Where The Solar Panel Shines: Can The World Run on Renewable Energy?

by | Jun 29, 2021 | Blog

Green graphic of the world with renewable energy icons


  • With the increasing demand for power, the growth in renewable energy sources is very much needed. It is projected that renewables could power the world by 2050.
  • Apart from the damaging effects of non-renewable energy processes, experts estimate that we could deplete our fossil fuel reserves within the next 100 years.
  • Non-renewable energy tends to release harmful greenhouse gases. These types of energy are damaging the environment through water pollution, land pollution, air pollution, oil spills, and other accidents.
  • Replacing the fossil-fuel infrastructure will take time and requires government and global organisation support. Consumers and businesses can also help build on renewable energy generation by showing a demand for clean energy.


Could the world ever run on renewable energy? This is a topical question that is asked by many (and perhaps you’ve even wondered about it recently). It is, however, a question that shadows a much larger one – will politicians and powerful enterprises ever allow the world to run on renewable energy? But for the most part, we will put that larger question aside and instead focus on whether it is feasible.

If we do not look to switch to renewables in the near future, there will potentially be a whole host of awful consequences. Non-renewable energy typically releases carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The more we burn non-renewable fuels, the more we heat up the planet, which significantly impacts weather patterns. In turn, it affects food production, animal ecosystems, and essential biodiversity within habitats.

It is projected that renewables could power the world by 2050. This article will look at the importance of renewable energy, how non-renewable energy affects the environment, and the steps we are taking to switch entirely to renewable energy.

The Importance of Renewable Energy

Many experts estimate that we could deplete our fossil fuel reserves within the next 100 years.

Switching to renewable energy is one of the most helpful things we can do when it comes to decreasing our impact on the environment. Electricity generation is the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions. It does more damage than the pollution generated from driving and flying combined. Renewable energy will lower the harmful smog levels and general toxicity buildup in our waters and air. Clean power will also help to offset the negative impacts caused by coal mining and gas extraction.

The IEA has reported that the world electricity demand is set to increase from 19% in 2018 to 24% by 2040. Emerging economies in India, China, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia are the main driving forces for the increase in energy requirements. With the increasing future demand, growth in clean energies is very much needed, and luckily it looks to be unstoppable.

Without renewable energy options such as solar power, wind energy, and hydroelectricity, we will run out of ways to generate electricity to power the world. We will run out of fossil fuels if we do not make a big push to switch the unsustainable processes we presently use with more sustainable methods. Many experts estimate that we could deplete our fossil fuel reserves within the next 100 years. Burning other materials for energy, such as landfill waste and trees, will only be able to take us so far.

Apart from the positive environmental benefits of renewable energy, this sector also creates jobs and supports the economy. The majority of renewable energy investments are used on materials and employees to build and maintain the facilities instead of the costly energy imports required for non-renewables. Meanwhile, renewable energy technologies are being developed and built across the world, allowing countries to trade them overseas, providing a boost to national trade deficits.

How Non-Renewable Energy Affects The Environment

Typically, forms of non-renewable energy release carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful gasses into the air.

There are more people every day turning to renewable energy for their power. This is because we are increasingly becoming more clued up on the damaging impact fossil fuels and other non-renewable energy sources have on the planet. We have also come to terms with the fact that fossil fuels will eventually run out, so renewable energy is the future.

There are three core types of fossil fuels – oil, gas, and coal. These fossil fuels currently supply around 80% of the world’s energy. We know that we need to move away to an alternative source of energy, but in the meantime, what impact are fossil fuels having on the environment, and what can we do to combat the effects? Let’s take a look.

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions – Typically, forms of non-renewable energy release carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful gasses into the air. They are referred to as greenhouse gasses due to their capacity to contribute to the ‘greenhouse effect’. However, unlike a glass house in a garden which creates a warm atmosphere for plants to grow and thrive, greenhouse gasses have a dangerously warming effect across the entire planet.

    Each type of fossil fuel releases different levels of greenhouse gases. For example, coal produces the highest amount of gas. Natural gas emits the lowest amount when it is burned and is therefore often considered a ‘safer’ choice. However, when extracted, this type of gas releases a large amount of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The more non-renewable fuels we burn, the more we continue to heat the planet.

  • Air Pollution – As you may know, fossil fuels and other non-renewables are not just damaging to the natural environment. When burned, they also release pollutants that can make it more difficult to breathe. For example, coal produces mercury, which drifts through the air and is inhaled or deposited in waterways, where fish and other food sources ingest it. Mercury can also cause neurological defects in children and become poisonous if eaten, making air pollution a serious concern.

    Mercury is not the only issue with fossil fuels. They can also release nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, and particulate matter (PM). All of these can trigger breathing problems and other health concerns. The more non-renewable energy is burned, the worse the quality of our air will be. It will drive more people to take otherwise unnecessary measures to protect their health.

  • Water Pollution – There are many different forms of water pollution. One of the most dangerous forms is known as acid rain. It occurs when sulphur and other chemicals permeate the atmosphere. Even the mildest acidity in the rain can cause machinery to corrode, disrupt animal environments, and damage trees.

