Explained: Renewable Energy
Sometimes referred to as alternative energy.
Energy that is harnessed from naturally renewable sources. This means they replenish in a fast time (on a human scale), therefore meaning they are sustainable.
Examples include sunlight/solar, wind, rain, tidal/waves and geothermal heat.
We know that the burning of fossil fuels is well up there on the Eco Top 10 Most Wanted list. Fossil fuels are non-renewable fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. They provide up to 80% of the world’s total energy usage. These non-renewable resources are a huge contributing factor to the current global warming and climate crisis. When the non-renewable fuels are burnt to create energy, they release greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.
Thankfully, there are alternatives – in the form of renewable energy sources. Renewable forms of energy can be used indefinitely without depletion of stock, either as they are or used to create alternative energy sources. E.g. wind turbines creating electricity. There are many different types of renewable energy sources, some are more viable than others, some have more long-term sustainability and suitability than others – however, all are better for the environment than burning fossil fuels.
Environmental issues are the topic of our generation, and rightly so. More and more the consequences of our modern day lives are coming to the forefront of our consciousness, but it can be easy to become overwhelmed with so many terms and ideas being thrown around. The Curious Environmentalist was created to make environmental and conservation topics more accessible. My name is Rebecca, the founder of The Curious Environmentalist, and as I am learning about the world around me and the problems it faces, I am sharing that knowledge in the hope that, together, we can make significant, long-term change.
It is no secret that change is needed.
Small changes are good, and we should be encouraged to do whatever we can, but big changes – whole communities or countries making a significant change, such as a shift to renewable energy, are better. These sorts of changes are the only way that we will have a chance to get a grip back on the climate crisis.
This sounds bleak. Yet, all is not lost. The use of renewable energy is growing at a huge, unprecedented rate. They are able to lower emissions, lower fuel prices and reduce pollution and the cost of switching to renewable energy is falling all the time. As of 2017, according to data published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the National Grid (UK) are now 33.1% renewable. There are also now specific energy providers that are using renewable energy sources, in place of fossil fuels.
Green Energy providers use:
- Wind power (turbines)
- Solar power (panels)
- Hydroelectric power (turbines)
- Wave and tidal power
- Biofuels (plant matter)
Why not comment below with your green energy suppliers to share the knowledge?!
The UK has optimistic targets for reducing its emissions. We have heard a lot over past year that it is a matter of urgency that we reduce our emissions and stop burning fossil fuels. The UK has a target of reducing its CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050 and also are aiming for ‘net zero’ greenhouse gas emissions – which sounds great on paper; however, they are only impressive if the targets are met. Which, unfortunately, doesn’t look likely if current predictions and projections are correct. There was a 2% rise in 2018 to a record high of 37.1 billion tonnes of emissions globally and this was projected to have continued to rise throughout 2019.
The problem lies with the fact that the more the world develops, the more energy is needed to sustain the growth. Growth is imperative, not so much in rich, developed Western countries but in those that need to further develop to help reduce the poverty of its people, amongst other benefits of development. Renewable energy sources will not only allow these countries to ‘catch up’ with their Western counterparts but allows them to do so without having a disastrous impact on the environment – which is something that has yet to be achieved by other countries! We all have something to learn.
One of the biggest challenges that faces the implementation of renewable energy sources, over the more traditional use of fossil fuels, is a reluctance towards change. Proposed change is often met with reluctance or confusion as many do not wish to come out of their comfort zone and believe that even a small change will have a negative impact on their lives.
However, a simple change in energy source would actually have a minimal impact on the everyday lives of people but a huge impact on our collective emissions. Another hurdle that is faced in financial cost. This is minimal to the consumer but there can be a more significant financial cost to companies and energy providers to make the shift to greener energy. However, it is important to note that although change comes at a financial cost, no change has an even bigger consequence.
It’s obviously not the easiest thing to switch energy suppliers overnight, and some in rented accommodation, etc, are not in control of where their energy supply comes from.
However, there are some things that you can do to reduce the amount of energy you use day-to-day, which will have an impact – no matter where your energy comes from – and will help bridge the gap until you can change to a green energy supplier.
Ways to save energy at home:
- Heating on a timer
- Insulate your roof
- Double glazing
- Close windows in the winter
- Turn lights/electronics off
- Don’t waste water
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