Put 100% Renewables On The Agenda

The feasibility of 100% renewable energy is being demonstrated increasingly at different scales.
Published: Wed 23 Sep 2015

During the last week of August, the City of Aspen in Colorado was reported to be the third city in the United States to have become 100% renewable energy powered. This follows similar achievements by Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas during the past year.

On a smaller scale, the Cochin Airport in Kerala, India has recently become the first in the world to be 100% solar powered. [Engerati-Cochin Airport Demonstrates 100% Solar Potential] Going larger, islands across the globe are starting to achieve 100% renewable penetration, from Samso in Denmark (the first to do so) to Australia’s King Island. [Engerati- Grid Integration Of Renewables – Five Top Projects] And more jurisdictions are set to follow: The Renewables 100 Policy Institute in its Go 100% Renewable Energy project lists almost 150 projects around the world which have shifted or are committed to shifting to 100% renewable energy within the next few decades.

Renewables challenges

The Renewables 100 list of projects – and there are likely to be more – are said to span 8 countries, 60 regions/states, 55 cities, 9 utilities and 21 non-profit/educational/public institutions, totaling more than 53.3 million people. These numbers are clearly reflective of the challenges of implementing 100% renewables, which increase with project size with larger capacity plants, potentially more renewables types and larger numbers of connections.

But they are also reflective of an absence of policy at a high level. At the country level most of the activity is on islands, which have a strong driver in reducing energy costs through reduction of fuel imports. The only mainland countries with a 100% policy are Scotland and Denmark, with 2020 and 2050 targets respectively. [Engerati-Scotland Steams Ahead in Renewable Energy Pledge and Denmark On Target for 85% Renewables by 2040] Elsewhere in Europe individual countries are setting their own renewables targets, but at a European level the policy focus driving the energy sector is carbon emissions reductions. At a state level, the most high profile initiative is Hawaii’s 100% no later than 2045, but to date it is the only US state with such a policy, although many have renewable portfolio standards. [Engerati-Hawaii Looks To 100% Renewables]

Conversely, there are also private initiatives and a notable example is the Caribbean Ten Island Challenge initiated by British businessman Sir Richard Branson, himself an owner of one of the islands, which aims to achieve 100% renewables on participating islands. [Engerati-Belize Joins Caribbean’s Move To Low-Carbon Energy]

100% renewables policy perspective

Evidence is clear that 100% renewables is achievable. With renewables starting to achieve grid parity and with storage costs falling and efficiencies improving, the case for 100% renewables-based distributed generation not only has an environmental basis but is also becoming increasingly compelling from both technological and business perspectives. And not only at the micro- and mini-grid level, where the dominance of renewables is indisputable – the IEA has estimated up to 200,000 mini-grids by 2040 for electrification in Africa alone, which could only be achieved with renewables [Engerati-Microgrids – Key For Electrification] – but also at city and larger scales.

It is therefore time for 100% renewables to become part of the broader energy agenda, within utilities, locally, nationally, regionally and internationally.