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.
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.