Since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, the use of fossil fuels is on the rise. As more and more countries become industrialized and more industries came up across the world, fossil fuel use has reached mammoth proportions.
However, until the mid-20th century, we were blissfully unaware of the fact that the availability of fossil fuels like coal and petroleum is finite. The scientists came upon the bit of truth that coal and petroleum take millions of years to form from dead plant and animal matter with the help of pressure and heat from geological processes.
And, the rate at which we are using it up, it is impossible that the deposits will be replaced at the same rate. This makes coal and petroleum as good as non-renewable and unsustainable.
Besides all these, we know how damaging fossil fuels are to the environment. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are leading to ozone-layer depletion and global warming. Climate change is more real in 2022 than ever before. Air pollution from burning fossil fuels is a major health challenge countries worldwide are grappling with.
Despite all these setbacks, we are still unwilling to change our stance towards fossil fuels. From power generation to running vehicles, the consumption of fossil fuels continues to rise.
In our search for alternative energy sources to replace fossil fuels, our scientists identified a few renewable and/or sustainable sources like wind, energy, geothermal, nuclear, and biomass that have the potential to take over the mantle from fossil fuels.
Renewable energy technology to improve their efficiency, ease-of-use, and affordability have developed much in the last fifty years. The percentage of renewable energy in the overall energy production has been going up steadily. However, the question is “Are we doing enough?”
This article is an attempt at understanding the reasons why we should promote renewable energy more and why and how it can play the role of sustainable energy for the future.
What is renewable energy?
As the name suggests, renewable energy is the energy derived from a natural source that replenishes and doesn’t get depleted when used. Examples are sunlight, wind, water, tidal waves, biomass, and geothermal energy. These energy sources are inexhaustible and this qualifies them for being renewable energy resources.
On the contrary, fossil fuels like coal and petroleum, are available to us in finite quantities. As we use them up, new deposits are not forming at the same rate. This means we will run out of fossil fuels sooner or later.
Besides being abundant in supply, renewable energy resources are clean and eco-friendly. The toxic and harmful emissions that happen as a byproduct of using them to generate energy are minimal and much lower than with fossil fuels.
These are relevant grounds why renewable energy resources should replace fossil fuels. However, the future of renewable energy is dependent on numerous factors including affordability and adaptability.
You may also want to check out our ultimate guide on renewable energy.
Here is a complete list of reasons to adopt alternative energy sources and get rid of our obsession with fossil fuels.
Why is renewable energy important?
All human activities have consequences on the environment. They leave an indelible and often harmful impact on the world we live in. This is an unavoidable aspect of all human activities. Since these activities are necessary for our survival and/or comfortable living and cannot be avoided, the only thing left for us to do is minimize the impact.
The adverse impact of burning fossil fuels is so enormous that it may even lead to our own destruction and that of the earth, as many scientists predict. Replacing them with a clean energy source can scale down the level of impact on the environment. So, it is a matter of survival of human life on this beautiful planet.
1. It is renewable.
There is no threat of running out of sunlight, wind, or tidal waves, unlike the case with fossil fuels. These renewable energy resources are available in some form or the other in all parts of the world. All we need is efficient, affordable, and user-friendly renewable energy technology to tap their potential.
2. It is sustainable.
Often renewable and sustainable are used in the same sense. While renewable refers to the ability to replenish, sustainable sources need to be used with caution to ensure that they meet our current needs without compromising that of future generations. Most renewable energy sources are sustainable as well.
3. It has low GHG emissions.
Renewable energy sources come with the additional advantage of lower environmental impacts. The GHG emissions are considerably lower when compared to fossil fuels.
The burning of fossil fuels is resulting in uncontrolled GHG emissions. This is contributing to global warming and climate change in a big way. When 5 or 10 years ago, these were merely warnings issued by scientists, today, in 2022, climate change is an undeniable reality, causing devastation and miseries to millions around the world.
Eliminating the use of fossil fuels can help in bringing the situation under control. Alternative energy sources have a huge role to play in this regard.
4. It can slow down and even reverse climate change.
As we know, the GHG emissions and pollution are considerably low for renewable energy sources. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy can bring down GHG emissions and pollution to such levels that it can slow down climate change. This even has the potential to reverse some of the damages already caused by climate change.
5. It is less polluting.
The Industrial Revolution made fossil fuels the heroes that can provide us with a better future and comfortable lives. However, now we realize that they are actually villains in disguise. It took us centuries to wake up to this reality.
Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity or to run vehicles result in unimaginable levels of air, water, and land pollution. This has a tremendous impact on the health and well-being of humans. Respiratory diseases, various forms of cancer, and heart diseases are the direct consequences. Pollution tends to worsen the health condition of people who are already ill.
Renewable energy source comes with the extra advantage of being less polluting.
6. It can save millions of lives.
The health impacts of renewable energy are much lower as they are less polluting. The reduction in pollution levels can reduce the health risks posed by fossil fuels, thereby saving lives.
