Kim Hill: What’s Wrong with Renewable Energy?

by Kim Hill / Deep Green Resistance Australia


Ten things environmentalists need to know about renewable energy:

1.    Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, manufactured. Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labour, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits. Renewables can never replace fossil fuel infrastructure, as they are entirely dependent on it for their existence.

2.    The majority of electricity that is generated by renewables is used in manufacturing, mining, and other industries that are destroying the planet. Even if the generation of electricity were harmless, the consumption certainly isn’t. Every electrical device, in the process of production, leaves behind the same trail of devastation. Living communities—forests, rivers, oceans—become dead commodities.

3.    The aim of converting from conventional power generation to renewables is to maintain the very system that is killing the living world, killing us all, at a rate of 200 species per day. Taking carbon emissions out of the equation doesn’t make it sustainable. This system needs not to be sustained, but stopped.

4.    Humans, and all living beings, get our energy from plants and animals. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive, and food and habitat for everyone are being sacrificed to feed it. Farmland and forests are being taken over, not just by the infrastructure itself, but by the mines, processing and waste dumping that it entails. Ensuring energy security for industry requires undermining energy security for living beings (that’s us).

5.    Wind turbines and solar panels generate little, if any, net energy (energy returned on energy invested). The amount of energy used in the mining, manufacturing, research and development, transport, installation, maintenance and disposal of these technologies is almost as much—or in some cases more than—they ever produce. Renewables have been described as a laundering scheme: dirty energy goes in, clean energy comes out. (Although this is really beside the point, as no matter how much energy they generate, it doesn’t justify the destruction of the living world.)

6.    Renewable energy subsidies take taxpayer money and give it directly to corporations. Investing in renewables is highly profitable. General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi all profit from renewables, and invest these profits in their other business activities. When environmentalists accept the word of corporations on what is good for the environment, something has gone seriously wrong.

7.    More renewables doesn’t mean less conventional power, or less carbon emissions. It just means more power is being generated overall. Very few coal and gas plants have been taken off line as a result of renewables.

8.    Only 20% of energy used globally is in the form of electricity. The rest is oil and gas. Even if all the world’s electricity could be produced without carbon emissions (which it can’t), it would only reduce total emissions by 20%. And even that would have little impact, as the amount of energy being used globally is increasing exponentially.

9.    Solar panels and wind turbines last around 20-30 years, then need to be disposed of and replaced. The production process, of extracting, polluting, and exploiting, is not something that happens once, but is continuous and expanding.

10.    The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, at a much lower cost. This shows that the whole renewables industry is nothing but an exercise in profiteering with no benefits for anyone other than the investors.

Further Reading:

Green Technology and Renewable Energy

Ten Reasons Intermittent Renewables (Wind and Solar PV) are a Problem

The Myth of Renewable Energy

A Problem With Wind Power

Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism

In China, the true cost of Britain’s clean, green wind power experiment: Pollution on a disastrous scale



Originally published on Stories of Creative Ecology

37 thoughts on “Kim Hill: What’s Wrong with Renewable Energy?”

  1. After reading this list I am left with a few questions. Most importantly, what is the proposed alternative to using alternative power sources? Secondly, is the article anti alternative power, or against the use of power in all forms total, this stems from #10 which seems pro-coal. Third #8 is awkward in the approach of discussion, did you mean to say that 20% of electricity is produced by alternative means? Lastly there are emissionless alternatives that could exist with more work, such as fusion.

    1. Scott the only sustainable alternative is to reduce our energy demands…….. by lots.
      We need to build much stronger localized economies and systems that will require far less energy and resources to manage. If you for instance stay within close proximity to where you work and do your shopping or business, do you then need to own a car.
      Food production can all be managed much more sustainably if it is locally produced and locally consumed.
      We also need to be willing to do more things by hand instead of relying on automation.
      But first we need to understand that all centralized systems is unsustainable and leaves itself open to exploitation. This starts with government and is followed by other structures like cities, energy distribution, transport and even managing water resources.
      Centralization of government and resources have allowed a very fast and effective growth of economies and technological advances but look at the price we are starting to pay for all this.
      We will have to accept that life will have to be much more rudimentary and basic without many of the material conveniences we have today before we can really make a positive difference.

