Renewables Driving the Energy Transformation

05/14/2015 04:10 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2016

Facing growing global crises, such as the devastating impacts of climate change, the degradation of our natural environment and failing financial systems, it is hard to deny that our old human story has failed us. The time has arrived to envisage a new narrative for our shared future. We need to look at solutions that already exist and can lead us to the future we want for ourselves and future generations.

To ensure a stable climate, we need to move away from a highly polluting, centralised system based on finite fossil fuels towards one based on abundant, distributed renewable energy sources. Across the world, a movement advocating for 100% renewable energy is gaining momentum among local governments, nations, islands, businesses, communities and citizens alike. The US state of Hawaii, cities such as Vancouver, Canada, Georgetown, Texas and Coffs Harbour, Australia are just some of the recent additions to a growing global 100% RE movement. They have taken inspiration from pioneers such as Copenhagen, San Francisco, Sydney, and Frankfurt - cities which have been demonstrating for years that the necessary technologies and knowledge already exist. Countries such as Costa Rica, which has been powered by 100% Renewable Energy since January 2015 and Scotland which is on course to meet its 50% renewable electricity target ahead of schedule, prove that achieving this ambitious goal is viable for countries both in the Global North and South.

But not only governments show that 100% RE is the new normal: Global companies such as Facebook, Google, Ikea and Apple pursue the transformation toward 100% RE for business reasons. A group of 43 CEOs have announced that climate action "is their business". Catholic bishops call for 100% Renewable Energy and the Pope plans for a landmark climate change-themed conference. Jordan is about to go solar by starting to power all of its mosques with solar energy. Further studies that outline the feasibility of 100% RE, such as the one recently published by 70 Canadian academics, highlight the scientific viability of this trend.

Our generation has become not only a witness to unprecedented crises but also an actor of unprecedented transformation. Renewable energies are winning the race against fossil resources, so the question is no longer whether or not the world will be entirely supplied with renewable energy but rather when.

It is up to us to make the transition on our own terms, in ways that maximize the benefits today and for the future, or let this opportunity pass us by and suffer the economic and social shocks that rising prices and market volatility will create. The true potential for transformation lies in the way our energy system is structured. With this comes a battle, as power and profits shift from the few to the many. By nature, renewable energy technologies are decentralized, have a horizontal supply chain, and require an entirely different infrastructure and market. When facilitating the pathway towards 100% Renewable Energy, our policy makers must acknowledge this by opening the energy market to new actors and stakeholders, including individual citizens and small businesses. This is the fastest and cheapest way to achieve the necessary energy transformation.

Germany is one of the few countries that has already shown this to be possible. The national Feed-in Tariff policy has sparked a major movement among citizens and communities to become energy producers and own energy infrastructure. New business models have emerged as individuals, local governments and regional enterprises gain major new revenues in addition to saving money no longer spent on fossil fuel imports. To replicate this success, the World Future Council and its partners from the Global 100% RE campaign are building up a Global 100% RE Network for local governments. Our aim is to pioneer this movement internationally and showcase how fossil-free energy systems can bring prosperity and justice for all. The Global Learning Forum in Vancouver, Canada, provides yet another stepping-stone to engage change-makers in this process. We need to inspire change through leading by example.