7. It can reduce extreme weather events.
Global warming and climate change are the direct consequences of our overdependence on fossil fuels for centuries. In recent years, we are witnessing extreme weather events as a result of climate change. Scientists are warning us that it can only get worse if we don’t take the right action.
Switching to renewable energy can bring this under control.
8. It is more affordable.
Fossil fuel deposits are available only in limited regions of the world and the rest of the world is depending on imports to meet their energy demands. The prices of fossil fuels are skyrocketing due to various geopolitical reasons and supply chain disruptions, making them more and more unaffordable.
Renewable energy, on the contrary, is available everywhere. Sunlight and wind come free of cost. All you need to have is the right technology and equipment to tap their energy and make it into a usable form.
9. It is reliable.
As renewable energy sources never get depleted and are available abundantly across the world, it is considered a more reliable clean energy source than fossil fuels. Limited supply and supply chain disruptions among other factors can make energy production from fossil fuels irregular and unpredictable.
10. It offers a chance to diversify the energy supply.
Depending solely on fossil fuels is not good for numerous reasons. As more and more renewable energy plants come up and individuals switch to renewable energy, the share of fossil fuels in the overall energy production will come down. Diversifying the energy supply is a good move for everyone.
11. It affords individual energy users freedom from the grid.
It is hard and inconceivable for individuals to generate electricity at home using fossil fuels. It is possible with home generators but its long-term use is not recommended due to air and noise pollution.
Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal offer individual energy users a realistic chance to generate electricity for their own needs and even upload the excess generated to the grid.
12. It helps in stabilizing energy prices.
Skyrocketing energy prices are way too common to raise any concern nowadays. With more renewable energy used for power generation, our reliance on fossil fuels will come down. This can help in reining in the energy rates.
13. It helps us conserve fossil fuels.
Now that we are aware that our fossil fuel deposits will last us only a few more decades if we continue to use them up at the present rate, it makes sense to replace them with renewable energy sources whenever and wherever possible. This will help it last longer.
14. It creates job opportunities.
The development of better renewable energy technology and manufacture, transport, installation, and maintenance of renewable energy installations create new opportunities for millions worldwide. Instead of countries draining their foreign reserves by importing fossil fuels, renewable energy investments can be spent on building and maintaining power plants that use renewable energy resources, such as solar farms and wind farms.
Renewable energy investments usually happen locally, with the money paid towards energy bills creating more jobs.
15. It provides a boost to the local economy.
Unlike the mammoth-scale thermal power plants that provide power to a wider region, power generation using renewable energy is more of a local affair. From individuals to small communities, towns, and cities, they all can set up their own renewable energy power plants to meet their energy needs.
Renewable energy investments are mostly spent on buying equipment and hiring personnel locally. Besides providing more jobs locally and boosting the local economy, this also minimizes the energy wasted while transmitting electricity for long distances.
16. It improves energy resilience.
Those who are dependent on grid power often face power shortages or power disruptions due to weather and other reasons. Generating energy locally offers more control over its distribution and instances of shortages and disruptions can be minimized.
Renewable energy resources can make us more energy resilient.
17. It is accessible to everyone.
If you are living in a remote location, far away from the grid, renewable energy offers you the best chance to enjoy an uninterrupted power supply. In developing countries, places where grid lines are yet to reach, renewable energy provides energy access to all.
18. It is good for energy security.
As fossil fuels are imported by most countries to meet their energy demands, any disruption in its supply chain can lead to an energy crisis. This can have far-reaching impacts including in the food and health sector. The renewable energy industry offers countries a chance to ensure energy security.
19. It is a driver of democratic values.
Renewable energy offers local communities to take up energy production to meet their needs locally. This is more popular in European countries like Germany and Denmark, though gaining popularity in other parts of the world with countries like Canada, Japan, and Thailand adopting this strategy.
This trend is proof that democracy plays a big role in the adoption of renewable energy.
20. A future will exist for us only with renewable energy.
The global warming and climate change triggered by our excessive fossil fuel use can only lead to the destruction of this planet. The sea levels are rising, submerging lower areas. The temperature is rising, making it difficult for us to survive. Floods, droughts, hurricanes, and cyclones are causing immense destruction to life and property.
Scientists warn us that at this pace, we are heading for an apocalypse or the end of the world as we know it. The renewable energy industry offers us a way out of this crisis.
Top 10 energy sources of the future
Here is a list of the 10 best alternative energy sources for the future.
If we have to pick one best energy source for the future, it would be solar energy for its adaptability.
In the last 50 years, renewable energy technology has developed at a furious pace to make clean energy source accessible to everyone. The efficiency levels have increased and the cost of the equipment has come down. The ease of installing and using them has improved a lot. The future of sustainable energy looks bright.
Countries have set themselves ambitious targets to switch to renewable sources and bring down the negative impacts of energy production on the environment. Their efforts are trickling down to individual users as incentives in various forms.
Now, it is our chance to take advantage of this opportunity to save the earth from imminent destruction.