      1. All valid points Altus and all long term goals (getting whole societies involved is not easy if not impossible). In the meantime we still need energy to cook our food, run our washing machines, turn on the TVs and air-conditioners- none of these are going anywhere in a hurry.

    2. Stop using power and electricity. Period. Live like unimaginably poor rural dirt farmers….I know, I know. Most people would much, much rather go extinct and subject their children to horrible, terrible torture by fire and starvation than do that. But there you go. That wasn’t so hard was it? Or maybe it was.

    3. Totally agree with you Scott. Its almost as if the author is advocating producing no energy at all and then she goes on to talk about ‘clean coal’!! Duh!

    4. Do these Luddites that spout this gibberish about Green really want to go back to horse and buggy days? Oh… Horses and cows produce raw methane which is an atmospheric pollutant. We have to get rid of the horses and cows because of methane and the smell offends their sensitive noses!

  2. Excellent piece! It’s important for people to know but “…..Killing us all at a rate of 200 species per day…..” Is a bit alarmist , no?

    1. No, just the facts, Jack. If it seems excessive, that’s because it is!

      The thing is it’s not power that’s the problem, it’s the numbers of people wanting access to it, growing by an eye watering 70 million a year! They can’t all have a first world lifestyle, it’s not possible, so either you give up yours so they can have more or there will always be starving children and grinding poverty. People need to be stopped breeding, by whatever means possible, or nature will stop it for us.

      1. Absolutely! We humans are the most invasive and destructive species on the planet. We need to stop breeding- period! But again thoughts that are absolutely pointless. Guess nature will take its own course and do some much needing ‘culling’!

  3. The sting is definitely left until the tail of this article.
    “The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, at a much lower cost. ”
    Ok… Point taken… but are you deep green or do you have black edges, Kim Hill?

    (Start with some hopium) The renewable energy of the “future” is not necessarily what is on the “market” now, labeled as renewable energy. There are renewable energies which are so low tech that they are hardly used, like basic direct solar cooking devices, small wind turbines, wave pumps and waterwheels. There is so much technology created by people from all walks of life which has never been fully developed or distributed because it cannot thrive within the fossil fuel enabled corporate/industrial complex.
    Even though we have much greener and simpler renewable energy available than fossil fuel, I very much doubt it will be developed within this “civilisation” , it will take the crash of the industrial complex before that can happen. Get small, grow sustainable, eat local and get innovating; but to do that without stopping the main cause of climate damage is like putting bandaids on wounds while a crazed axe murderer is in the same room.
    I agree with you that “renewables can never replace fossil fuel infrastructure” and that they will not stop catastrophic climate change from wiping out most species and the vast majority of humans, but to remove fossil fuel enabled damage from the system could. Even if our own attempts at mitigation are pathetic, we can’t tell what the biosphere itself can do to adjust and repair. Leave fossil fuel in the ground.
    Do you really think that fossil fuel can have any role to play in future energy production or are you just being a Devil’s Advocate? As far as I’m concerned, every lump of coal we burn might be the last straw which breaks the biosphere’s back.
    You state obvious facts in that “Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labour, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits.” But it doesn’t end there. We have so much metal, other minerals, plastic and silica in use on the surface already that there is no need for more mining. We can recycle all we need to make new products without continuing the toxic cycle.
    You state that solar panels and wind turbines last around 20 to 30 years and then need replacing. For those of us who, by principle, try to live by using the least damaging pathways, a small, off grid solar or wind system is not a bad option when combined with ascetic abstention. It saves us from burning too much timber or dung. 20 to 30 years is quite long enough to work out whether our children are going to live to reach the age we are now.
    The “easy” path to the future involves not replacing our population, our houses, our clothes or any non essential goods. We have enough “stuff” to last us all a lifetime. We must bring in rationing of food and water and develop sustainable agricultural systems if we are able to. We will let our industries and infrstructure run down except for the production of basic renewably energised tools for transport and individual survival. In fact, we need to go into the type of wartime style mobilisation that this group are suggesting.
    I don’t think we’re going to manage to do it the “easy” way. I think that most humans will keep scrabbling for consumer bliss and will therefore complete the total crash of the planetary biosphere. We have, indeed, left our “renewable revolution” too late. If the fossil fuel industry hadn’t made such a good job of corrupting our politicians, destroying the credibility of our top scientists and subverting innovation in the 1980s, we may have succeeded, but now it seems too little, too late.
    When the system crashes, and the crash is well underway already, it will not crash evenly in all places. Maybe some humans will even manage to keep a basic, low tech sustainable life somewhere on Earth. I hope that it will be the remnants of the indigenous peoples who manage to survive by their very toughness and flexibility. They will not be sourcing their energy from the grid.
    Back to coal… There is no such thing as clean coal, clean tar sands or clean fracked unconventional gas. These industries must be shut down immediately. If under a strict mobilisation regime, we use the remnants of our existing conventional oil and gas reserves to transition to lower tech renewables, then it wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s a bit of hopium for those of us who need it. Personally, I have very little hope and a lot of remorse. I will spend the rest of my days fighting all new fossil fuel projects and trying to personally shut down the coal industry for good. Join me. Every act of civil disobedience might well save another species. We are not likely to know if it works, but we owe it to the world to die in the attempt.

