In recent years, 100% renewable energy targets for electricity have been a dynamic trend across the world.
Because it is affordable and sustainable, 100% renewable energy (RE) is now an aim shared by numerous governments and organizations in many parts of the world. This column highlights recent key ambitious developments:
First let’s make it clear that pursuing 100% RE or 100% clean energy is not the same. RE are limited to bioenergy, geothermal, hydro, marine, solar, and wind. Clean energy may include all RE as well as nuclear power, which is a big difference.
As of 2018, at the national level, there were 65 countries targeting 100% RE electricity.1 The majority of this group came from the members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (48 developing countries including for examples Colombia, Kenya, Vietnam…) which announced in 2016 that it is targeting 100% RE electricity by 2050.2 Among developed countries, Denmark was the first to set such target (by 2050), and it is well on track. Sweden (2040), Portugal, and Spain (both 2050) have in the past few years also declared 100% RE electricity goals.3 A few countries like Costa Rica, Iceland, and Norway have already achieved, or almost achieved this accomplishment.4
As of March 2020, at the regional level, 4 U.S. states had adopted 100% RE targets. This trend started with Hawaii in 2015, which announced a mandatory 100% RE target by 2045. Maine and Virginia followed in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and are now both requiring 100% RE by 2050. And Rhode Island (2030) is now advancing a 100% voluntary RE goal instead.5
As of mid-2019, more than 250 cities throughout the world had adopted 100% RE targets, largely focusing on electricity. There were less than 10 cities with such targets back in 2010. For instance, among cities with 100% RE electricity targets are; Sydney, Australia (2020), Edmonton, Canada (2030), Paris, France (2050), Munich, Germany (2025), and Madrid, Spain (2050).6
Finally, an ever-growing number of companies are also pushing for 100% RE electricity. Launched in 2014, RE100 is a global corporate initiative bringing together businesses committed to 100% RE electricity. As of April 15, 2020, RE100 counted 230 members. Among these were large successful groups as for examples Ingka (formerly IKEA), Apple, Bank of America, BMW, Coca-Cola European Partners, eBay, Facebook, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Lego, Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks, or Walmart…7
In Japan, as well, Fukushima, Nagano and Tokushima prefectures, cities like Hamamatsu, and more than 30 companies among which AEON, Fujitsu, Kao, Panasonic, Ricoh – the pioneer – and Sony, are now showing leadership by targeting 100% RE electricity.
Despite these developments are all very encouraging and will undoubtedly continue simply because it is the best way forward, the country targets only 22-24% RE in electricity generation by fiscal year 2030, and with no clear vision beyond.8 This absence of critical long-term strategy is particularly striking at a time when ambitious pragmatic actions are advancing in many places.
At the global level, 100% RE by mid-century may soon become the new normal. Japan is a RE rich country, and it should thus also seriously consider such objective.