Getting to 100% Renewable Energy


A new “Energy [R]evolution” report details how the U.S. can transition to nearly 100% renewable energy by 2050. At the same time, another report predicts major growth in the green energy market, with solar PV being the fastest-growing segment.




Does 100% renewable energy seem like a pipe dream? Maybe not. From the Renewables 100 Policy Institute to Stanford professor Marc Jacobson on the David Letterman show, more scientists and organizations are going on record saying that this goal is 100% achievable.


Now a new report from Greenpeace and the Global Wind Energy Council, Energy [R]evolution — A Sustainable USA Energy Outlook, has found that the United States can quickly transition to nearly 100% renewable energy and phase out coal and nuclear power.


The report provides a blueprint for transforming our electricity, transportation, and heating systems to dramatically reduce carbon pollution. It demonstrates to policymakers and investors that rapid changes in the way we produce, distribute, and consume energy are not only possible but also cost-effective.


“Growing concerns about climate change and air pollution, along with quickly falling costs of renewable energy, are already upending the utility industry’s business model and threatening to turn fossil fuel reserves into stranded assets. The Energy [R]evolution report demonstrates that the rapid changes in the energy sector could expand dramatically, with major implications for many industries,” said Sven Teske, a renewable energy expert with Greenpeace International, in a statement.


The Energy [R]evolution details how by 2050, renewable energy sources could provide around 97% of electricity produced in the USA and 94% of our total heating and cooling demand, accounting for around 92% of our final energy demand.


Far from requiring great sacrifices, this shift to renewables would be an economic boon. According to the report, it could lead to about 1.5 million energy-related jobs in 2030. That’s 35% more than projected under the “business as usual” scenario outlined by the Energy Information Agency 2013 Annual Outlook.


Using more renewables would also bring cost savings. Phasing out coal and oil, according to the scenario proposed in the report, would result in fuel cost savings of $6.1 trillion, or $153 billion per year. Overall costs would be about 50% lower than costs in the government outlook. The United States would reduce carbon pollution 39% by 2025 and 60% by 2030, below 2005 levels.


“The most recent National Climate Assessment makes it very clear that we need national policies to expedite a clean energy economy. Fortunately, the energy market is phasing out coal and phasing in renewable energy at a rapid pace, but this must be quickened to avoid climate consequences much worse than the wildfires, droughts, and superstorms the country is already experiencing,” said Kyle Ash, Senior Legislative Representative for Greenpeace USA, “We need policymakers to stop enabling fossil fuel companies, and to make these climate polluters responsible for the damage they are doing.”


This report comes at the same time as a new one from Transparency Market Research that predicts major growth in the green energy market. According to that report, “Green Energy (Solar PV, Wind energy, Hydroelectric power, Bio-fuels, Geothermal energy) Market – Global Industry Analysis, Market Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013 – 2019,” the global green energy market is projected to reach $831.99 billion by 2019.


This growth is estimated to come at a CAGR of 8.3% from 2013 to 2019. Factors driving the growth in demand for green energy include renewable portfolio standards and regulations, environmental concerns, rising energy demand, fuel shortage/replacement, coal plant retirements, and the need for a natural gas hedge. In addition, the rise in public awareness of the benefits of green energy is also aiding the growth of this market.


Among all green energy types, the report estimates solar PV to be the fastest-growing segment with a CAGR of 14.6% during the period 2013 to 2019. This growth is mainly spurred by price decreases, which have increased consumer interest in solar energy.