Is Capable of
Meeting Our Energy Needs
Despite having public support and advantages over other energy sources, renewable technologies have been repeatedly characterized as unable to meet our energy needs. People have been presented only a choice between conventional fossil fuels and nuclear power. This, however, is a false choice. Renewable energy can reliably generate as much energy as conventional fuels, and can do so without producing carbon emissions or radioactive waste.
Renewable energy – which includes solar, wind, advanced hydro, certain types of biomass and geothermal energy1 – has the potential to replace conventional fossil fuels and nuclear power. While nonhydro renewables presently provide just 2.3% of electricity in the U.S., it is technically and economically feasible for a diverse mix of existing renewable technologies to completely meet our energy needs. In fact, as much as 20% of U.S. electricity could
immediately come from non-hydro renewable energy sources
without any negative effects to the stability or reliability of the electrical grid. Over the longer term, improvements to the grid can be made, and renewable technologies could supply increasingly higher percentages. Examining possible implementation and
growth rates for different technologies, a 2004 report from the European Renewable Energy Council concluded that renewable
energy could meet baseload power needs, 2 and in fact, could provide 50% of the world's primary energy by 2040.3 Similar
studies from Shell Oil have explored scenarios in which one third to one half of the world’s energy can come from renewables by 2050.4 Importantly, renewable energy technologies produce virtually no greenhouse gas emissions and can effectively address climate change. If unchecked, the disruption of the earth’s atmosphere poses the greatest threat to humankind in our lifetimes. Continuing to fill the atmosphere with greenhouse gases will melt the ice sheets, raise sea levels,...