How To Transition From Fossil Fuels To Renewable Energy: Potential Solutions

There may be challenges and problems that come with transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, or even just using more renewable energy in the future

Below is a list of potential ways to address some of those challenges and problems, and some other generalised solutions and strategies that might be taken into account.


Summary – How To Transition From Fossil Fuels To Renewable Energy

A List Of Potential Solutions & Considerations

Some generalised solutions and considerations might be:

Diversified, Flexible Energy Systems

Specifically Managing Variability/Intermittency Of Some Renewable Energy Sources

Consider The Design & Capability Of The Existing Power Grid

Consider The Existing Energy System Support Infrastructure 

Consider Consumer/Customer Demand

Consider Opportunities & Conditions For Lenders, Investors, & Producers

Government Action & Support

Continued Research & Development

Better Access To Independent, Quality Information On Energy


Other New Technology

Considering Electrifying The Transport, & Also The Heating & Cooling Sectors


Short Term vs Long Term Solutions & Strategies

Some solutions and strategies may be more for the short term, and others may be more long term.

This may especially be the case where some energy sources are used as ‘bridging energy sources’ in the short term, and technology breakthroughs and developments offer more solutions in the long term (particularly to do with performance and cost)


Each City Or Town Will Ultimately Have A Different Strategy & Different Solutions

Each city or town around the world ultimately has different factors and variables to consider with their local energy system/electricity grid and energy mix.

Therefore, each city or town will have their own specific strategies and solutions that will need to be developed around these factors and variables.


Onto the potential solutions and considerations …


Diversified, Flexible Energy Systems 

Diversified Systems

Diversified systems might be diversified in terms of the types of energy sources they use.

They might use different types of energy sources (with different capabilities) that complement each other in an overall energy system/electricity grid.

Diversified systems might sometimes be referred to as a hybrid type of system.

For example:

Solar and wind might be two of the key renewables used, along with hydro

– Other renewables like geothermal, and bioenergy might be used in addition to or alongside these main renewables

– Conventional energy sources like coal, natural gas, and nuclear may also be used alongside any renewables used


Flexible Systems

Flexible systems might be flexible enough to adjust supply/output to match the demand from the users of the energy system/electricity grid.

There’s a range of ways to do this, including but not limited to:

Using complementary energy sources 

Having backup (or ‘dispatchable’) energy sources (that can ramp up, and adjust power output)

Energy storage capability (to use stored energy at a later date when it’s required)


Flexible energy systems may be flexible in various other ways, such as having a grid design that can handle the fluctuating supply loads being fed into the grid from some energy sources (particularly variable/intermittent energy sources), having adequate infrastructure in place to support generation, transport and distribution of power, and so on.

So, flexibility can be a broad term.


Specifically Managing Variability/Intermittency Of Some Renewable Energy Sources

Wind and solar are considered variable and intermittent energy sources, and this may result in several issues 

We listed some of the potential ways to manage or address the variability or intermittency of solar or wind energy in a separate guide.

The things we listed are similar to the points listed above about flexible and diverse energy systems. 

A summary of some of the main solutions might be:

Using solar and wind in a complementary way to one another (for example wind might be used more in the winter, and solar in the summer)

Using energy sources that complement solar and wind

Using dispatchable/backup energy sources (like coal, natural gas, and sometimes nuclear) that can ramp up quickly, be turned on and off, and adjust power output to meet the demand of grid operators and grid users

Use energy storage methods to store surplus energy and use it when power supply from solar and wind is lower than the demand from the grid (batteries, and pumped storage hydro might be some examples


Consider The Design & Capability Of The Existing Power Grid

Every local power grid might be designed differently, and have different capabilities.

For example, each local power grid might be designed for different average power load, different peak power loads, different ranges of power loads where power fluctuates from the different energy sources, and so on.

Where required, when incorporating different energy sources, some power grids may need different levels of re-design, upgrading, and new building around the current design.


Consider The Existing Energy System Support Infrastructure 

All local energy systems involve the generation, transport and distribution of energy/power.

In addition to the main power grid and energy sources, there’s support infrastructure that needs to be in place to facilitate this generation and movement of energy.

This might especially be true for new energy sources that need infrastructure to integrate them into the grid, and to transmit power from new energy generation sites to where the power is required (transmission lines might be used for this purpose).

Existing infrastructure is designed and built around the existing energy sources, so, either existing infrastructure may need to be modified, upgraded or retrofitted, or, new infrastructure might need to be built.

Transmission lines, interconnectors, and convertors are all examples of different types of infrastructure.


A few examples of infrastructure that might be needed specifically for new renewables might be:

– Transmission Lines

To get power from new solar and wind farms to the cities or industry hubs where it’s required


– Interconnectors (used as a transmission link)

Can be used between States and countries if a particular place is exporting excess/surplus power to another. 

Germany has done this with Poland and the Czech Republic, and Australia does it between some of its States, just as two examples.


Upgrades and investing in transmission infrastructure can be expensive though, so, cost limitations might be a consideration.


Consider Consumer/Customer Demand

Ultimately, there needs to be consumer/customer demand in the market for renewable energy.

Demand drives a range of things like investment and development, economies of scale, competition in price, the types and quality of products/services offerings, and more.

