A wind farm with solar panels in the foreground

Renewable Energy

What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from sources that renew themselves within our lifetime. Renewable energy sources include wind, sun, water, biomass (vegetation) and geothermal heat.

We consume energy to power our buildings, vehicles, and industrial and agricultural equipment. But using energy stored in fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and advances global warming. In the United States in 2016, consuming energy to produce electricity accounted for 35 percent of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

We can reduce emissions by using energy sources that don’t burn coal, natural gas or petroleum. This helps us become more resilient to changing environmental conditions. More than 10 percent of energy we use in the United States and globally already comes from renewable sources.

Renewable Energy…

  • significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to rising global temperatures
  • reduces local air pollution and water contamination
  • provides energy security by developing local sources that are flexible and can respond to community needs
  • improves local economy by creating jobs and placing value on lands that supply renewable energy sources


Our Future With Renewable Energy

Renewable energy is no longer expensive, remote or unreliable. Indeed, renewables are the world’s fastest growing energy sources. Each year since 2010, global investment has topped $230 billion in renewable energy development. That’s more investment than all fossil fuels combined see annually for new resources. It’s predicted that consumers worldwide will use 2.3 percent more energy from renewables each year until the middle of the century. With the right policies in place, the energy sector could be emissions-free by 2050.

Promising trends in renewable energy:
  • Wind power met 10 percent of demand for electricity for 13 countries in 2016
  • In 2016, roughly 31,000 solar panels were installed per hour
  • Hydropower provided 16 percent of the world’s electricity in 2015. New technologies also harness wave power as renewable energy

China currently leads the world in renewable energy generation. At least 48 countries have committed to 100 percent renewable energy goals as of 2016.

Some serious obstacles prevent us from achieving a future powered by renewable energy. For example, ideal sources of wind or flowing water may be on lands that are in use for other purposes. The infrastructure to transmit energy from renewable sources still requires high short term costs and is not yet running at full capacity. What’s more, public support is lacking in many cases.