Offshore wind turbines and energy substation in Germany. Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Decarbonizing electricity supply through renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydropower and geothermal, is at the very heart of a clean energy transition. Nuclear power is also likely a key part of the transition. As prior sections have detailed, there are many opportunities to power the transportation, building, and industry sectors through electricity. Transitioning electricity generation to renewable and low-carbon energy sources is central to maintaining the global economy and improving quality of life for humans and other species.

Global electricity generation currently contributes over 30% of all carbon emissions because much of electricity is produced today from fossil resources. Continuing to rely on fossil resources is unsustainable for numerous reasons. Fossil fuel combustion releases greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen oxides, which cause global warming. Uncontrolled warming has and will have devastating impacts on humans and the environment. Fossil resources are also non-renewable, and cannot power future electricity needs indefinitely.

As we transition away from relying on fossil fuels for electricity production, global power supply will look radically different in the future than it does today. Not only will we continue to see a massive scaling up of renewable and clean energy sources to supply electricity, but production may no longer simply come from a large centralized energy source or power plant. Distributed home solar and battery systems, electric vehicles, and buildings will also be able to export energy during certain hours of the day. These and utility-scale energy storage installations will facilitate reliable and steady electricity sourced from clean and renewable energy sources. 

How A Zero Carbon Grid Enables Everything

Global carbon emissions as a percentage by sector. Source: International Energy Agency