Part of this comes down to consumers ‘voting’ for renewable energy with the dollars they spend, but part of it also comes down to renewable energy products and services being worth using and buying.


Consider Opportunities & Conditions For Lenders, Investors, & Producers

Another part of the market equation is the opportunities and conditions in renewable energy for lenders, investors, and producers.

Some things that might be worth considering might be:

– Profit incentive 

There’s got to be enough profit in renewables on the production/supply side to act as an incentive to enter and stay in the market


– Provide more certainty for leaders and investors

A lack of certainty for lenders may prevent investment in some instances.

This lack of certainty may come from factors such as risk over project success and profits, changing policies, and more.

Public investment partnerships, investment and loan assistance, and Portfolio Standards (guaranteeing a minimum amount of supply from renewables) may all help provide more certainty in some renewable energy projects.

As renewable energy continues to develop, certainty may naturally increase too.


– Consider market entry for new renewable energy competitors, and how they can compete in the energy market

In some cities and countries, fossil fuels (and related companies, such as mining companies) have been established for a long period.

This foothold may create challenges for renewable energy providers looking to both enter and compete in the market.

Support that may help these newer renewable energy parties enter and compete might include things such as government support (like subsidies, credits, renewable energy portfolios, etc).

Support may be in line with what has been provided to fossil fuels in the past if the renewable energy sources are proven to be an important part of future energy plans.



Fossil fuels have received government subsidies for 100 or so years. These days, fossil fuel subsidies reportedly total approximately $5 trillion globally each year. Despite tremendous health costs, climate costs, and countless premature deaths caused by pollution … . Renewable energy also receives subsidies, but not to the same degree


Government Action & Support

Some information suggests that some renewable energy sources may become more cost effective in the future (if it isn’t already), and it may compete with fossil fuels in different ways in the future.

But, for long term economic success, government action and support may also be required.

Some examples of action and support might include:


– Regulations & Standards

Such as:

Portfolios that specify the minimum amount of each renewable energy source that must be used for a State’s electricity

Environmental and sustainability standards related to energy generation


– Support & Incentives

Such as subsidies, concessions, credits, tax credits and breaks, and other incentives for the development or use of renewables


– Penalties

Carbon taxes, ‘polluter pays’ taxes, fines, and other tools that discourage legitimate forms of pollution or environmental harm

Coal and gas plants for example are claimed to have never traditionally paid an upfront price for externalised environmental costs such as air pollution or carbon emissions

Having said this, new coal power plants may now use more sustainable technology and systems (such as CCS, air pollution devices, and so on), which may come at an increased financial cost


– Other Requirements

The requirement for to have a license for power plants, where things like emission and pollution levels are stipulated


*Note On Use Of Government Tools

There might be a balance that needs to be struck between using these tools to help promote the benefits of renewable energy, whilst still keeping a free and competitive economic market.

Performance, practicality, and affordability of different energy sources might also be considered.


A question might be asked – what benefits are we getting out of renewable energy that we aren’t or weren’t from other energy sources like fossil fuels to justify certain levels and types of government assistance or control?


Continued Research & Development

Continued research and development of renewable energy may result in:

– Lower costs

– Improved performance (like efficiency, power output, and so on)

– Improved capability of some energy sources (such as improved capability of solar CSP)

– Wider use of some renewable energy sources (such as tidal energy, and wave energy)


Better Access To Independent, & Quality Information On Energy

Some reports indicate that some information released to the public about the energy sector might favor either traditional energy sources, or renewable energy sources.

This might be because of the vested interests of companies and political parties involved in one type of energy over another who commission and fund research, reports, and so on.

Better access to independent, and quality information on the energy sector, that is more transparent, may provide better education and awareness for the public, and provide a broader and more accurate view of the energy system in a particular city.

This data may also benefit decisions makers.



Digitalisation is the use of digital technologies to improve energy systems and different aspects of energy production and use.

For example, digital technology might help improve energy efficiency, which can indirectly help with the use of renewable energy.

Although technology like smart meters, and smartphone operated energy systems are already used, there may be other forms of digitalisation that can be used.


According to, the future of digitalisation for renewable energy might include:

… [things like] exchange of surplus power generation among neighbours and the activation of flexibility on smaller scales …

Creating demand flexibility can only work via communication [and] This is where digitalisation can [be used]


Other New Technology

In the future, we might consider the role and impact Artificial Intelligence technology and systems can play in using renewable energy more sustainably, or maximising it’s use


Considering Electrifying The Transport, & Also The Heating & Cooling Sectors

Renewable energy penetration is lacking in the transport, and also the heating and cooling sectors compared to electricity generation.

They may use far more fossil fuels right now.

Electrifying these sectors where practical and cost effective may help with using more renewable energy.


In heating and cooling, district heating or electrification of heat might help … (


Should We Transition To Renewable Energy?

This is a separate question to ‘how to transition to renewable energy’.

It requires a separate and more comprehensive answer, but, it’s clear that that there might a set of pros and cons in using renewable energy and bioenergy, in the same way that there’s a set of pros and cons in using fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and other forms of energy.

The pros and cons of each energy source might be taken into account, alongside balancing the different social, economic, environmental, practical, and other types of priorities for society.

Some groups may want to phase out fossil fuels and conventional energy sources altogether, whilst other groups may want to operate them alongside renewable energy in a mix.




1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides








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