With pollution, contamination and other destructions that man has made on the planet over the years, the quality of life we have in the world has been changing. And a factor seriously hit, and one that could be affected even more if the pace continues, is the supply of energy and the way in which we get it.
Therefore, alternative forms to hydroelectric energy are studied and already put into practice, in some places. Many countries have already recognized this need to make the switch from fossil fuels to renewable or “green” energy.
Most homes in the world are powered by a mixture of coal and wind sources. But will it ever be possible for everything to come exclusively from clean energy sources? Twenty-two experts in renewable energy, engineering and energy systems answered whether a country could ever have 100% of its energy renewable. For 15 of them this is really likely.
Renewable energy is a type of energy that can be replaced quickly. Oil and coal take millions of years to be produced and because of that they are not renewable. And nuclear energy, which uses uranium, is also not a renewable source.
Some forms of renewable energy are geothermal, solar, hydro, wind, tidal and biomass. They are classified as such because they will not run out in the near future. And the capacity for this type of energy is enormous.
“Earth receives 23,000 TW of solar energy, while global energy consumption is 16 TW. Therefore, 100% renewable energy could be possible even if we only captured 0.07% of solar energy,” said Professor Xiao Yu Wu, an expert energy company at MIT.
Iceland, for example, is able to supply almost 100% of its electricity with renewable energy. The country uses its abundant geothermal and hydroelectric supplies for this. And renewable energy may also be able to meet the electrical needs of more populous countries.
In Brazil, for example, 80% of the electrical needs for the 213 million Brazilians come from renewable sources, mainly hydroelectric. However, on average, renewable energy generates about 29% of electricity worldwide.
In this quest to shift to 100% clean energy use, Professor Mark Jacobson and colleagues at Stanford University published a scientific paper in 2017, which outlined a roadmap for 139 countries to make the transition to 100% renewable energy.
The studies are based on models that predict future scenarios and test different energy systems to see if they are able to meet demands. And as with any type of modeling, it can be challenging to estimate all parameters correctly.
Other experts disagree with the idea that renewable energy can reach 100% in most countries. So much so that Benjamin Heard, from the University of Adelaide, and his team, published an article analyzing the feasibility of 100% renewable electricity systems.
According to his arguments, there is a strong dependence on hydro and biomass sources, even though most countries do not have access to them. Because of this, it would depend on solar, wind and storage sources. And under these circumstances, it’s highly unlikely that this type of energy can deliver 100% electricity.
Furthermore, according to some experts, in order to achieve 100% renewable energy, it is necessary to overcome economic and political barriers.
“Viable in terms of what? If it’s feasible in terms of technology, it seems likely. If it is feasible in terms of the necessary policies, funding and institutional drivers, it is less likely. Governance systems are very disrupted,” said Professor Laurence Delina, an expert on renewable energy at Boston University.