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The Environment, Renewable Generation and Us

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The Environment, Renewable Generation and Us

Even climate change deniers can’t hide from the searing mid-day sun we’ve had this summer. It’s no coincidence that fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. Global temperatures continue break records as we experience the most extreme side effects of global warming to date. All energy derived from fossil fuels has a significant impact on the environment – most significantly is the dangerous levels of emissions including; sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide. Fossil fuels are energy intensive to capture and cannot be replenished. Consequently, there are detrimental environmental effects; water and air pollution, ecosystem destruction and global warming.

Our modern-day lifestyles are often described as ‘carbon intensive’, this is due to our never-ending appetite for energy – satisfied by fossil fuels. Fossil fuels drive our industries for production, feed our boundless consumption and overall worldwide economic activity. Our neo-classical approach to our economy drives the need for more goods, more outputs and more income, but at the cost of diminishing the worlds natural resources. The never-ending cycle of production and consumption has irreversible effects on our environment.

So, what can we do to reduce these effects?
How can we find a way to keep global economies running, environments intact and our air free from pollution? Well, the eureka moment came long before now and you will have heard of this solution before, but renewable energy can help us build a sustainable future. This dynamic, clean alternative has already significantly reduced the carbon footprint of OECD countries. Predictions have estimated that 80% of added generation in these countries could be renewable by 2020.

Whilst it’s well understood that human activity is directly linked to the fractured climate, it’s sometimes not acknowledged how developments in renewable energy are helping to mitigate and protect our environment. Renewable energy sources produce almost no emissions and strongly uphold the principles of sustainable development. Sustainable development is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising future needs i.e. everything we consume. Renewable energy protects our atmosphere from hazardous emissions, limits ecosystem destruction, eliminates the need to extract fossil fuels and provides an infinite power source helping to meet immediate and future energy needs effectively and efficiently.

Although deploying clean technology does technically produce some emissions throughout a lifecycle, it’s miniscule compared to fossil fuel derived power. Breaking down the numbers [1] based on a comparison between kWh produced of fossil fuels and the life cycles of renewable technologies highlights the stark differences:

‘Burning natural gas for electricity releases between 0.6 and 2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/kWh); coal emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds of CO2E/kWh. Wind, on the other hand, is responsible for only 0.02 to 0.04 pounds of CO2E/kWh on a life-cycle basis; solar 0.07 to 0.2; geothermal 0.1 to 0.2; and hydroelectric between 0.1 and 0.5’ [1]

It’s clear that renewable energy is beneficial for our environment. As technology continues to develop, renewable energy becomes more affordable and therefore accessible, more reliable and more sustainable. Human activity can continue to thrive alongside our natural world – let the renewable revolution continue! 

[1] IPCC, 2011: IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation. Prepared by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [O. Edenhofer, R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, K. Seyboth, P. Matschoss, S. Kadner, T. Zwickel, P. Eickemeier, G. Hansen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1075 pp. (Chapter 7 & 9).

Alana Mellon

Alana Mellon
Project Manager


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