    The use of non-renewables can also cause water pollution due to temperature changes. For example, power plants employ water to cool the plant when it is in operation. This water is then delivered back into the environment at a cooler temperature than it naturally would be, which can negatively impact local wildlife. Meanwhile, warmer waters can reduce fertility levels for fish or affect their migration patterns. This can have an impact on coastal towns that rely on fishing for survival. It also changes familiar ecosystems for other wildlife.

  • Land Pollution – The extraction processes of non-renewable sources can have really destructive impacts on the land. For example, surface mining involves significant amounts of soil and rock being dumped in other locations to access the coal beneath the ground. This alters the habitat and ecosystem in unanticipated ways and can force the animals to relocate.

    Mining can also damage the soil quality and cause it to become polluted due to the chemicals applied in the process. This is mainly a problem when fracking (i.e. forcing pressurised water into rocks) is used to harvest fuels, as it can poison the plants which wildlife use for food. It can also result in the soil becoming unusable for farming – which exacerbates the food shortages throughout the world and pushes up the cost of food in other areas.

  • Oil Spills and Accidents – There have been many dreadful accidents during the transportation, mining, and extraction of fossil fuels. Oil spills are particularly devastating to both the environment and coastal economies. They can scare away tourists and sea life alike. The effects of oil spills can change sea life, leading to the demise of food supplies and habitats for various animal species.

Other accidents associated with non-renewable fuels include nuclear meltdowns, pipeline leaks, and even explosions. All of these can seriously hurt people, animals, and the environment. The knock-on effects from these events can often be catastrophic, requiring vast sums of money and permanently damaging parts of the environment. It can take decades for the affected environment to begin recovering.

The Move Towards A Greener Planet

Infographic of town run on renewable energy

There is absolutely the potential to create a future where renewable energy is the only energy source powering our world, and the sooner we do so, the better.

Replacing the fossil-fuel infrastructure will take time. It requires robust and consistent support from governments and global organisations. However, consumers and businesses can help build on renewable energy generation by showing a demand for clean energy. There is absolutely the potential to create a future where renewable energy is the only energy source powering our world, and the sooner we do so, the better.

One of the great things about modern renewable energy systems is that they can be used anywhere and everywhere. For example, buildings can be heated and cooled with the support of biomass boilers, solar-thermal water heaters, and even direct geothermal heat.

The transportation industry can also adopt energy from clean sources. It is possible to use renewable electricity to produce electro-fuels like hydrogen to fuel long-haul transport, such as aviation and shipping. Reducing the overall demand for energy in the transport sector will significantly help improve the natural environment. This achievement can be accomplished, but only with the help of policies advocating energy preservation and efficiency.

Green initiatives such as biomass gasification (producing renewable heat and hydrogen) can also be used for industrial operations such as the production of cement, iron, steel and chemicals. There truly is no industry that is unable to implement renewable energy in some way.

The sooner we establish a world fueled by renewable power, the better. We can all make a difference by switching to clean energy and investing in renewable energy companies. By taking these measures, you can help change the future for the better and support the planet.

Closing Thoughts

Whether you are an environmentally-minded person or not, there is no getting away from it – renewable energy is the future. Renewable energy production and consumption have increased due to fossil fuels causing health problems for the planet (impacting the humans, animals, and other forms of life that live here). Non-renewable sources of energy have substantial negative impacts on global warming. The simple fact is that in time, fossil fuels will run out. One day, the world will need to run on renewable energy.


What is the problem with depending solely on renewables?

Some people have reservations about relying solely on renewable energy. This is mainly because not enough power can be generated through some green power methods (such as wind and solar). For example, the sun does not constantly shine onto solar panels with the same vibrancy, and the wind does not always blow consistently.
One study published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science analysed 36 years’ worth of hourly weather data and reported there are gaps in renewable-energy production even on a continental scale. Innovation in renewable energy, however, makes modern solar panels and wind turbines much more efficient.


Is renewable energy more expensive than non-renewable energy?

The International Renewable Energy Agency has stated that renewables are increasingly beating even the cheapest coal competitors. The costs for solar power and wind power technologies are falling year on year, making it the more affordable (and potentially lucrative) option.


What percentage of global energy currently comes from renewables?

Approximately 18% of the energy consumed globally for heating, power, and transportation came from renewable sources in 2017. Almost 60% came from modern renewables such as solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, hydro, and biofuels. The remainder came from traditional biomass, which was used to support residential heating and cooking in developing countries.
Renewables then made up 26.2% of global electricity generation in 2018. This figure is estimated to rise to 45% by 2040. Most of the increase will likely come from solar power, wind power, and hydropower.


How much renewable energy does Canada use?

Canada is currently ranked number seven in the world renewable energy rankings. Compared to the majority of OECD countries, Canada has a high proportion of renewables in its energy supply. Currently, 16.3% of Canada’s energy comes from clean power sources.


When will non-renewables run out?

The answer to this question is not a simple one, as different sources have different estimates. But if we continue to consume fossil fuels at the current rate, it is commonly estimated that all our fossil fuel supplies will be depleted by 2060. New reserves will most likely be found before this point, extending the deadline. However, it’s wise to keep in mind that if we are to limit global warming to the ‘relatively’ safe level of 2 degrees Celsius by 2050, 80% of coal, 50% of gas and 30% of oil reserves are “unburnable“.