In 2017, 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) were emitted into the atmosphere from fossil fuels.
There’s a worldwide effort to combat climate change by decreasing emissions. One method for accomplishing that goal is to begin using more renewable energy.
The benefits of renewable energy are numerous and go beyond just decreasing emissions. Renewable energy impacts our public and economic health as well.
Not sure how it does all that and more? Keep reading to learn all about it.
What is Renewable Energy?
The best way to understand renewable energy is energy derived from a source that doesn’t deplete. This is in contrast to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are a finite resource because of how they’re sourced and created.
Renewable energy sources come from the elements or the earth itself. Some examples are:
- Biogas (e.g. wastewater treatment digester gas or landfill gas)
- Wave and tidal power
- Low-impact hydroelectricity
- Solar (solar thermal, photovoltaic)
These sources are in abundance and won’t run out as we harness them for power. For example, the wind and sun are infinite resources. Some of them are already being used to produce power.
The Benefits of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy has economic, environmental, public health benefits, and more. Below we’ve listed the top 7 benefits of renewable energy in greater detail.
1. Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Alternative energy sources allow us to power homes, cars, businesses, and public spaces without the use of fossil fuels. But why are fossil fuels so bad?
The majority of scientists studying climate change agree that the main cause of global warming is the greenhouse effect. This is the result of certain gases in the atmosphere blocking heat from escaping. The heat gets trapped in the atmosphere and radiates back toward earth instead of being released into space.
The biggest gas contributing to this problem is CO2. This gas occurs naturally from things like volcanic eruptions and respiration. However, human activities have greatly increased the concentration of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere.
Deforestation and land use are 2 human activities that contribute to CO2 accumulation. But worse than that is the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil. In fact, burning fossil fuels also produced nitrous oxide – another powerful greenhouse gas causing climate change.
Renewable energy sources drastically reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions because they don’t require the burning of fossil fuels. This can help limit the effects of climate change.
Biomass, for example, replaces fossil fuels completely. It uses repurposes agricultural and restaurant waste to power vehicles. That means those vehicles don’t use fossil fuels plus, it reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills.
2. Cost Effective
One of the major deterrents for switching to renewable energy sources is the cost. Setting up and constructing the infrastructure for renewable energy sources is costly. However, the amount of money saved in long-term energy costs promises a high return on the initial investment.
In addition, the cost of renewable energy sources will continue to go down. But how can that be?
Whereas fossil fuels are produced through natural resources, renewable energies are produced through technologies. Coal and natural gas must be refined and released, which involves labor and transport, among other costs.
Renewable energies harness the power of widely available (and free) sources such as light, water, and air. Similar new, clean technologies – such as this dc brushed motor – use innovative renewable methods such as magnetic power.
Whereas the costs of fossil fuels are dependent on the availability of labor and other market fluctuations, the cost of renewable energy sources will benefit from technological advances. As technology gets better, prices will continue to go down.
3. Job Creation
Building the infrastructure for renewable energy sources creates jobs and contributes to a healthy economy. The production of renewable energy also tends to be more labor-intensive than fossil fuel. That means more jobs in utility companies as well as people who manufacture parts like wind turbines and solar panels.
4. Reduce National Energy Dependence
In 2017, over 10 million barrels of petroleum coming from 84 different countries were imported to the US. These countries control pricing and availability. That makes the market unpredictable.
Reducing that dependence on imported oil can help make the US energy independent. As technology improves and the sources of renewable energy are more accessible, moving toward energy independence can strengthen the US economy.
5. Reduce Personal Energy Dependence
Because climate change causes more extreme weather, we’re putting more extreme pressure on our electrical grid. Using more heat in the winter and more air conditioning the summer outs a lot of stress on the grid.
To compensate, brownouts or rolling blackouts have been implemented in some areas. If your home is powered by the electrical grid, you have no control over the times your home doesn’t have electricity. But switching to a renewable energy source can change that dependence.
For example, installing solar panels allows you to create your own energy. That means you’re not reliant on utility companies – in fact, they may end up paying you for some of your power.
6. Diversify Energy Sources
Diversifying sources of energy makes the US more economically secure.
It’s similar to how an investor diversifies a portfolio in order to minimize risk. Relying on 1 source makes them vulnerable to disruptions or shocks. Having different investments that are unlikely to fail at once makes them more secure.
This is the same as energy security. Oil, gas, and coal are subject to market forces that cause price hikes. They’re also affected by shocks from geopolitics and conflicts.
By having a diverse mix of energy sources, the US economy is less affected by those shocks. They can absorb shocks from 1 energy source by replacing it with another.
7. Improve Public Health
Burning fossil fuels affects our physical health. Every year, 52,000 people die prematurely due to air pollution from power generation. And the US spends over $5 billion in health costs related to premature births from fossil fuel emissions.
By switching to renewable energy sources, we can improve the health of the environment and the people living in it.
Are You Living Green?
The benefits of renewable energy have an economic impact as well as an environmental one. Diversifying our energy sources to include more renewable power sources will save money in the long term and create jobs in the short term. It can improve public health as well as its costs and reduce the number of fossil fuels going into our atmosphere.
And there are things that you can do at home as well. Check out our blog for ideas on how to live more green.