What Are 2 Reasons Why Renewable Energy Is Important?

Renewable Energy Protects the Environment

What are 2 reasons why renewable energy is important?

Generating electricity from renewable sources, such as wind, solar, and hydro power, produces significantly fewer air pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas. According to the EPA, renewable energy results in lower emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury compounds – pollutants that contribute to smog, acid rain, respiratory illness and other public health impacts. The EPA finds that increasing our renewable energy generation to provide 30% of U.S. electricity by 2030 could prevent thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of asthma attacks annually (1).

By displacing the burning of fossil fuels, renewable energy is a key strategy for reducing the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change. The United Nations highlights that transitioning to renewable energy sources is vital for meeting global climate goals and keeping global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2). Renewables avoid the massive amounts of carbon dioxide released from extracting and burning coal, oil and natural gas. The IPCC and other scientific reports find replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy to be the most impactful way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change (3).

Deploying renewable energy can also benefit natural habitats, ecosystems and biodiversity compared to fossil fuels. Renewables allow generation of electricity without extracting fuels or developing land. And they avoid the water and air pollution impacts that mining, drilling and burning fossil fuels can have on local plant and animal life (4).

(1) https://www.epa.gov/statelocalenergy/local-renewable-energy-benefits-and-resources
(2) https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/raising-ambition/renewable-energy
(3) https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/benefits-renewable-energy-use
(4) https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy13osti/57933.pdf

Renewable energy promotes energy independence

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like wind and solar allows the United States to become more energy independent by reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, renewable power can help the country achieve “energy independence and security” (1). Currently, the U.S. imports millions of barrels of oil per day, but expanding domestic renewable energy would cut demand for those imports. Producing more energy locally from wind, solar, and other renewables diversifies the energy supply and increases energy security. Relying heavily on imported oil leaves the country vulnerable to global price shocks and supply disruptions caused by wars, embargoes, and other geopolitical factors out of U.S. control. In contrast, renewable energy sourced at home is insulated from these external forces. Greater energy independence gives the U.S. more control over its own energy prices and supply.

Renewable energy saves money in the long run

One of the key benefits of renewable energy is that it can save money over time compared to fossil fuels. After the initial investment in building renewable energy systems like solar panels or wind turbines, the ongoing cost of fuel is extremely low or zero. As noted in a report by the UN, “Amid climbing fossil fuel prices, investments in renewables in 2021 saves US$55 billion in global energy generation costs in 2022” (https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/renewables-cheapest-form-power).

With renewable energy, you avoid the volatility and uncertainty of fossil fuel prices. A analysis by the Center for American Progress found that “Investments in clean electricity, electrification, and efficiency will save the average household $500 annually in reduced energy costs” (https://www.americanprogress.org/article/clean-energy-will-lower-household-energy-costs/). Renewables provide a hedge against unpredictable swings in the global energy market.

Looking at the total lifetime cost of an energy asset, including upfront capital and ongoing fuel and maintenance, renewables like wind and solar are very competitive. According to a report from IRENA, “Global power sector saved fuel costs of USD 520 billion last year thanks to renewables” (https://www.irena.org/News/pressreleases/2023/Aug/Renewables-Competitiveness-Accelerates-Despite-Cost-Inflation). By locking in low renewable energy prices over decades, organizations can realize substantial cost savings.

Renewable energy creates jobs and economic growth

Transitioning to renewable energy drives massive investment and development in new industries and technologies. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), nearly 500,000 jobs were added in renewable energy worldwide in 2021, bringing the total number of jobs to 12.7 million. The vast majority of these new jobs were in Asia, especially China and India.[1]

Renewable energy creates domestic jobs in manufacturing, construction, operations, and maintenance that can’t be outsourced or moved overseas. Jobs are also created indirectly through increased local spending and the supply chain. The US Department of Energy notes that since 2010, solar jobs have grown by over 200% while wind jobs have grown by nearly 120%.[2]

The renewable energy industry attracts significant private sector capital for new projects and developments. In 2021, renewable energy accounted for 90% of all new power generation capacity added globally.[3] This drives economic activity and creates skilled jobs across many industries.

Renewable energy improves public health

Transitioning to renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and geothermal can significantly improve public health by reducing air and water pollution from fossil fuels. Burning coal, oil, and natural gas releases particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, mercury, and other harmful pollutants into the atmosphere. These emissions contribute to asthma, lung cancer, heart disease, and other respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses that lead to increased hospitalizations and workdays lost due to sickness.