    1. Anette, Kim is only suggesting that it will be better to carry on using coal than to move to the alternative of so called “renewables”. She is not promoting coal as the alternative, but instead that we have to stop the production of industry and use little or no energy.
      From her 3rd point – “Taking carbon emissions out of the equation doesn’t make it sustainable. This system needs not to be sustained, but stopped.”

      The way I read Kim’s point is that although she suggests it will be better to burn coal than to rig these ridiculous structures, she is in fact saying we all know how bad coal is and that it is not an option, so we need to also understand that these so called “renewables” is even less of an option.

  4. It is good that Kim Hill has exposed these aspects of renewable energy.

    In the fourth reason Hill states the following.

    “Humans, and all living beings, get our energy from plants and animals. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive, and food and habitat for everyone are being sacrificed to feed it.”

    Especially, for humans living in “highly developed” countries, our enormous food system is highly industrialized. The energy we now derive from most of our foods involves an enormous input from other energy supplies, often connected to the extracted fossil fuels that took tens of million of years to form.

    As with many “green” articles the taboo subject of gross overpopulation, of the Earth by humans, was not mentioned. The extraction and use of fossil fuels enabled the exponential rise in our population during the industrial age. The Earth is now grossly overpopulated by our species that has become highly addicted to energy consumption, much of it derived from fossil fuels. If humans have any hope of surviving, beyond the year 2050, they have to stop breeding until the Earth’s population drops to less than 1% of the current population.

    The following may be useful if readers want to look further into the overpopulation and climate threshold issues.

    It took around 200,000 years for the Earth’s population of modern homo sapiens to reach one-billion, at around 1803 CE. During my 70 years the Earth’s human population has tripled to 7.40+ billion people. Those, who don’t see anything significant in this fact, must be living in a state of denial.

    The vast majority of the world’s still growing population of 7.40+ billion people are likely to reject my and similar comments in favor of blind positivism. Most people have strong vested interests in doing so. It’s become increasingly clear that many people reject evidence that doesn’t support their existing worldview. For them, maintaining these views is far more important than the kind of future our offspring will inherit.

    It doesn’t make sense to bring children into this world where discussions of overpopulation have become taboo. Despite four decades of warnings regarding anthropogenic climate disruption impacts it has become clear that little of the needed actions are taking place. Denial is a natural human coping mechanism. Most of the 7.40+ billion people on this planet are now living in a profound state of denial regarding the gravity of what we are doing to our planetary life support systems. Some people find that children provide superb distractions from all the bad news.

    Graph of human population from 10,000 BCE – 2000 CE

    David Suzuki speaks about overpopulation

    Earth Is In The Early Days Of A New Mass-Extinction Event, Researchers Warn

    Assessing “Dangerous Climate Change”: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature

    How Hot, How Fast?

    Human overpopulation

    Google VTHEM.

