Renewable energy can power the industrialised world by 2030

If we start now, there are 13 years to find a way for the G7 countries to meet an 80% renewable energy target.

The Beam
The Beam
Dec 5, 2017 · 4 min read

Key Stats:

  • 95%: The percentage of Uruguay’s energy supply coming from renewable sources
  • 14.9%: The percentage of the US’s energy supply coming from renewable sources
  • $361.7 billion to $886.5 billion: the estimated cost of fossil fuels to healthcare

There is a shift happening in the way electricity is supplied. Renewable energy has taken over as the best source of electricity, even in those markets that are unsubsidized. Countries are making the move from fossil fuel power to clean energy, and some have made remarkable progress. This is a trend that needs to continue. Society needs to keep pushing the adoption of renewable energy in all areas. If played properly, by 2030 renewables could power the whole of the industrialised world.

Across the G7 countries, there is a large variance in the amount of renewable energy they produce as part of their energy mix. Data from Greenpeace shows that in 2013 Canada generated 63.2% of its energy from renewables (due to the huge amount of hydroelectric power they generate), Italy generated a surprising 43.3% in 2014, and the US generated a disappointing 13.4% in 2014. As of 2016, the US had increased the amount of electricity generated by renewables to 14.9%, but this is still nowhere near the level we need to reach.

The G7 countries should be aiming to generate 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. If this seems like too much of a jump from the current 14.9%, then you need to look at the plan from Professor Mark Jacobsen and his team at Stanford University. The have created a plan whereby all 50 states of the US could make the transition to renewables by 2050. 80% by 2030 is definitely achievable, and there are already many countries showing that it’s even possible right now.

Uruguay shows that 95% renewable energy is a reality

Uruguay is a country that is leading by example. In less than a decade the country with a population of 3.7 million has made the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and can now boast to having 95% of its energy needs being met by clean energy sources. Not only has switching to renewables dramatically reduced carbon emissions, but it has also helped to reduce the price of electricity and decrease the number of power cuts.

And Uruguay is not an anomaly. Other countries have also been making strides in stepping away from fossil fuels. Denmark has went from relying on imported oil for 92% of its energy to being able to supply 40% with renewable sources. If all goes according to plan, by 2035 Denmark will have 100% of its electricity supplied by renewables. Germany has also seen a record amount of its power coming from renewable sources. On May 1, 2017 it was able to supply 85% of the country’s electricity needs with renewable energy.

If we start now, there are 13 years to find a way for the G7 countries to meet an 80% renewable energy target. It will take a large amount of investment and some aggressive policies, but the payoff will be huge. Not only will it greatly reduce the amount of CO2 emissions and help preserve the environment, but it will have a positive economic impact by reducing healthcare costs. Switching from fossil fuels to renewables reduces premature mortality rates and lost workdays. The estimated costs of the health impacts of fossil fuels is between $361.7 and $886.5 billion. This is an incredible amount of money to save.

When renewables favour both the economy and environment, governments need to take notice of the success of countries like Uruguay and make the transition for themselves.

Further Reading: Related Start Ups and Organizations

This series of articles has been prepared with the support of our partner Viessmann — they’re celebrating 100 years of their company this year (2017) and are actively involved in positively shaping the next 100 years.


The Beam unites the changemakers and innovators in the…