The Rise Of Renewable Energy
For years, the energy industry has been focused on bringing down the cost of fossil fuels and increasing their supply. As a result, we’ve seen a steady climb in the production and use of renewable energy sources (RES). To give you some context, below are some historical energy trends.
Between 1880 and 2018, total energy production increased by about 3.2 trillion kWh – an increase of about 270%. Most of this growth occurred thanks to the development and implementation of fossil fuels, mainly hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are fossil fuels derived from organic material (e.g., plant and animal tissues) that were converted into combustible fuel by pressure and heat over millions of years. The most abundant fossil fuels are oil, natural gas, and coal. In 2018, 75% of global energy production came from crude oil, 10% from natural gas, and 15% from coal.
The benefits of fossil fuels are numerous, but most notably, they provide us with a steady stream of energy. Fossil fuels do this by being highly abundant and, in many cases, are easy to come by. In addition, most energy produced from fossil fuels is considered “free” since it comes from naturally occurring sources. Fossil fuels have enabled humanity to flourish and continue to develop. Unfortunately, as we’ve all become aware of recent years, the effects of climate change caused by the massive consumption of fossil fuels is becoming more prominent. In 2018, many countries around the world, as well as the United Nations, have recognized this problem and vowed to combat it. This led to the Paris Agreement in 2018, which seeks to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius by reducing fossil fuel consumption and developing clean energy sources.
Around the turn of the 20th century, hydroelectricity began to be viewed as a potential alternative to fossil fuels. After all, power can be generated from water flowing downhill. And since most of the world’s population lives in places where ample water is available, there’s plenty of potential to generate electricity this way. Like fossil fuels, hydroelectricity is both abundant and renewable. However, unlike fossil fuels, most hydroelectricity is generated by large-scale water reservoirs that are maintained by humans. As a result, there is no need to worry about the environment adversely affected by hydroelectricity. In fact, many people see it as a beneficial source of energy since it’s considered to be clean and green. It’s a perfect alternative for areas where fossil fuels are hard to obtain and expensive to transport. However, the downsides of hydroelectricity include the need for large-scale infrastructure and the danger of flooding. Additionally, hydroelectricity is only available in certain places and is not feasible in others.
In the past decade, solar energy has emerged as a potential alternative to fossil fuels and hydroelectricity. This is largely due to the increased use of photovoltaic solar panels, which produce electricity directly from sunlight. Like hydroelectricity, solar energy is both abundant and renewable. However, unlike hydroelectricity, solar energy can be generated at virtually any location. This makes it much more accessible and affordable. In 2018, global investment in solar power projects reached a record high of US$24.9 billion. This was largely due to attractive investment opportunities presented by government subsidies and stable energy prices. Looking ahead, many experts predict that the future of energy will be driven by solar.
This trend is being driven by two major factors. First, fossil fuels are becoming more expensive and unstable as a source of energy. Second, more and more people are choosing to utilize renewable energy to power their homes and businesses. In many cases, this is simply because they see it as a more sustainable option. For these people, solar power is the perfect solution since it’s both abundant and environmentally friendly. In fact, many people see it as the “clean energy” that the world needs. This is why over the past year, we’ve witnessed an explosion in the development and implementation of solar power projects around the world. If you’re interested in adding solar power to your home or business, now is the perfect time to do so. The costs associated with solar power have declined significantly, which makes it much more accessible. Additionally, solar power is now completely government-subsidized in many countries. This further levels the playing field for people interested in implementing solar power projects.
As mentioned above, in some places solar power is completely subsidized by the government. Off-grid solar power systems (which do not rely on the utility grid for electricity) provide an additional layer of security and energy freedom for those who can afford them. Off-grid solar power systems are also a great option for people who live in rural areas or simply want to avoid paying exorbitant rates on their utility bills. This may be particularly appealing to anyone who sees the future of energy as being decentralized, community-based, and environmentally sustainable.
The trend toward off-grid renewable energy is being fueled by several factors. First, many people worry about the safety and stability of the grid. If the grid goes down for any reason, there will be no way to generate electricity. This kind of scenario is exactly what led to the development of off-grid solutions, which provide for the safety and stability of the energy source.
Second, many people want to avoid paying exorbitant rates for electricity. We already discussed how electricity prices are relatively high in some countries, particularly those who rely heavily on coal for energy production. If you live in one of these countries, off-grid renewable energy is an appealing option since you won’t be adversely affected by high energy prices. Third, many people want to avoid paying extra for additional utility poles and wires, which can be cumbersome and obstructive.
Off-grid renewable energy is being implemented all over the world, and many countries, such as Germany, have even made it mandatory. Looking ahead, many experts predict that the future of energy will be driven by off-grid solutions.
To learn more about alternative energy options and how to implement them at your home or business, check out these videos from the New York Times:
Rising Gas Prices
As we’ve discussed, the trend toward renewable energy is being driven by the desire to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. CO2 is a major contributor to climate change, and although it has a low relative atomic mass, it has a high “global warming potential.” This means that it absorbs a large amount of heat, which is readily available from the Sun. If we want to reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change, we need to find ways to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. Luckily, there are many options available to us, including those discussed in the sections below.