Advantage Of Renewable Energy

When it comes to the advantage of renewable energy, the list is long and deserves much attention.

There are several critical reasons as to why it is important for our society to start switching to renewable energies today. I will elaborate on them below. However, in gist, you will realize that all these reasons centre around one core notion – survival.

Whether it is the survival of the human race, or the survival of this very planet that is our only home, or even on a smaller and shorter term perspective the survival of our human economies, renewable energies holds potentially holds the key to many of the issues.

Here’s why.

Advantage of renewable energy 1:
Renewable energy is understandably, renewable!

One of the most important advantage of renewable energy is that it is renewable. In other words, the energy source is infinite and sustainable.

Because energy is derived from naturally occurring processes (e.g. rivers flowing downstream, moving air that forms wind, etc) that take place regularly in nature, this supply of energy is almost never-ending. So long as the sun continues to shine, we will always have solar energy.

So long as the wind continues to blow, we will always have wind power energy. So long as river water continues to flow downstream, we will always have hydroelectricity. I think you get my point.

So with the never-ending supply of renewables (so long as nothing happens to the sun, the winds and the rivers etc), theoretically we would have abundant supply of energy to last our planet, our human race and our economies, for generations and ever.

This abundance is an important advantage of renewable energy sources, considering the world’s energy needs today and tomorrow.

According to the World Renewable Energy Congress, looking at the rate of population growth today, the world population’s would likely exceed 12 billion by year 2100. Based on existing trends in technological growth and innovation, the demand for energy is likely to be five times more than what it is today.

This means that if we are to continue with our current reliance on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs, our supply of fossil fuels would be depleted at an even faster rate. The rate at which our planet is accelerating toward destructive global warming (read more below about the 2 °C limit for global temperature rise) would also speed up.

That is why renewable energies are a potential solution that we need to consider seriously, to address the problem of fossil fuel exhaustion and pollution.

The biggest challenge now is about knowing how to harness this renewable source and converting it to a reliable supply to meet the world’s energy needs.

Advantage of renewable energy 2:
Renewable energy has great potential

Another advantage of renewable energy is that the various sources of renewable energies known to us today are found in substantial quantities. In other words, they have the potential to replace fossil fuels totally in supplying our world’s energy needs.

Take solar energy for example. According to Vaclav Smil, author of the award winning book, Energy At The Crossroads, the total solar energy absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, oceans and land masses is approximately 3,850,000 exajoules (EJ) per year. This energy reaching the earth in an hour is sufficient theoretically, in accordance to National Geographic, to power the entire planet for a year.

Yet, the solar capacity of some of the world’s top photovoltaics (PV) installers are only a minute fraction of this energy reaching the earth. For example, according to Wikipedia, in 2010, Germany has a solar PV capacity of 17,000 megawatts. That’s only 0.000000017 times of the total energy reaching the earth!

There is so much potential in our renewable energy sources that is untapped. As previously mentioned, the biggest problem is about knowing how to harness this energy efficiently.

Fortunately, the world’s energy capacity from renewable energy sources has been growing, with increasing investments, research and developments in the area. According to the Renewables 2010 Global Status Report, renewable energies have contributed a quarter of the world’s global power capacity by 2009, and delivered 18% of the world’s electricity supply. This is a very encouraging figure, but there is still much more room for growth.

In monetary terms, renewable energies like solar photovoltaics, wind power and biofuels have seen growth from $76 billion in 2007 to $115 billion in 2008 (according to Wikipedia). This also means millions of jobs in the renewable energy industry being created by the year.

According to Joel Makower, Ron Pernick and Clint Wilder in the book, Clean Energy Trends 2009, the renewable energy sector is expected to continue growing. This growth is not hard to imagine, considering the renewable energy targets that various regions in the world are setting for themselves for the next few years.

A good example is the European Comission (EU), which has a 2007 directive on renewable energy for all its member states. Ambitious targets on renewable energy growth have been set, so that the EU would have 20% of its total energy requirements and 10% of its transportation energy needs come from renewable energy by 2020.

