Finding alternatives to fossil fuels is essential if the world is to combat global warming. The current reliance on fossil fuels led by coal, oil and gas cannot be understated, as it used to supply 80% of the world’s energy.1 The energy sector subsequently generates about three-quarters of all greenhouse gases and is by far the largest contributor to global warming.2
Coal, oil and gas dominate emissions by fuel type. Renewables except for biomass have virtually zero emissions. Source: Our World in Data, 2020.
But there are alternatives which are growing in use, particularly as the wind and solar energy sector acquires the scale it needs to be able to reliably supply electricity on the current scale of coal. The five primary alternatives to fossil fuels are renewable energy, nuclear power, hydrogen, biomass, and geothermal energy.
Investor interest in alternatives to fossil fuels is led by wind and solar power. Source: Robeco Global Climate Survey 2021.
Collectively, non-fossil fuel power is often known as ‘clean energy’, though some forms of it are cleaner than others. Nuclear, for example is clean but occasionally dangerous, as the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear power plant disasters showed, and there remains the issue of how to safely dispose of the radioactive waste.
Use of fossil fuel alternatives has grown exponentially in recent years, accounting for 23.2% of all energy sources for power generation in 2020.3 Hydrogen is particularly seen as an alternative fuel for heavy transport such as ships, trucks and even aircraft, though it relies on existing supplies of energy to be created. Tidal projects have largely been shelved as being too expensive.