How Can Renewable Energy Be Better For Your Future?

How can renewable energy be better for your future?

Renewable energy comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished, such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat.[1]

Renewable energy is critical for the future because fossil fuels are finite resources that will eventually run out or become too environmentally damaging to retrieve. Shifting to renewable energy sources that are clean and unlimited will provide sustainable energy for the long-term. As renewable energy becomes more widely adopted, it can reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, lower energy costs, create new jobs, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.


Cost Savings

Switching to renewable energy like solar or wind can save consumers money in the long run compared to relying on fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas. Although renewable systems often have high upfront costs, studies show they provide significant cost savings over time. According to research from Yale University and Nature Energy, emphasizing the cost savings of renewable energy has bipartisan support compared to focusing on economic growth or fighting climate change (The durable, bipartisan effects of emphasizing the cost savings of renewable energy).

Once renewable energy systems like solar panels or wind turbines are installed, the ongoing cost of fuel is extremely low or zero. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, are subject to unpredictable price fluctuations and will likely become more expensive over time as supplies dwindle. Even though renewable systems have a higher initial investment, they pay for themselves within 5-15 years. After the payback period, households and businesses continue saving money on energy for the rest of the system’s 25+ year lifespan.

In addition to lower fuel costs, renewable energy can provide savings by reducing the need for expensive grid upgrades. Distributed renewable generation located near where energy is consumed relieves stress on transmission lines. This avoids costly electric grid infrastructure investments that would otherwise raise consumer rates. Rooftop solar even reduces the amount of electricity households need to buy from the utility altogether, directly lowering monthly bills.

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar makes financial sense for consumers. The long-term cost savings mean renewable energy provides not just environmental benefits, but economic benefits as well.

Job Creation

The renewable energy sector is creating jobs at an impressive rate, drastically outpacing that of fossil fuels. According to one report, over the past 3 years renewable energy companies created 500,000 new jobs, compared to about 70,000 jobs lost in fossil fuel companies over the same period (source). The solar industry in particular is booming, employing over 250,000 Americans. As solar continues to expand and become more cost competitive, even more jobs will open up (source). Globally, the renewable energy sector added 13.7 million jobs in 2022, highlighting the massive growth and job creation potential of renewables.

There are several reasons why renewable energy creates more jobs than fossil fuels. First, building and maintaining renewable energy infrastructure like wind turbines and solar panels requires more labor. Second, as the cost of renewables declines, it enables more projects to be built, supporting additional jobs. And third, renewables tend to be more distributed, requiring workers all across the country rather than concentrated in a few regions for fossil fuel extraction and refining. Overall, embracing renewable energy means embracing a sustainable workforce and enjoying the long-term economic benefits.

Energy Independence

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower can reduce a nation’s dependence on imported fossil fuels and increase energy independence and security (Source). The United States imports millions of barrels of oil each day, but expanding domestic renewable energy would allow the country to produce more of its own energy. According to a report from the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar industry could generate over 20% of total U.S. electricity by 2030, displacing imported oil and gas and saving $283 billion in energy costs (Source). With abundant renewable resources like wind and sunshine, the U.S. has the potential to become a net energy exporter if it fully utilizes its renewable energy potential. Energy independence reduces geopolitical risks associated with imported oil and improves national security.

Health Benefits

Switching to renewable energy sources like wind and solar can have significant health benefits by reducing air pollution from burning fossil fuels. According to a Harvard study, air pollution from fossil fuel combustion causes over 200,000 premature deaths in the US each year. Renewable energy can help mitigate this major public health threat.

Burning coal, oil and natural gas releases particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury and other toxic substances into the air we breathe. This leads to asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, birth defects and developmental delays in children. Replacing fossil fuel power plants with clean, renewable energy sources dramatically cuts these harmful emissions.

For example, a 2021 analysis found that increasing renewable electricity to 42% in the Eastern US could prevent over 10,000 premature deaths and save over $100 billion in health impacts annually by 2030. The health benefits of renewable energy are clear. We can build an energy system that powers our lives without powering chronic disease.

Environmental Benefits

Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, geothermal, and hydropower produce little to no global warming emissions (1). In contrast, burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide that contribute significantly to climate change. The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C found that limiting warming to 1.5°C to avoid the worst impacts of climate change requires cutting global anthropogenic CO2 emissions 45% by 2030 and reaching net zero around 2050. This will require rapid development and scaling up of renewable energy around the world (2).

