The Rise Of Renewables
For a long time, the world has been powered by fossil fuels – especially oil and coal. However, over the past 10 years, we’ve seen a massive shift to renewable energy.
In 2008, just 2% of the world’s energy came from renewables. By 2018, that figure had reached 20%, and today, it’s estimated that more than 44% of the world’s electricity comes from renewable resources – mainly solar and wind energy. This is incredibly exciting, as it means we might be able to slow down climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
If current trends continue, global investments in renewable energy are expected to reach $16 trillion by 2050.
How Much Energy Do We Really Need?
Nowadays, we’re often told that we need to increase our energy consumption to avoid climate disaster. However, is this true?
The simple answer is no. According to the World’s Top 50 Energy Consumers, we only need to consume 0.7% of the world’s total energy supply to meet our energy needs today. If we compare this to the worldwide average energy consumption of 3.7%, we can see that we already consume much less energy than we need. In other words, we are over-consuming!
The truth is that we don’t use nearly as much energy as we think we do. We’re always being told that using less energy would be bad, because it would “de-power” us. But that’s simply not true. In fact, using less energy would drastically improve our quality of life.
The reason our energy use is so high is because our technologies are inefficient. For example, almost 90% of the energy generated by gas-powered plants is lost as heat. That means we can’t use it. In addition, a large number of the materials needed to make our technologies work are highly energy-intensive – resulting in much higher environmental footprints than needed. For example, to extract aluminum – an important component in building materials, cars, and energy carriers – energy-intensive methods such as mining and quarrying are used. The same goes for the steel and iron used in manufacturing, as well as the precious stones used in construction.
The Cost Of Fossil Fuels
It’s often said that fossil fuels are an affordable source of energy. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Fossil fuels are extremely expensive.
In some cases, the cost of fossil fuels is higher than the sum of their parts. For example, the United Kingdom’s National Grid assesses that it costs £22.50 ($30) per kilowatt hour to generate electricity using natural gas, and £25.60 ($34) per kilowatt hour to generate electricity using coal. The difference of £2.90 ($4) per kilowatt hour is the cost of transmitting and distributing the gas or coal – which is why the cost is often called the “stranded” cost. In other words, without these fees, the cost of generating electricity using gas or coal would be £22.50 and £25.60 respectively.
As a result, the cost of electricity is substantially higher when fossil fuels are used. In 2018, the average cost of electricity in the UK was £0.12 per kilowatt hour, which is £21.48 per month or £264 per year. If we compare this to the £0.07 per kilowatt hour that wind energy generates (on average), the cost of electricity is more than five times higher when using fossil fuels.
How Big Is The Global Market For Wind And Solar?
The global market for wind and solar energy is steadily increasing, and it’s expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years. In 2018, the market was valued at around US$16 trillion, and it’s expected to reach $30 trillion by 2050.
This is largely thanks to the falling cost of solar energy and the increased demand for decentralized energy sources. As a result of this, many countries have looked at ways to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels, and solar and wind energy are providing a viable alternative. For example, since 2014, Germany has mandated that all new homes be constructed with solar panels, and in June 2019, it became the first country to ban the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles. Similarly, in the UK, homeowners can claim tax relief on their property investments in solar power.
Are Fossil Fuels Our Only Choice?
The world has shifted to a green energy future, and this means that we don’t need to rely on fossil fuels as much as we think. In fact, we don’t need to use any fuels at all!
There are several clean, green energy options available today, including solar, wind, and water energy. The only true “fossil fuel” is the sun and the wind, which shine down on us daily, unabated. As a result, we don’t need to rely on expensive fossil fuels. We just need access to renewable energy sources.
The world is changing, and fast. Thanks to advancements in technology, we’re seeing a rapid shift away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. Perhaps the most significant change is the rising cost efficiency of solar energy. As a result of this, the option of going green is becoming more attractive, especially as we approach a time when we’ll run out of fossil fuels anyway.