According to a Harvard study, renewable electricity and energy efficiency measures could prevent over 3,000 premature deaths in the United States every year while reducing healthcare costs by billions of dollars. By displacing fossil fuels, renewable energy improves air quality which directly enhances public wellbeing.

Renewable energy increases access to electricity

Clean and renewable energy has played a crucial role in expanding access to electricity globally, especially in developing countries. According to the IEA, almost 1 billion people gained access to electricity in developing Asia between 2010 and 2022, largely due to distributed renewable energy systems.

Renewable energy technologies like solar panels and small wind turbines allow for modular and decentralized electricity generation. These off-grid and mini-grid systems can provide affordable and reliable electricity to rural or remote areas that previously lacked access. In many developing regions, extending the central grid is challenging and costly, so stand-alone renewable systems offer a practical solution.

The World Bank reports that while progress has been made, gaps remain in universal electricity access globally. Renewable mini-grids and off-grid solar systems will be essential to providing sustainable energy access for all. The UN states that renewables can help the least developed countries leapfrog the limitations of traditional grids and achieve universal access through the energy transition.

Renewable energy enhances sustainability

Renewable energy sources enhance sustainability because they rely on resources that replenish naturally and won’t run out. Sources like solar, wind, geothermal and hydro power utilize energy flows that are constantly renewed in nature. This avoids the depletion of finite resources like oil, gas and coal that cannot be replaced (https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/sustainability/chapters/ch06/ch06-p10.asp). Relying more on renewable resources aligns with circular economy principles where natural cycles are supported rather than disrupted (Principles of Sustainable Energy Systems, Third Edition). Unlike fossil fuels which are extracted and burned, renewable energy systems take advantage of ongoing natural processes like sunlight, wind, water flows, and heat emitted from the earth’s core. This supports a sustainable energy system capable of meeting current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Renewable energy improves resilience

Renewable energy sources like solar and wind improve resilience and reliability of the electrical grid. This is because renewable energy is decentralized and distributed across the grid, rather than centralized in a few large power plants.

Fossil fuels face potential disruptions in supply chains – issues like pipeline shutdowns, tanker delays, or mine accidents can quickly affect output. But renewables generate power at the point of use, removing dependencies on fuel supply infrastructure. Solar panels and wind turbines can operate independently to power communities even if the larger grid goes down.

Studies by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) have shown that higher levels of renewable energy lead to more resilient and reliable grids. The decentralized and modular nature of renewables provides redundancy that strengthens the overall system. For example, rooftop solar on homes and businesses keeps portions of communities energized during grid disruptions caused by severe weather.

According to an NREL report, “A resilient power grid withstands, responds to, and recovers rapidly from major power disruptions as its designers, planners, and operators anticipate, prepare for, adapt to, and withstand a full range of threats.” The decentralization and geographic distribution of renewable sources inherently improve resilience in alignment with this definition.

Renewable energy enjoys broad public support

Polls consistently show high approval ratings for renewable energy among the American public. According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, 69% of Americans say developing renewable energy should be a higher priority for the country than expanding the production of oil, coal and natural gas. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar are seen as safe, clean, and forward-looking technologies that represent the future. This public support continues to build political momentum for renewable energy. A 2021 poll found 93% of American voters say clean energy is important to the country’s future.

Renewable energy is the future

Renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power have seen massive growth in recent years as costs have plummeted. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), global renewable power capacity is expected to grow by a massive 2,400 gigawatts between 2022-2027, equal to the entire current power capacity of China (IEA). The IEA also predicts renewable capacity additions will hit a record high of over 440 gigawatts in 2023 alone, the largest single year increase ever (IEA).

This exponential growth is being driven by rapidly falling costs as technologies improve. According to projections, solar PV module prices are expected to drop a further 60% by 2030, while wind turbine prices could fall an additional 25-30% (Earth.org). As a result, renewables are becoming the cheapest source of new power generation in most of the world.

Governments and corporations are also investing heavily in renewable power to reduce emissions and reach net zero climate targets. The costs of wind, solar and batteries are expected to fall so dramatically in the coming decades that renewables will play a pivotal role in decarbonizing the global energy system.

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