Despite the uptick in renewable energy usage, global emissions have steadily increased. Senior Fellow John Woolard argues that commitments to 100% renewables, while critical for sending market signals to increase investment, will not alone achieve the system change needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It’s time for companies and countries to commit to 100% zero-carbon energy. The increase in the use of renewable energy—and the commitment by some U.S. corporations to use only renewables—is laudable. But despite the massive increase in renewable generation in the United States and elsewhere, the world has not significantly reduced annual emissions, with the result that cumulative emissions have increased steadily since 1992. Renewables are important, but all of the wind and solar additions over the last decades amount to just 3.6% of worldwide energy production (BP 2017). Investment of more than $1.4 trillion has not offset the growth in worldwide energy from fossil fuels. Total zero-carbon energy is a much bigger success story than renewables alone, accounting for 14.8% of the global energy mix. Indeed, nuclear and hydropower produce three times the zero-carbon power of renewables. For example, if we assume that nuclear power substituted for or “displaced” electricity with the average carbon dioxide content per megawatt hour (MWh) in the United States, it has avoided 8 gigatons (GT) of carbon dioxide since 2000. By comparison, wind and solar combined resulted in just over 1 GT of avoided emissions. Solar contributed less than 0.2 GT, less than the carbon dioxide benefits achieved by switching from coal to natural gas in the past decade.
World Resources Institute (accessed) 17th July 2019 read more »