  5. Soooooo. The moral of this nonsense is that we should abandon alternative energy and keep digging for oil, fracking, make every beach in the world black with oil goo. Keep fighting wars for the stuff (nobody fights a war because of sun panels). War is – hands down – the #1 polluter known to man (or woman).

    I wonder who wrote this load of garbage? Subsidies? Excuse me? NO subsidies are bigger than the subsidies given to the oil and mining industries. Why on earth do you think its cheaper to go by plane than trains & boats. Why is it often cheaper to get in a car all by yourself and drive somewhere than taking a train, bus or boat? From where does the money come to sustain this? Ta daaaaa. You – dear taxpaying stiff. Where is the source of money to keep gasoline prices down? Encore! Subsidies Subsidies Subsidies. So I’m convinced the article is a newsletter copied verbatim.

    1. Of course the author isn’t advocating for more fossil fuel extraction. DGR’s position on fossil fuels is clear: the extraction and burning of coal, oil, and natural gas must stop. Just because we critique renewable energy as being anything but renewable–dependent, in fact, upon ongoing fossil fuel use–doesn’t mean we “subsidize” or otherwise support the fossil fuel industries in any way. That is a basic logical fallacy. We address this question here:

    2. Perhaps the moral of the story is that you are going to demand your so called green, so called renewable, so called clean energy whether it kills everyone and every living thing on the earth in the process? You might like to cite the actual science that indicates that the points made in this article are not true. Advocating ~not~ frying every living thing on the planet for an energy power fix does not automatically equate to some kind of ridiculous binary that means advocating burning up all the coal and oil as well. I really think a hell of a lot of people need to step back and take a deep breath (if you still can) and figure out what is actually up instead of insisting at the point of a gun that we force solar panels all over the desert, which is some animals; home, and wind all across the sky so the birds can all go the way of the passenger pigeon. And before you lockstep jackboot into dismissing that proposition, you’d better look at the IEA stats on energy use, and find out where in the hell you are going to come up with all this magical miraculous solar panel and wind and tidal and battery material, and how the hell you are going to sustain it anywhere close to what you see before your eyes now. You can ban and trash talk all you want. The reality doesn’t care about your personal opinion or your personal comfort. And if we’re going to have the solar and wind whether it means all life on earth has to go, or even if one or two species more has to go extinct because of habitat holocaust, so you can have another hot shower, then count me out. Totally and completely out.

      And If I am dead wrong, show me the historical record that indicates that this is a habitable planet with 404 ppm CO2? And with methane levels now spiking off the charts? Where is the science that indicates that is even possible? I am not talking about how you ~feel~ about it. I am talking how the madness stops and retreats.

      Because if you can’t do at least that, then you’d better go ask somebody

  6. I was banned from the FB group Tired of Climate Change Deniers?
    For posting a link to this article over there.

    It appears that an line has been drawn in the sand, a couple of centimeters to the left of the hard core carbon company line. And we’ll have their wind turbines, batteries and solar cars driving over the bones of any one or any life form that gets in their way. God help us all.

  7. A good job. For those interested in a more detailed analysis, done a few months prior to this one under discussion: Questionable Renewable Energy Dreams: Where Do We Go from Here?
    • A Tale of Three Studies
    • Oil Grows in Instability and Danger As It Goes Away Geologically
    • Cars Are Renewable?

  8. What an stupid article… do you think that if we reduce the consumption of energy future generation will have enough fossil fuels??? Ya the renewable energy takes resources… but is an investment to ensure that the future generation could have enough energy and enough hydrocarbons for the productions of important resources like medicines… we need the renewable because the amount of energy is not going to decrease under no circumstances… you like to stay warm on winter right???… well apparently here doesn’t have any idea of the energy consumption distribution in the world…

    1. This assumes that we have much of a future left, a delusion that billions of others assume. Almost every new finding states that the changes are happening faster than expected. Most young people today will not likely experience old age before humans go extinct.

    1. Of course not. If you’d care to refute the author’s position, at least respect that she is speaking from a position of knowledge, backed up with research. If you can respond in kind we’d welcome some details.

