The Role of Renewable Energy
As the world moves towards a low-carbon economy, the need for clean and sustainable energy sources has never been greater. Climate change threatens not just the environment but also everything that depends on it: human and animal health, food and water security, and economic stability, to name a few. To address this global challenge, renewable energy has become a critical component in the fight and is beginning to play a central role in transforming our energy systems.
But before we jump into that, it’s worth having a refresher on renewable energy.
Renewable energy refers to sources of energy that are naturally replenished and never run out. These include wind, hydro, solar, geothermal, and biomass energy sources.
The use of renewable energy can significantly reduce the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere and help combat the negative impacts of climate change. By transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix, we can also reduce the risk of extreme weather events. It’s also crucial because it has the potential to provide clean, reliable, and affordable energy to communities that are currently without access to power. This can drive economic growth, create jobs, and improve the standard of living for millions of people.
Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, are released by burning fossil fuels for energy. These emissions trap heat in the atmosphere, causing the Earth’s temperature to rise, which leads to climate change.
On the other hand, renewable energy sources do not emit greenhouse gases, as they are derived from natural, replenishable sources such as sun, wind, water, and biomass. Using renewable energy sources instead of fossil fuels for energy production will reduce the greenhouse gases released into the air and help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Additionally, renewable energy sources do not emit harmful pollutants, such as particulate matter and sulfur dioxide, which can negatively impact human health and the environment.
Commodities like oil and coal are particularly vulnerable to sudden shocks brought on by geopolitical events like wars. Diversification helps a society increase the use of alternative energy sources, including nuclear or solar energy. This offsets the shock to one energy input and reduces dependence on a single energy source. According to research, it also helps reduce the energy supply’s vulnerability to price fluctuations and other external factors, which can negatively impact the economy and the environment.
Supports local communities
According to the OECD, renewable energy projects can provide economic benefits to local communities, helping to reduce poverty and support sustainable development. For one, it generates extra income for landowners using swathes of their land to support renewable energy generation.
This also increases a bottom-up approach, ensuring that new technologies are tested and new policies are trialed in places that may need them the most. The community’s potential to learn and innovate increases when they specialize and develop their talents in the new industry.
How might we increase the use of renewable energy?
The United Nations stresses making renewable energy a public good, i.e., available to all and not just to the wealthy. For that to happen, removing any roadblocks in the adoption process and barriers to gaining knowledge in renewable energy is essential.
To increase the deployment of renewable energy and combat climate change, several steps can be taken:
Create better government policies
Governments play a crucial role in promoting the use of renewable energy. This can be done by implementing policies, such as feed-in tariffs, incentivizing investment in renewable energy projects.
Energy subsidies can sway the momentum in favor of renewable energy. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), $5.9 trillion was spent supporting the fossil fuel sector in 2020 alone. This includes direct subsidies, tax exemptions, and damages to health and the environment that were not included in the price of fossil fuels.
Suppose we divert these subsidies towards renewable energy. In that case, we could reduce emissions while promoting more equality, better public health, and sustainable economic growth, especially for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.
Increase investment in research and development
According to the IEA, to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, we must invest at least $4 trillion a year in renewable energy until 2030. This amount includes expenditures on infrastructure and technologies. After all, research and development are critical to the growth of the renewable energy sector. Investment in R&D can drive innovation, reduce the cost of renewable energy technologies, and increase their competitiveness with fossil fuels.
Encourage private sector investment
The private sector plays a significant role in the deployment of renewable energy. By creating a favorable investment climate and providing the necessary support and incentives, governments can encourage private-sector investment in renewable energy projects. It also helps to promote innovative financing mechanisms, such as green bonds and renewable energy investment funds.
Raising public awareness
Raising public awareness about the benefits of renewable energy and the impact of climate change can drive demand for renewable energy and encourage more people to adopt sustainable energy practices. Some ways to do this include:
- Hosting workshops, seminars, and other educational events at the community and schooling levels
- Developing targeted media campaigns that highlight the advantages of renewable energy, such as cost savings and environmental benefits
- Collaborating with industry leaders, energy companies, and environmental organizations and leveraging their resources and expertise to reach a wider audience
What countries are leading the charge for renewable energy?
Several countries have taken significant steps towards transitioning to a renewable energy-based energy system. For example, Germany has been a global leader in renewable energy, aiming to produce 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This has been made possible through implementing policies and incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, encouraging investment in renewable energy.
The final word
Renewable energy is a critical solution in combating climate change. By transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve energy security, and provide millions of people access to clean, reliable, and affordable energy. Governments, businesses, and individuals must work together to make the transition to renewable energy a reality and ensure a sustainable future for all.