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Published on April 16th, 2010 | by Zachary Shahan


Renewable Energy Myths Busted by New Landmark Report

April 16th, 2010 by  

It isn’t technically feasible to have renewable energy supply us with 100% of our electricity needs, right? Wrong. Renewable energy is prohibitively expensive, right? Wrong.


A new report just put out this week, Roadmap 2050: a practical guide to a prosperous, low-carbon Europe, gets into technical and economic details surrounding these important issues. The report includes contributions from world leading economists and renewable energy experts, including people from McKinsey, KEMA, Imperial College London and Oxford Economics.

The report claims to be the most comprehensive assessment of the viability of zero carbon power supplies available today (focused on Europe).

European Climate Foundation (ECF) developed this report. Though the organization probably hoped for positive results, it apparently did not expect things to be nearly as positive as they are.

“When the Roadmap 2050 project began it was assumed that high-renewable energy scenarios would be too unstable to provide sufficient reliability, that high-renewable scenarios would be uneconomic and more costly, and that technology breakthroughs would be required to move Europe to a zero-carbon power sector,” senior associate with ECF Matt Phillips said. “Roadmap 2050 has found all of these assertions to be untrue.”

Although most people now assume that fossil fuels are cheaper than renewable energy, ECF found this idea is increasingly outdated. Capital investment may still be more expensive for low carbon energy infrastructure, but when you look at the long term costs, low carbon technology is cheaper.

Energy security, an infrequently discussed topic, was also found to be a huge benefit of a low or zero carbon energy supply.

The report found that up to 100% of Europe’s electricity could come from renewable energy, but there are key obstacles to that still need to be overcome, such as convincing the EU to make energy efficiency more of a priority and rapidly developing a European “smart grid”.

In the end, though, as chief executive of consultancy firm E3G Nick Mabey said, the report shows that “the benefits of the low-carbon pathway far outweigh the challenges.”

Low or zero carbon technology is often associated with helping to address climate change and conserving a livable climate, but there are key economic and security benefits that need to be more commonly associated with it as well.

“A commitment now to a low-carbon transformation of the energy sector is the winning strategy for competitiveness, jobs and prosperity in the UK and Europe, ” he said. “Achieving a minimum 80 per cent CO2e reductions in 2050 based on zero carbon power generation in Europe is technically feasible and makes compelling economic sense.”

Image Credit: Wilfred Knievel via flickr under a CC license

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Gerard Vaughan


    I have simply pointed-out some physical realities. If someone should happen to “dissagree”, this will not change those realities.

    As for “Roadmap 2050 report” I don’t know anything about it. You tell me. Are they “all wrong” ? Wrong about what ? I would be very interested if you can let me know why you think that I am saying that they are “all wrong”. I am not “saying things” I am pointing-out things which we all know to be true.

  • Paul Smith

    Gerard, could you relate this to the Roadmap 2050 report.

    Are you saying they are all wrong?

  • K

    The reports are available at the Roadmap 2050 website:

  • Gerard Vaughan

    When we are through with all the club jargon, it’s rerfreshing to get back to “basics” – Arithmetic, that sort of thing. When we do this we notice that it is the weight (volume) of materials in any object – even a “wind turbine” that requires so much energy – per kilo – to produce. Ask at any scrap-yard.

    It is the Area, however that we are making use of. For those not quite up to speed on such technical stuff, maybe I sould point out that Area is not the same thing as Volume, and that is why it has a different name. If we double the size of the object – a “turbine” for instance – then we will require Eight times (2 x 2 x 2) the weight of materials to build it, but it will face only Four (2 x 2 (hope I’m not going too fast) times the Area of wind. The cost per square metre doubles if we double the size. But it’s not ALL bad news. The one Alternator of 4 times the rating, costs about half as much as the 4 which it replaces (in the original size “turbines”). So by doubling the size,(and making one for every previous 5) the Alternator bill halves. There must therefore exist some size where the T costs about the same as the A. 1 Wad each, for instance. Cost of TAD = 1 + 1 which is 2 Wads.

    Either doubling size to replace 4, or halving size and building 4 times as many, will increase the cost to 2.5 Wads. Doing the same again will give 4.25 Wads

    then 8.125, 16.0625 Wads, and so on.

    The size where the T costs about the same as the A turns out – after some 15 years of persistent research Effort, to be around One metre diameter. 1m.

    Just under this size and the required coupling-ratio becomes 1:1 !

    This, plus the 3 other reasons below, accounts for why current (80m high) “technology” is a completely un-self-sustaining approx. 1/40 the %p.a. of cost returned that is available from a design which is aware of these facts.

    Fact 2)

    2 modes of operation.

    Constant rps – “modern turbines” progressively wastes the higher winds, which takles power in a pretty-much “pro-rata” relationship to windspeed


    Constant pitch (rps vary to suit wind) which takes power in a very much cubic relation to windspeed

    e.g Twice the windspeed 2 x 2 x 2 – 8 times the power taken.

    3) The Betz limit for a rotor placed directly in an wind. (Windspeed reduces to diverge around it)

    4) Weathercocking and Windshear on very large structures.

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