Similarly, at the 2005 Beijing International Renewable Energy Conference, previous Chinese Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan told the conference that China would seek to increase its renewable energy supply to 15% by 2020.

Advantage of renewable energy 3:
Renewable energy is less polluting

A third advantage of renewable energy is that they tend to be more environmentally friendly.

Renewable energies are unlike fossil fuels or nuclear energy which produces large amounts of pollutants (eg. greenhouse gasses or radioactive waste materials) in the process of their production and use. Simply recall the disastrous BP oil leak in 2010 and catastrophic Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and you will know what I mean.

On the contrary, the advantage of renewable energy sources lies in it having less problems with pollution. With renewable energies, energy is usually converted from one form to another without the creation of pollutants.

For example, when harnessing solar energy, light energy from the sun can be converted directly to electricity using photovoltaics, without the production of any pollutants like carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gasses. Similarly, wind power energy taps on the kinetic energy of moving air, and converts it to electricity without polluting the environment. That is the non-polluting advantage of renewable energy.

Of course, there are environmental costs to the set-up and operation of renewable energy facilities (e.g. solar farms, geothermal facilities water dams for hydroelectricity, etc). But let’s not forget that environmental costs are similarly incurred for conventional non-renewable energy facilities (e.g. gas-powered stations, oil rigs and tankers etc). The pollutants released into the environment by the non-renewable energy facilities over the entire lifetime of their operations could easily have outweighed the environmental costs for the renewable energy facilities.

This means that as we switch our energy consumption from a fossil-fuel-heavy balance to a green-renewable-energy-heavy balance, we will be in a better capacity to curb pollution, mitigate global warming and climate change.

Indeed, the desire to limit global temperature rise to no more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels and mitigate global climate change, underlies many of the European Commission’s energy policies. 2 °C is often considered the upper temperature limit where global warming would become “dangerous”, because the rise in global temperatures would by then have become self-sustaining, and the planet would just heat itself beyond conditions possible for life.

Advantage of renewable energy 4:
Reduce dependency on fossil fuels

There is another important advantage of renewable energy, especially for our economies. This advantage of renewable energy is linked to its abundance. Because of the infinite, constantly renewing and abundant nature of renewable energy sources, they can potentially help reduce our society’s heavy reliance on fossil fuels and as such bring about greater energy security for the world.

Simply look at the prices of crude oil. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, crude oil prices were about $61.65 per barrel in 2009, $79.40 in 2010 and expected to be $101.91 in 2011. The increase in oil prices over the years is raking up high energy bills worldwide. In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council, America alone spent more than $13 million per hour on foreign oil, and that was only in 2004. Imagine the energy bill for America today.

As the world depletes its supply of fossil fuels, the prices will simply continue to rise, perhaps even exponentially. Coupled with the rising need for energy by the world’s growing population, the world’s population would soon simply be at the mercy of oil producers, if we aren’t already so. There would be no way out of the situation, unless we find reliable alternatives to fossil fuels.

Fortunately, the advantage of renewable energy is that it offers us a potential alternative to fossil fuels. However, we have to find start exploring these alternatives soon, as development of technologies (e.g. to improve efficiency and reliability) and infrastructure takes time and investment.

What you can do with your knowledge on the advantage of renewable energy

It is not sufficient for only you and l to understand and appreciate the advantage of renewable energy. More people in our society need to know. With more awareness and interest in this area, governments, organizations and businesses would be more driven to explore these alternatives to fossil fuels and path the way for its growth and development in our communities.

You can definitely play a part for the development of green energy, by spreading the message about its potential. For example, if you think that solar energy is one of the amazing green innovations ever to be made, let others know about it.

Help ignite the interest in this area and encourage others to find out more for themselves, whether it is the advantage of renewable energy or its disadvantages.

If you have experiences making use of green energy, such as building your own solar panels and using solar energy to power your homes, do share your experience and tips with our readers, so that they too can follow in your footsteps and starting making use of solar energy today.

So start spreading the green energy message today.

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