How Renewable Energy Can Benefit The Environment?

Renewable energy sources like solar, wind, hydroelectric, geothermal and biomass are increasingly being used around the world as alternatives to fossil fuels. Unlike coal, oil and natural gas, renewable energy comes from naturally replenished sources and thus has a much lower environmental impact. The growth of renewable energy has accelerated in recent years as costs have declined dramatically and concern over climate change has increased globally. Major renewable energy sources and their recent expansions include:

  • Solar power from photovoltaic panels, which has expanded over 30% annually in recent years due to plunging panel prices.
  • Wind power from large wind farms, which saw over 60 GW of new capacity added globally in 2017.
  • Hydropower from dammed rivers, which still provides the most renewable electricity globally.
  • Geothermal power plants which tap underground heat sources, mainly used in countries with high volcanic activity.
  • Bioenergy from biological sources like wood, crops and waste, used for power generation, heating and transportation.

As renewable energy continues to achieve economies of scale and fossil fuel sources face increasing environmental regulations, the share of renewables in the global energy mix is projected to grow substantially in the decades ahead.

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Unlike fossil fuels, most renewable energy sources produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions. Burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas releases carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. This causes the greenhouse effect, which warms the planet and disrupts the climate.

In contrast, renewable sources like solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower emit minimal greenhouse gases during their operational lifetime. Even biomass energy emits carbon dioxide when burned, but this is carbon that was recently absorbed from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. So biomass can be considered carbon-neutral.

Widespread use of renewables would significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. The IPCC estimates that transitioning to 80% renewable energy worldwide could help limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Improved Public Health

Switching to renewable energy sources provides significant public health benefits by reducing air pollution. Unlike fossil fuels, most renewables like wind and solar energy don’t emit harmful air pollutants. By displacing coal, oil, and natural gas, they can lead to improved respiratory health and fewer asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, and deaths.

Burning fossil fuels releases particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, mercury, and other toxics into the atmosphere. Exposure to these pollutants is associated with increased hospitalizations, lung cancer, heart disease, asthma attacks, and premature deaths. Children, the elderly, and those with existing health conditions are especially vulnerable. Renewable energy sources don’t produce these pollutants, helping people live longer, healthier lives.

In particular, phasing out coal-fired power plants offers the greatest public health dividends. Coal burning releases toxins directly into nearby communities. Replacing old, inefficient coal plants with renewable energy could prevent thousands of premature deaths and hospital visits each year. Cleaner air translates into direct healthcare savings and improved productivity as fewer workdays are missed due to illness.

Increased Energy Security

Relying on conventional energy sources like oil and coal leaves countries vulnerable to volatile price swings and finite supplies. Many of the world’s leading oil and gas producers are located in geopolitically unstable regions, creating an unreliable and insecure pipeline for import-dependent nations. In contrast, renewable power sources like solar, wind, geothermal and hydro rely on infinite domestic energy inputs that cannot be embargoed. For example, the amount of sun that shines and wind that blows over countries like the United States and China cannot be curtailed by foreign nations. By tapping into these abundant local resources, renewable energy provides a stable, affordable, and indefinite supply of power, bolstering national energy security.

Economic Savings

renewable energy increases energy security and resilience

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydropower can lead to significant economic savings compared to fossil fuels. Fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas can have volatile prices that fluctuate with market conditions and geopolitical events. In contrast, the costs for renewable power have been steadily decreasing as technology improves and adoption expands. Once the initial capital costs of building renewable energy infrastructure are paid off, the ongoing operation and maintenance costs are minimal compared to the continous fuel costs of fossil fuel plants.

At a consumer level, households with rooftop solar panels or enrolled in community solar programs can save money on their electricity bills. Any excess power they generate can even be sold back to the grid for additional income through net metering programs. For utilities and grid operators, renewables provide a free and inexhaustible fuel source, protecting them against fuel price spikes. The integration of more renewables leads to lower wholesale electricity prices as they push more expensive fossil fuel plants out of the market during times of peak generation. Rather than paying for fuel costs, excess renewable energy can even be curtailed or stored using batteries. Overall, transitioning to renewable energy can create more stable and affordable energy for households, businesses, and utilities.

