 15th 2023 physical copy of the magazine entitled "Power Trip: Expanding renewable-energy capacity is becoming worryingly hard." An online (subscription-required) version of the article can be found here. (Dec. 7, 2023)

COP28 Climate Conference in Dubai edit

28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (or "COP28"), held in Expo City, Dubai from November 30th to December 12th, 2023

  • We are edging ever-closer to a fusion-powered reality. And at the same time, yes, significant scientific and engineering challenges exist. . . . Careful thought and thoughtful policy is going to be critical to navigate this.
  • Tripling {global renewable energy capacity} is a monumental change. . . . We don't have any structures that fit 100% with the new system that is coming.
    • Francesco La Camera, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), commenting on the challenges of achieving a tripling target that was embraced by the COP delegates after it was promoted by IRENA. The quote is from an article in a Dec. 14th physical copy of The Wall Street Journal entitled "Climate Deal Puts Pressure on Renewables: Price drops, surging growth in solar and wind make goals more realistic." Article written by Ed Ballard. An online (subscription-required) version of the article can be found here. (Dec. 13, 2023)

2024 edit

"Renewables 2023" - IEA report - early Jan., 2024 edit

  • [1] 2023 saw a step change in renewable capacity additions, driven by China’s solar PV market. Global annual renewable capacity additions increased by almost 50% to nearly 510 gigawatts (GW) in 2023, the fastest growth rate in the past two decades. . . . [2] Achieving the COP28 target of tripling global renewable capacity by 2030 hinges on policy implementation. . . . [C]hallenges [that could prevent reaching the tripling goal] fall into four main categories and differ by country: 1) policy uncertainties and delayed policy responses to the new macroeconomic environment; 2) insufficient investment in grid infrastructure preventing faster expansion of renewables; 3) cumbersome administrative barriers and permitting procedures and social acceptance issues; 4) insufficient financing in emerging and developing economies. . . . [3] The global power mix will be transformed by 2028. . . . In 2028, renewable energy sources [are expected to] account for over 42% of global electricity generation, with the share of wind and solar PV doubling to 25%. . . . [4] China is the world’s renewables powerhouse. . . . China’s role is critical in reaching the global goal of tripling renewables because the country is expected to install more than half of the new capacity required globally by 2030. . . . [5] The US, the EU, India and Brazil remain bright spots for onshore wind and solar PV growth. . . . Supportive policy environments and the improving economic attractiveness of solar PV and onshore wind are the primary drivers behind this acceleration. . . . [6] Solar PV prices plummet amid growing supply glut. . . . Despite unprecedented PV manufacturing expansion in the United States and India driven by policy support, China is expected to maintain its 80‑95% share of global supply chains . . . . [7] Onshore wind and solar PV are cheaper than both new and existing fossil fuel plants. . . . Despite the increasing contribution needs for flexibility and reliability to integrate variable renewables, the overall competitiveness of onshore wind and solar PV changes only slightly by 2028 in Europe, China, India and the United States. . . . [8] The new macroeconomic environment presents further challenges that policy makers need to address. . . . Since 2022, central bank base interest rates have increased from below 1% to almost 5%. . . . The implications . . . are manifold . . . . [I]nflation has increased equipment costs . . . [H]igher interest rates are increasing the financing costs of capital-intensive variable renewable technologies. . . . [And] policy has been relatively slow to adjust to the new macroeconomic environment due in part to expectations that cost reductions would continue . . . . [9] The forecast for wind capacity additions is less optimistic outside China, especially for offshore. . . .The wind industry, especially in Europe and North America, is facing challenges due to a combination of ongoing supply chain disruptions, higher costs and long permitting timelines. . . . [10] Faster deployment of variable renewables increases integration and infrastructure challenges. . . . Although European Union interconnections help integrate solar PV and wind generation, grid bottlenecks will pose significant challenges and lead to increased curtailment in many countries as grid expansion cannot keep pace with accelerated installation of variable renewables. . . . [11] Current hydrogen plans and implementation don’t match. . . . We have revised down our forecasts for all regions except China. The main reason is the slow pace of bringing planned projects to final investment decisions due to a lack of off‑takers and the impact of higher prices on production costs. . . . [12] Biofuel deployment is accelerating and diversifying more into renewable diesel and biojet fuel. . . . Emerging economies, led by Brazil, dominate global biofuel expansion . . . . Biofuels remain the dominant pathway for avoiding oil demand in the diesel and jet fuel segments. EVs outpace biofuels in the gasoline segment, especially in the United States, Europe and China. . . . [13] Aligning biofuels with a net zero pathway requires a huge increase in the pace of deployment. . . . Much faster biofuel deployment is possible through new policies and addressing supply chain challenges. [14] Renewable heat accelerates amid high energy prices and policy momentum – but not enough to curb emissions. . . . [The renewable heat acceleration comes] predominantly from the growing reliance on electricity for process heat – notably with the adoption of heat pumps in non‑energy‑intensive industries – and the deployment of electric heat pumps and boilers in buildings, increasingly powered by renewable electricity.
About the quote: The above quote of phrases from the executive summary of the IEA's annual renewable energy report for 2023 contains no links to Wikiquote pages, Wikipedia pages, or to any other information sources. For further information about any of the words or phrases in the quote, please refer to the report. Also, the quote adds bracketed numbers to clarify where each of the fourteen sections in the summary begins. The numbers are a de minimis (or insignificant) addition to the original text inserted for clarification purposes only and do not appear in the IEA's original report.

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