Transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy now

Today, electricity generation is the second leading cause of air pollution in the U.S. Most electricity comes from traditional sources. Fossil fuels have been running the show for a long time, but they are not going to be around much longer. Fossil fuels are polluting energy sources that are decreasing in abundance.
People Impacted
$ 72B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

By introducing more renewable energies, the impacts from air pollution will be considerably lessened, especially since renewable energy sources do not produce CO2 (a known climate change triggering pollutant). Electricity generation also impacts our health. 66% of the nation’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) is from electricity production. Renewable energy can also boost the economy. They provide a lower risk of fuel spills, less reliance on imported fuels for energy and greatly strength our energy security. The clean energy industry is much more labor intensive than traditional energy sources and creates jobs more easily. They also require little to no transportation and offer better price stability (Brio).

Symptoms and Causes

Overwhelming Traditional Dependence

The United States is currently reliant upon fossil fuels to meet our growing energy needs. We use coal for more than half of our electricity needs. Additionally, America's transportation system is overwhelmingly dependent on conventional petroleum oil, which is not only responsible for 20 percent of our climate change pollution, but also threatens our national security and our economic prosperity. We spend $1 billion every day on foreign oil (NWF).

Renewable Energy Sources Are Not Yet Mainstream or Affordable

With an endless supply of renewable resources, we have the potential to power the earth from clean energy alone. The main obstacle to this is the overall cost of renewable energy.

The technology required to generate power from renewables can be expensive. This becomes less of an issue in countries where government grants are available to help subsidize investment in renewables. The problem is that not all countries offer such incentives (CEI).

Renewable Energy Has Geographic Limitations

Most renewable energy sources suffer from geographic limitations. Below we have listed the five main types of renewables and the geographic limitations that apply to each of them (CEI):

  • Solar – Both domestic solar panels and solar farms are more efficient in areas where there is a good level of annual sunlight.

  • Wind – Wind farms are only viable where there is enough wind. This is why you will mostly see wind turbines on top of hills or out at sea.

  • Geothermal – This can only generate power in specific parts of the world; those with enough thermal activity close to the surface of the earth.

  • Hydro – Hydroelectric dams can only be built in specific locations and tidal barrages are best suited to installation along an estuary. Wave turbines are also only viable in areas with enough wave energy.

  • Biomass – This is one of the renewable energy sources least affected by geographic limitations. It does, however, require an adequate supply of crops/vegetation and/or waste products. This makes it unsustainable in arid locations such as countries with a lot of deserts.

There is a Lack of Education

Whilst this reason is becoming less of an issue as time goes on, a lack of renewable energy education still exists. This can result in lower adoption of clean energy solutions as people either don’t understand or appreciate the benefits.

Think about electric cars for a moment. If these were to be charged from renewable electricity, they would be a carbon neutral option for transportation.

People often don’t understand the benefits this would have. It would significantly reduce the amount of carbon we emit as a result of our day to day lives. This would have numerous positive effects such as (CEI):

  • Improving the quality of the air we breathe.

  • Reducing the future effects of climate change.

  • Conserving supplies of non-renewable resources.

the impact
Negative Effects


Fossil fuels emit harmful air pollutants long before they’re burned. Indeed, some 12.6 million Americans are exposed daily to toxic air pollution from active oil and gas wells and from transport and processing facilities. These include benzene (linked to childhood leukemia and blood disorders) and formaldehyde (a cancer-causing chemical) (NRDC).

Water Pollution

Coal, oil, and gas development pose myriad threats to our waterways and groundwater. Coal mining operations wash acid runoff into streams, rivers, and lakes and dump vast quantities of unwanted rock and soil into streams. Oil spills and leaks during extraction or transport can pollute drinking water sources and jeopardize entire freshwater or ocean ecosystems. Fracking and its toxic fluids have also been found to contaminate drinking water (NRDC).

Land Degradation

Unearthing, processing, and moving underground oil, gas, and coal deposits take an enormous toll on our landscapes and ecosystems. The fossil fuel industry leases vast stretches of land for infrastructure such as wells, pipelines, access roads, as well as facilities for processing, waste storage, and waste disposal (NRDC).

