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Renewable Energy

Energy sources that are not depleted when used or are naturally replenished within a human lifetime.


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What is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is energy produced from sources that do not deplete or can be replenished within a human’s lifetime. The most common examples include windsolargeothermalbiomass, and hydropower 1. This is in contrast to non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels.

Most renewable energy is derived directly or indirectly from the sun. Sunlight can be captured directly using solar technologies. The sun’s heat drives winds, whose energy is captured with turbines. Plants also rely on the sun to grow and their stored energy can be utilized for bioenergy. 1

Not all renewable energy sources rely on the sun. For example, geothermal energy utilizes the Earth’s internal heat, tidal energy relies on the gravitational pull of the moon, and hydropower relies on the flow of water.



Renewable energy accounts for 13.5% of the world’s total energy supply, and 22% of the world’s electricity 3.

Renewable energy systems are a major topic when discussing the globe’s energy future for two main reasons:

  1. Renewable energy systems provide energy from sources that will never deplete.
  2. Renewable energy systems produce less greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuel energy systems.

While renewable energy systems are better for the environment and produce less emissions than conventional energy sources, many of these  sources still face difficulties in being deployed at a large scale including, but not limited to, technological barriers, high start-up capital costs, and intermittency challenges4.

It is important to note that the terms ‘renewable energy’, ‘green energy’ and ‘clean energy’ are not interchangeable in all cases; for example, a ‘clean’ coal plant is simply a coal plant with emissions reduction technology. The coal plant itself is still not a ‘renewable energy’ source. ‘Green energy’ is a subset of renewable energy, which boasts low or zero emissions and low environmental impacts to systems such as land and water 1.


Dive deeper

Recent blog posts about Renewable Energy

External resources


International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA)

The Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Organization (IREO)

Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership

American Council On Renewable Energy (ACORE)



The World Council for Renewable Energy (WCRE)


National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)


The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute

DESERTEC University Network

National Renewable Energy Laboratory – Energy Analysis

The Association of European Renewable Energy Research Centres (EUREC)

The Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology (CREST), Loughborough University

Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)

RES – The School for Renewable Energy Science

Conn Center For Renewable Energy Research


Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy

Renewable Energy, elsevier

International Journal of Renewable Energy Research (IJRER)

ProCon .org – History of Alternative Energy and Fossil Fuels
AENews – Energy Politics
E-International Relations (E-IR) – Political Promotion of Renewable Energy in the United States and Germany
The Economist – Alternative Energy
The Economist – How Renewable Energy can become competitive
Union of Concerned Scientists – Env. Impacts of Renewable Energy Technologies
Science Business – Renewable power in Europe – Why we need a better approach
The Economist – Not a toy
ScienceNordic – Green Energy will cut health care costs
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – Human health impacts for renewable energy scenarios from the EnerGEO Platform of Integrated Assessment (PIA)

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research & Technische Universität Berlin


National Geographic


conserve energy future

AENews (Alternative energy news)

The Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory

Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute

DESERTEC University Network

  1. Painuly, J. P. (2001). Barriers to renewable energy penetration: A framework for analysis.