The U.S. Energy Information Administration found that in 2019 energy-related CO2 emissions from renewable sources were 76% lower than emissions from conventional natural gas. On average, producing a unit of electricity from renewable sources emitted between 53% and 92% less CO2 than fossil fuels in 2019 (3). Because renewable energy creates little to no emissions, transitioning to sources like wind, solar and geothermal can significantly reduce carbon pollution from the electricity sector. The International Renewable Energy Agency found that doubling renewable energy’s share in the global energy mix by 2030 could reduce annual CO2 emissions by up to 12 gigatons compared to current plans and policies. This is enough to keep global warming within 2°C and significantly improve chances of limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C (4).

Studies have shown that renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements could provide over 90% of the CO2 emissions reductions needed by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change (5). With growing urgency to address global warming, transitioning to renewable energy is one of the most effective and economical ways to significantly cut emissions and mitigate climate change.

Technological Innovation

Investment in renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal is driving major innovation and technological progress in the energy sector. According to research from the journal ScienceDirect, “technological innovation is a key driver of the transition to renewable energy” (Khan, 2022). As more money flows into renewable technology, improvements are being made that increase efficiency and bring down costs.

For example, advanced solar panel designs and manufacturing techniques have led to dramatic declines in solar pricing over the past decade, making it competitive with fossil fuels (Solarin, 2022). Innovation in wind turbine technology, including larger and more efficient turbine designs, has also driven down the cost of wind energy. According to researchers, continued investment and scale-up of renewable deployment will lead to further cost reductions and performance improvements through learning effects.

In addition to direct technology innovation, renewables are also catalyzing advances in areas like energy storage, smart grids, and demand management that support the integration of variable wind and solar power. The entrance of renewables is driving an exciting wave of innovation that can support the transition to a cleaner energy system.

Consumer Choice

Renewable energy provides consumers more choices when it comes to their electricity generation and supply. Currently, many consumers must purchase electricity from a monopoly utility provider in their area without the option to choose an alternative provider or source of power. Renewable energy policies like net metering allow consumers to install solar panels on their home or business and sell excess power back to the grid. This gives consumers more control over where their electricity comes from.

According to a report from Clean Energy, policies like Georgia’s SB401 Consumer Choice Bill would “improve consumer choice and renewable energy options for all Georgians by specifically providing for third party sales of solar power.”1 Increased consumer choice and competition from renewable sources puts pressure on traditional utilities to diversify their offerings and provide more renewable options.

Additionally, a recent poll in North Carolina found bipartisan support for policies that increase consumer choice and access to renewable energy in the state. As more consumers demand renewable power, it forces change in the electricity market. Overall, the growth of renewable energy gives consumers more options and forces utilities to adapt to meet changing consumer preferences.

Sustainable Growth

Renewable energy plays a crucial role in enabling sustainable economic growth. According to a special issue in Sustainability journal, “Renewable energy and sustainable growth are interconnected as more reliance on renewables can enable sustainable economy” (Source). As countries shift to renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydropower, they reduce dependence on finite fossil fuels, stimulate domestic industries and jobs, and pave the way for long-term prosperity.

Research in The Impact of Renewable Energy on Sustainable Growth explains how renewable energy investment spurs economic growth: “Increasing renewable energy’s share in the energy mix helps raise GDP per capita levels through direct, indirect, and induced effects” (Source). Renewables create jobs in manufacturing, construction, maintenance, and more. Growth in renewables also reduces the risks of oil price volatility. Thus, renewable energy enables more stable, equitable, and environmentally-conscious growth.

Call to Action

There are many ways individual consumers and policymakers can support the expanded use of renewable energy. At the consumer level, we can switch to clean energy providers, install solar panels or other renewable sources at home, and purchase products from companies committed to sustainability. Contacting elected representatives to advocate for pro-renewable policies is also impactful.

Some specific ways policymakers can accelerate the renewable transition include:

  • Establishing national renewable energy targets and implementing supporting policies to achieve them.
  • Phasing out fossil fuel subsidies and establishing long-term, predictable incentive programs for renewables like feed-in tariffs, tax credits, and renewable power standards.
  • Streamlining permitting and siting processes to facilitate faster renewable energy project deployment.
  • Investing in grid modernization and storage technology to accommodate higher renewable penetration.
  • Funding research, development, and demonstration of next-generation renewable technologies.

With smart policies and consumer action, a clean energy future is within reach. By working together, we can reap the many benefits of renewable energy for society.

Similar Posts