Every year, we are treated to a dazzling display of solar energy as plants and trees shed their leaves in an effort to collect the sun’s warmth. However, although we experience the beauty of nature, we often fail to appreciate how the energy of the sun is completely dependent on our behaviour. In fact, we can play an active role in helping alternative energy sources to prosper, by changing the way we consume energy.
The Current State Of Electricity Generation
In 2019, 52.2% of the world’s energy was derived from fossil fuels, 39.9% was generated by renewable energy sources, and 7.9% was produced by nuclear energy. This is in contrast to the world’s energy supply in 2018, where 58.9% came from fossil fuels, 29.1% was generated by renewable sources, and 12.9% was provided by nuclear energy. In general, the world’s energy consumption increased by 1.7% in 2019 and is expected to rise by 1.3% in the next five years.
What Is Driving This Trend?
In the last ten years, we have witnessed remarkable developments in clean and sustainable energy sources that are currently revolutionising the way we generate and consume power. In 2019, we saw record-breaking temperatures in many parts of the world, driving demand for air-conditioning that in turn placed additional pressure on electricity supplies. In fact, the United Nations International Energy Agency (IEA) expects energy usage to increase by 30% between 2019 and 2030.
In the face of this overwhelming demand, countries across the globe have placed increased restrictions on the use of traditional energy sources such as coal and oil in an effort to reduce their environmental impact. As a result, many power plants now rely solely on renewable energy sources such as sun and wind to generate electricity. While this plays a crucial role in reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, it also means that these energy sources are entirely dependent on the climate, and more specifically, on the weather. Hence, we can expect that the supply of solar and wind energy will fluctuate heavily year-to-year and even from day-to-day, depending on the weather and the time of day. This is one reason why these energy sources have not yet usurped traditional sources of energy. Nevertheless, we should also remember that the energy landscape is constantly changing, and more and more people are taking advantage of the opportunities that this presents.
Are There Limits To The Growth Of These New Energy Sources?
It’s a common misconception that because alternative energy sources are currently the domain of science fiction, they are somehow less reliable than those derived from fossil fuels. In fact, as we have just seen, the opposite is true. As these energy sources become more and more prominent, traditional sources of energy such as coal and oil will become less attractive to power plant operators, simply because they can be more efficiently produced from renewable materials. In addition, as noted above, the demand for air-conditioning has been a major driver of the recent surge in interest in alternative energy sources. Furthermore, advances in technology have enabled scientists and engineers to develop clean and sustainable energy sources with incredible performance, which has only increased their popularity.
On the other hand, although renewables such as solar and wind are undoubtedly clean and sustainable, they are still not without their disadvantages. For example, in order to generate energy, we need to have solar panels and wind turbines, which are often cumbersome objects that take up a lot of space. As a result, there is often a need to site them on open land, which of course comes with its own set of environmental challenges. In some instances, these turbines have been known to produce unwanted noise and interfere with the natural beauty of our surroundings. In general, the issue of where to site these energy generating machines is a topic that has been extensively debated, and many countries have placed restrictions on their use in an effort to protect their natural beauty.
The Benefits Of More Clean And Sustainable Energy
The use of cleaner and more sustainable energy sources can have several advantages, the most obvious of which is the reduction of our dependence on fossil fuels. As noted above, the IEA expects energy usage to increase by 30% over the next ten years. In order to meet this demand, we will inevitably have to turn to renewable sources of energy, which will in turn put pressure on the prices of these traditional fuels. This is also true of other commodities such as oil and gas, and we have already seen prices rise sharply as a result of increased demand. Another significant advantage of using cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy is the reduction in our collective carbon footprint. Coal, oil, and gas are significant sources of greenhouse gases, the main component of which is carbon. When we consider the environmental impact of our entire economy, we can see that the use of more renewable energy sources reduces our carbon footprint significantly, which in turn helps to protect the environment. If we are serious about reducing our impact on the environment, this is an area where we can make significant inroads by switching our energy supply to more sustainable options.
In summary, we can play an active role in helping to secure a better future by increasing our use of solar and wind energy. These sources of clean and sustainable energy are undoubtedly attractive, but it is our behaviour that influences their performance. If we want a fully sustainable energy supply, we need to work hard to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and this will inevitably lead to a more prominent role for solar and wind energy.