  9. i think that we should look in front of us…what do we see? a screen. We are all so far in it…we would not no how to live without it..that´s probably the harsh reality for most of us. We need energy to power our lifestyle. Renewable, for now, it is wind and solar…but let’s open our minds, and think possitive…
    why will there not be more on the horizon? solar power also gets more efficient everytime, made out of glass and so on…and maybe its not just driven by an elite of conspiracy but by humanity itself trying to find ways to get along in this brief moment in time traveling through the universe. There aswell might be a great diversity of healthy alternatives out there, still to be discovered! yes, stay possitive.
    it´s the only way…we can rebuild soils and store carbon into it, we can be healing forces, growing forest and think\act local. But let´s be realistic enough to realize we will still be watching screens. Because as soon as that stops being a reallity we have to live in the bush without being able to check google for survival skills…the world is pretty far gone from what we know if it comes to us finding out how to be a medicine man with local herbs. . Let´s stay possitive, small changes can sometimes make great differences.

    Talking about energy in general…there is an infinite amount of it all and every where around us, it´s more up to us how to harness it and how to direct it into a possitive direction. Yes we are just moving it around…but i am looking forward to the moment that a solar powered fabric produces it´s own solar panels…recycling the old panels into new ones, making the problem the solution, leaving fossil fuels in the earth…

  10. The next question is can we calculate how much should we reduce our impact on the planet?
    I would love to see someone work out what level we as a species need to consume energy and other other resources that would allow earth to be indefinitely sustainable .
    A formula that calculates the maximum degree of pollution creation , resource use, ecological degradation that would allow the world to remain relatively in balance for say 1000 years.)
    Divide that by the world population and use it as a starting point to envisage what a personally responsible lifestyle would look like.
    I suspect it would show that as a species we have already stuffed the planet ,should immediately apologise to all the other species and leave. ( taking our hubris with us )

  11. The whole picture needs to be included not just the installed devices. I am not a supporter of fossil fuels or nuclear. I am concerned about continuing business as usual and its devastation of the earth and humanities future.
    Solar and wind energy collecting devices and their auxiliary equipment have an industrial history. They are an extension of the fossil fuel supply system and the global industrial infrastructure. It is important to understand the industrial infrastructure and the environmental results for the components of the solar energy collecting devices so we don’t designate them with false labels such as green, renewable or sustainable.
    This is a challenge to ‘business as usual’. If we teach people that these solar devices are the future of energy without teaching the whole system, we mislead, misinform and create false hopes and beliefs. They are not made with magic wands.
    These videos are primarily concerning solar energy collecting devices. These videos and charts are provided by the various industries themselves. I have posted both charts and videos for the solar cells, modules, aluminum from ore, aluminum from recycling, aluminum extrusion, inverters, batteries and copper.
    Please note each piece of machinery you see in each of the videos has its own industrial interconnection and history.
    This is about wind:

  12. Solar and wind energy collecting devices will have a hard time providing the basic materials for our industrialized world. Many materials used in our industrial world require energy from mining to manufacturing for processing and transportation. The energy for some of these products is in the form of high temperatures – 2000° F (nearly 1100°C).
    These processes run 24/7 365 days and run continuously for 15 years or more.

    There are proposals that solar and wind energy collecting devices can provide the energy to maintain the industrial world. To look at this possibility, solar electric panels, wind turbines and concentrated solar installations in the form of parabolic trough collectors (PTC) have been assessed.

    The energy requirements in 2010 for the following essential components of our industrial world are provided: steel, aluminum, chromium, copper, manganese, cement and glass. This energy would be mining, processing and transporting to name some. Other important components of the industrialized world such as nickel and cobalt are not considered because they are part of the high temperature processing of other ore metals.

    The kWh output and area required for installations of solar electric panels, wind turbines and PTC has been researched. This then is divided into the energy (exajoules converted to kWh) required for global production of each material in 2010.

    121,214.45 Square Miles of Solar Electric Collectors
    257,472 square miles and 2,807,276 Wind Turbines
    77183.4 square miles of PTCs

    There are many other critical components of our global industrialized world that require industrial heat (lead, silver, tin, food processing) that are right at the top heating limit of solar devices. They must also be included in an all “renewable” future. If only half of important materials were provided, what would our world be like?

    See maps, images and calculations at:

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