With the U.N. climate summit, COP26, currently taking place in Glasgow, renewable energy and the climate have been even more in the news. While most pieces focus on different climate commitments from different countries, a recent CNBC article dug into the reality of renewable energy and admitted an important point: renewable energy sources need energy backups for when they inevitably fail. 

The article explains: 

One problem with renewables is that many sources are at the mercy of the weather.

“You might build a lot of wind farms, you might have hydro reservoirs and and hydro generation facilities, and you might have a lot of solar panels,” Anthony Yuen, head of energy strategy at Citi Research told CNBC in a phone interview. “The problem is: What if you don’t have enough water, wind, or solar versus your initial planning assumption?”

Renewable energy sources tend to under-deliver during certain periods — such as for instance in the month of September, when there’s less wind power generated in Europe and China, according to Boyle of S&P Global Platts.

Yuen said countries need to think through ways to ensure a reliable energy supply, and one “common ground solution” would be to use traditional fuels as a backup when renewables fail to carry through.

“We have to be more conservative, and that means two things. One is, you basically build more capacity [for renewables] so that you try to cover more,” he said. “But the other point is, what are some of the backup systems? Because sometimes, you know, let’s say the hydro reservoir or wind doesn’t show up for days … So the battery system is probably not sufficient.”

Yuen added that some “cleaner” fossil fuels such as natural gas can be used as a backup.

It’s refreshing to see a mainstream news outlet admit the truth about renewables. So many climate activists and world leaders like to act as if we can switch to renewable energy tomorrow without any consequences, but that’s not the case. Places like California and the U.K. have already demonstrated the danger of over relying on renewable energy, and policymakers can’t afford to ignore these real-world warnings. 

While climate activists would like us to “move beyond” traditional energy sources like natural gas, it’s important to remember that we can’t abandon these sources if we want to keep the lights on.

 Renewable energy has its place in our energy mix but we would be better served if we pursued realistic clean energy alternatives, including nuclear power and using carbon capture and storage technology to reduce emissions produced by natural gas.