Job Creation

Renewable energy creates a significant number of jobs across various industries and occupational levels. A complete renewable energy system requires many components to be manufactured, transported, installed, operated, and maintained. This extensive value chain leads to wide-reaching job creation.

Manufacturing jobs arise from building things like solar panels, wind turbines, batteries, and electric vehicle parts. Installation jobs come from constructing large-scale solar and wind farms as well as distributed residential and commercial solar and geothermal systems. Maintenance jobs involve keeping renewable energy systems running smoothly for years after installation.

Additional jobs arise indirectly through providing services to renewable energy companies and employees. Examples include accountants, lawyers, IT specialists, administrative assistants, and more. Renewables also create induced jobs through the economic stimulus of wages being spent in communities.

Studies have shown renewable energy to be more labor-intensive than fossil fuels per unit of energy produced. The manufacturing and installation of renewables is relatively labor-intensive, while the extraction and transportation of fossil fuels relies more heavily on mechanization. This results in renewables creating more jobs for each unit of energy delivered.

Transitioning to renewable energy promises to be a net job creator, supporting millions of new jobs globally while maintaining energy system reliability and affordability. Renewable energy brings quality employment to local communities and helps diversify regional economies.

Water Conservation

Many renewable energy technologies are essentially water-free in their electricity generation. Solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind turbines do not use any water to produce electricity. This gives renewables an advantage over conventional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants which can use vast amounts of water for steam and cooling.

Coal and nuclear plants typically withdraw billions of gallons of water on a daily basis for cooling purposes. At times this can put strain on water resources in drought prone regions. The uptake of water-free renewable electricity can greatly reduce water demand and prevent conflicts over water rights.

Hydropower plants depend on water resources of course. However, this does not mean more water is used or evaporated over time. Rather the water passes through turbines and is not consumed in the electricity generation process.

Land Preservation

The infrastructure required for fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas disturbs large areas of land through mining, drilling and transport. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar require far less land usage. For example, a utility-scale solar photovoltaic system requires around 3.5 acres of land per megawatt of energy produced. In comparison, a coal power plant requires at least 20 acres per megawatt. Wind power needs only 0.04 acres per megawatt.

With far less land usage, renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal can help preserve landscapes that would otherwise be used to facilitate fossil fuel extraction and infrastructure. Fragile environments are especially susceptible to damage from mining, drilling, access roads, and waste dumping. Renewable energy technologies allow these lands to be left in their natural state or repurposed for other conservation needs. For example, solar panels or wind turbines could be installed in areas previously zoned for mining or drilling. The overall land footprint is far smaller, reducing environmental impact and preserving natural habitats and ecosystems. There can be co-benefits too, like grazing livestock among solar installations or maintaining conservation areas surrounding wind farms.

Wildlife Protection

Wildlife suffers from many of the traditional energy production methods. For example, coal and natural gas extraction can disrupt habitats and negatively impact animals. Large hydroelectric dams can also harm surrounding ecosystems and alter the flow of rivers, damaging fish populations.

Renewables can avoid or lessen many of these harmful impacts on wildlife. Solar and wind farms require less land to generate the same amount of energy as traditional sources. And their land use tends to be more flexible. With proper siting and planning, wildlife habitats can be avoided.

Renewables can also help curb climate change. Left unchecked, climate change will continue altering habitats and threatening many species. By displacing fossil fuels, renewables reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of a warming planet on vulnerable wildlife.

Overall, transitioning to renewables provides opportunities to generate energy while still protecting delicately balanced ecosystems, something that will benefit both wildlife and people.


In summary, shifting energy generation to renewable sources provides significant environmental benefits. Renewable energy reduces greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, improving public health. Relying more on domestic renewable sources increases energy security and reduces dependence on imported fuels. Renewable energy can also spark economic growth through cost savings, job creation, innovation, and new revenue streams.

As the costs of wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable technologies continue to fall, and energy storage solutions progress, renewables will become increasingly cost competitive with fossil fuels. Government policies like tax credits, research funding, and updated regulations also facilitate renewable energy adoption. Lastly, public concern over environmental issues is driving demand for cleaner energy. For all these reasons, renewable energy is expected to play an ever greater role going forward.

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