In the last 20 years, renewable energy from wind and solar have grown dramatically worldwide. In 2020, wind and solar power grew 45%, their greatest rate of growth since 1999, outpacing the growth of all other energy sources.
This growth is driven by the commitments that governments and corporations have made to reduce emissions to address the climate crisis, as well as a dramatic decline in the cost of wind and solar power.
But the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors and their allies are still telling us that renewable energy isn’t the solution to the climate crisis, and many people believe them.
This handy fact sheet busts 5 prominent myths about renewable energy.
Myth 1. We can’t power the country with 100% renewable energy
Fact: We can reach 100% renewable energy with the technology we already have
Opponents of a 100% renewable future like to say that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow, so renewable energy can’t possibly meet all our needs for electricity. However, multiple studies demonstrate that renewable energy tied to battery and other storage technologies can easily meet all our electricity needs.
The real issue is not whether renewable energy can meet our demand for electricity, it’s do we have the political will in the US and around the world to move our countries to 100% renewable energy? If we do, it’s entirely possible to get to 50% renewable energy in 10 years and 100% in the US in the next two decades.
Myth 2. Renewable energy is too expensive
Fact: Renewable energy is the cheapest source of electric energy
Proponents of this myth often cite outdated data to say that wind and solar power are too expensive and can only compete with fossil fuels because they are heavily subsidized. The truth is the cost of wind power has declined 70 percent since 2010, and will likely decline another 35 percent by 2035. Solar energy prices declined 89 percent over the last decade and will likely drop another 34 percent in the coming decade.
Wind and solar power are now the cheapest source of energy, period.
The declining cost of renewable energy is due to advances in technology, manufacturing, and installation, not subsidies. In fact, subsidies for fossil fuels are 7 times higher than for renewable energy.
Myth 3. Renewable energy is bad for the environment
Fact: Renewable energy has the lowest environmental impacts of any energy source.
The data is clear. Renewable energy has much lower greenhouse gas impacts than fossil fuels. That fact may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often it is called into question.
Opponents of renewable energy often point out that solar panels have a lifespan of about 25 years and then need to be junked. But they ignore the fact that 80 percent of the materials in these solar panels can be recycled, and improvements are being made to recycle the remaining components.
Critics of battery storage say this technology can actually increase emissions, but this is only true when batteries are paired with fossil fuel sources, not renewable energy sources, and battery and other storage technologies are improving dramatically, making them an increasingly important part of the renewable energy future.
Opponents of wind power say that wind turbines kill birds, ignoring the fact that turbines lead to few bird deaths, especially compared to buildings and cats. It goes without saying that wind turbines don’t cause cancer.
What does cause cancer? Fossil fuels. And they cause a lot more disease and economic hardship overall. The economic and health costs of burning fossil fuels are estimated at $2.9 trillion per year worldwide.
What’s bad for humans is bad for other species as well. Fossil fuels destroy habitats, create polluted water sources, and create air pollution that is much worse for the environment and ecosystems than any other source of energy.
Myth 4. Renewable energy can’t provide as many jobs for American workers as fossil fuels
Fact: Renewable energy is already providing more jobs than fossil fuels
Clean energy jobs, including renewable energy and energy efficiency, employ three times as many workers as fossil fuels. Even with the recent Covid-19 economic downturn, clean energy jobs maintained their sizeable advantage over fossil fuels. And as wind, solar, and energy efficiency are projected to grow rapidly in the next two decades, those jobs will only grow, while fossil fuel jobs continue to decline.
Myth 5. Don’t we need to invest in both renewable and nuclear power to go carbon free?
Fact: We don’t need to take the risks of using nuclear energy to address the climate crisis
Advocates for nuclear energy will often say that the only way we can get to emissions-free energy in the US is by including nuclear energy in the mix. But, nuclear energy carries enormous risks – including accidents, terrorism, and proliferation. There is also no solution for storing nuclear waste that can remain radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.
And, nuclear energy is far too expensive, and takes too long to build, to be an effective climate solution. Instead, we need to scale up wind and solar, with storage technologies, now.