Renewable energy is an energy source that does not run out. For example, energy from the sun, wind, water and waves. In other words, solar energy, wind power, hydroelectric power and wave power. Renewable energy differs from fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and nuclear power. Since fossil fuels are non-renewable, meaning they can run out.
Bioenergy (for example, wood) is also a renewable source if treated well. Biomass gets produced naturally and comparably quickly, yet often it gets cut down faster than it gets built. The latter puts it in the category of non-renewable.
Benefits of renewable energy
As mentioned, the most apparent benefit of the energy sources is that they are renewable. It works with the natural elements of the earth and takes advantage of already existing energy. Another known advantage of renewables is that they produce almost no emissions. However, this is only partially true. For example, the energy sources also lead to emissions by manufacturing the devices, as new productions release GHG emissions. Yet, renewables are still much better for the climate than fossil fuel sources since fossil fuel sources are both non-renewable and emit great amounts of GHG. More so, the energy produced by a renewable source can, at best, compensate for the emissions from its manufacturing.
Disadvantages of renewable energy
There are some more disadvantages to renewable energy apart from the one mentioned above. For example, renewable sources have geographical limitations. Wind turbines, hydroelectric plants and solar panels require well-thought-out locations to work best. More so, the climate plays a role. For instance, it is harder to rely on solar energy in northern nations with less sunlight.
Another negative aspect of renewable sources is people’s attitudes to having them close by, which created the saying – Not In My Back Yard – NIMBY. It is a common expression concerning wind power, as it disturbs neighbouring areas. Most people are optimistic about wind power but prefer them at a distance.
Other relevant disadvantages are the impact that hydroelectric plants, wind turbines and solar panels have on nature. Hydropower plants prevent, among other things, the natural flow of water in rivers. More so, they can disturb nearby ecosystems. Among other things, they can hinder the migration route of certain fish species, such as salmon. Wind turbines, on the other hand, scare and affect bird life and other wildlife. Finally, producing solar panels harms natural areas since they contain minerals (extracted from mines).
The road to clean energy sources
The world is moving towards a fossil-free future with renewable energy. For example, nations agreed to “phase down” fossil fuels at COP26 in 2021. More so, there is an EU target calling for a minimum of 32% energy from renewable sources by 2030 at the latest. Furthermore, countries like Sweden have a target of 100% energy from renewable sources by 2040.