The world is continually changing, and with a growing collective awareness of the harmful impacts of fossil fuels, many countries are looking for alternative renewable energy sources to mitigate that damage.
What is renewable energy?
Renewable energy is derived from naturally occurring solar, wind, and water sources that are “essentially inexhaustible.” It is a type of energy collected from renewable resources that are naturally replenished within the average human lifespan.
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Benefits of renewable energy
Although nonrenewable energy sources, such as coal and petroleum, are readily available, they are expensive, deplete quickly, and emit pollutants that contribute to global warming.
Using resources such as the sun, water, wind, or ground heat has several environmental, economic, and social benefits.
Benefits of using renewable energy
Improved public health
The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas is linked with breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and other serious health problems. Most of these adverse health impacts come from air and water pollution that clean energy technologies don’t produce.
Wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems generate electricity with no associated air pollution emissions. Geothermal and biomass systems emit some air pollutants, though total air emissions are generally much lower than those of coal and natural gas-fired power plants. In addition, wind and solar energy require essentially no water to operate and thus do not pollute water resources or strain supplies by competing with agriculture, drinking water, or other essential water needs.
In contrast, fossil fuels can have a significant impact on water resources. For example, coal mining and natural gas drilling can pollute drinking water sources. In addition, all thermal power plants, including those powered by coal, gas, and oil, withdraw and consume water for cooling.
Less global warming
Human activity overloads our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions. These gasses act like a blanket trapping heat. The result is a web of significant and harmful impacts causing more powerful, more frequent storms, drought, sea-level rise, and extinction. Global warming emissions come from the electricity sector. However, most of those emissions come from fossil fuels, like coal and natural gas.
In contrast, most renewable energy sources produce little to no global warming emissions. Even when including life cycle emissions of clean energy, the global warming emissions associated with renewable energy are minimal. Increasing the supply of renewable energy would allow us to replace carbon-intensive energy sources and significantly reduce global warming emissions.
Jobs and other economic benefits
Compared with fossil fuel technologies, which are typically mechanized and capital intensive, the renewable energy industry is more labor-intensive.
For example, solar panels need humans to install them, as wind farms need technicians for maintenance. This means that, on average, more jobs are created for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than fossil fuels.
In addition to the jobs directly created in the renewable energy industry, growth in clean energy can create positive economic ripple effects. For example, enterprises in the renewable energy supply chain will benefit, and unrelated local businesses will also benefit from increased household and business incomes.
Moreover, local governments benefit from clean energy and most often from property and income taxes and other payments from renewable energy project owners. Owners of the land on which wind projects are built often receive lease payments as well as payments for power line easements. They may also earn royalties based on the project’s annual revenues. Farmers and rural land owners can also generate new sources of supplemental income by producing feedstocks for biomass power facilities.
Stable energy prices
Renewable energy provides affordable electricity and can help stabilize energy prices in the future. Although renewable facilities require upfront investments to build, they can operate at a meager cost. In addition, for most clean energy technologies, the fuel is free. As a result, renewable energy prices can be very stable over time. Furthermore, the cost of renewable technologies has declined steadily and is projected to drop even more.
Costs will likely decline even further as markets mature and companies increasingly take advantage of economies of scale. In contrast, fossil fuel prices can vary dramatically and are prone to substantial price swings. Using more renewable energy can lower the costs and demand for natural gas and coal by increasing competition and diversifying our energy supplies. Increased reliance on renewable energy can help protect consumers when fossil fuel prices spike.
Whether it’s solar or any other green power source like wind, hydro, or biomass, using renewable energy creates proven environmental, economic, and human health benefits.