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  • Paul Ingram

100% renewable energy? Is this attainable

Can we run off purely renewable energy? It just so happens that some countries already are. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iceland, Paraguay and Albania are currently using 100% renewable power. With others very close, such as Costa Rica at 99% and Norway at 97%.

So can and should every other country follow suit? Or feel inferior for being so far behind?

Well, if you dive into what makes up these countries renewable energy sources, it turns out that it isn't solar or wind, but actually primarily hydroelectricity. Albania and Paraguay are 100% just from hydro, while Iceland is 72% hydro and 28% geothermal.

Hydro may be clean and provide cheap energy, the problem is that you can't just do this anywhere. The limited number of potential sites in the industrialized world are largely used up. Therefore for most countries, this isn't an option.

One problem the world is facing is that Global power demand is expected to increase by 58%, from 2017 to 2040, according to Bloomberg's New Energy Outlook (BNEO) 2017.

However, during the same period BNEO expects 72% of all new power generation to be invested in renewables, which equates to $7.2 Trillion. Solar will have a share of $2.8 Trillion and wind with $3.3 Trillion. The further use and development of batteries and other sources of flexibility will help strengthen the increased use of these types of renewables.

One of the big pushes for further integration of renewable energy, is due the planned wide scale reduction of coal power stations. Even China, the world's largest coal consumer, will start to reduce their coal usage. The BNEO see China coal consumption peaking in 2026, and then beginning to fall, as they continue to invest big in renewables.

In fact, a 2016 report by The International Energy Agency (IEA), found that China will lead the world for growth in renewable power, followed by the US and then the EU. The EU, who have been renewable energy pioneers, are moving down the order, mostly down to relatively weak electricity demand and policy uncertainty, the IEA explained.

Countries will also need to continue to invest into cleaner options, as they try to meet climate targets under the Paris agreement.

As further investment moves into renewable energy and they become ever more commonly used, the costs will increasingly reduce while the revenue earnt will rise. Eventually they will undercut more polluting sources, such as coal. Dr Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA said, “The cost of wind dropped by about one third in the last five to six years, and that of solar dropped by 80%”.

Flexible sources of power generation will play a huge role in allowing an increased use and reliance on somewhat unpredictable renewable energy. The ability to have your own supply of power on site, will allow you protect yourself against this unpredictability.

So is 100% renewable attainable then? For some lucky countries which have the ability to utilise hydro power is it able to be done already. But for the rest, especially the more industrialised countries, we look to be a way off. Although with the forecasted large investments into cleaner options and a move away from coal, it all looks to be beginning to move in the right direction.

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