Economic Impact

'The solution to both climate and economy is worldwide conversion from fossil fuels to renewables. This massive conversion program will lead to powerful economic growth, less economic drag from energy costs, higher revenue for treasuries, and strong employment drivers.'

- Garvin Jabusch, Cofounder and Chief Investment Officer of Green Alpha ® Advisors, LLC.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Each year, the U.S. provides billions of dollars in subsidies to companies in the fossil fuel sector. This taxpayer money could be better spent investing in renewable energy, like offshore wind and solar, and energy efficiency which will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels, reduce hazardous pollution, and help spur new jobs in the clean energy sector (NWF).

Success Metrics
  • Improve the energy efficiency of buildings, vehicles, industrial processes, appliances and equipment globally.

  • Implement and replace unclean energy sources with clean energy in communities, especially those just being developed. Since energy is the dominant contributor to climate change, accounting for around 60 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, the goal is to reduce that by at least 50% by 2050 (UN).

  • Incentivize the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy so large companies see the benefit financially

  • Penalize corporations unwilling to make the transition

  • Educate the general public on ways to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels

    • Conserve Energy

    • Reuse Products

    • Recycle Materials

    • Live Green

    • Buy Energy Efficient Products

    • Install Solar Panels

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • Environmental Protective Agency

  • Oil Companies

  • Coal Companies

  • Natural Gas Companies

  • Renewable Energy Promoters

  • Oil workers

  • Miners

  • Investors in Fossil Fuels

  • Investors in Renewable Energy

financial insights
Current Funding
  • Crowd-sourced

Ideas Description

Promote apps and tools that help individuals and corporations implement energy efficient practices:

The Landscape of Innovation provides reliable and affordable power without contributing to climate change, we need to address emissions in five key areas: electricity, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and buildings. We have mapped out a landscape of innovation that we believe will help humanity meet those challenges

See the apps and programs featured in X4I's solutions page:

The Mapdwell Project is about enabling communities with information that will drive sustainable practices, community awareness, energy efficiency, and smart development through the aggregate effort of individuals. By transforming accurate, open, and unbiased information into education and action, the project proposes an organic –yet highly auspicious– approach to the fossil fuel dilemma.

The EnergiTree provides clean energy those in most need - incorporating wind, solar and batteries for a complete nanogrid operation. It is perfectly suited for remote locations, farms, disaster relief, and military expeditionary use. It uses Primo’s innovative and patented torque based blade and provides real usable power in the common wind speeds of 5-15 mph.

WattBuy ensures that you have access to the most competitive electricity options so you can find the best plan for you, putting the power back in the hands of the consumer. Our energy marketplace allows you to save up to 40 percent on your annual electricity costs by comparing these local electric plans and making a switch.

Yotta Ennergy is creating more opportunities to deploy solar by engineered a radically streamlined, end-to-end solar and storage solution that can grow with your future power needs.

BlocPower uses data, thermodynamic models, structured finance, and edge computing to make city buildings greener, smarter, and healthier. BlocPower connects online investors to solar and energy efficiency project micro-finance opportunities, and trains and hires local unemployed workers to install all BlocPower retrofits.

The future of energy is data. Having remote access to that data wherever and whenever is now a business requirement. Kevala’s mission is to identify areas of opportunity and high cost by providing details through applications and professional services on evolving grid infrastructure, load, market prices, behavior, and environmental data.

Work together as communities to crowd-source energy efficient installations and energy producers:

SunFunder is a San Francisco and Tanzania-based crowd-funding start-up to raise and aggregate capital for the budding solar-energy movement in ‘off-grid’ or ‘grid-deficit’ developing countries.

Mosaic, born in 2010 as SolarMosaic, aims to change how we think about solar energy through a crowd-investment program for solar projects: individuals can invest as little as $25 in panel arrays large and well placed enough to produce a useful amount of electricity and, hence, a return on their investment.

Input Needed From Contributing Editors
(click on any tag to contribute)