Renewable Energy Economy
The latest science confirms that the threat of climate change is even worse than was previously thought. At the same time public opinion polls around the world show overwhelming public support for positive action to combat climate change.
It has been calculated that for just $1.4 billion, renewable energy could be supplied to one million schools and healthcare centers, serving some 600 million people. The total cost of getting renewable energy to the world's poorest two billion people is estimated to be less than half of the more than US$500 billion that is likely to be invested over the next decade in fossil fuel power stations and infrastructure in poorer countries.
Wind power is already a significant source of energy in many parts of the world. It can supply 10% of the world’s electricity within two decades.
Solar power has been growing in a global capacity by 33% annually. Greenpeace and industry research shows that with some government support, the solar industry could supply electricity to over two billion people globally in the next 20 years.
By 2040, solar photovoltaics could supply nearly 25% of global electricity demand.
A report conducted by global financial analysts KPMG shows that solar power would become cost competitive with traditional fossil fuels if the production of photovoltaic panels was increased to 500 megawatts a year.
There Are a Variety of Renewable Energy Sources…
Most renewable energy comes either directly or indirectly from the sun. Sunlight, or solar energy, can be used directly for heating and lighting homes and other buildings, for generating electricity, and for hot water heating, solar cooling, and a variety of commercial and industrial uses.
The sun’s heat also drives the wind, whose energy is captured with wind turbines. Other indirect products of solar energy are hydroelectric power and biomass.
Geothermal energy taps the earth’s internal heat for a variety of uses, including electric power production, and the heating and cooling of buildings. Ocean energy comes from a number of sources. In addition to tidal energy, there is the energy of the ocean’s waves, which are driven by both the tides and the winds. The sun also warms the surface of the ocean more than the ocean depths, creating a temperature difference that can be used as an energy source. All these forms of ocean energy can be used to produce electricity.
Hydrogen is the most abundant element on the earth. But it doesn’t occur naturally as a gas. It’s always combined with other elements, such as with oxygen to make water. Once separated from another element, hydrogen can be burned as a fuel or converted into electricity. More than 100 fuel cells large enough to power small buildings or neighborhoods have been commercially produced and deployed throughout the world. It is reasonable to expect almost every power-producing device in the world to be replaced by fuel cell devices over the next 50–80 years. The real concern with hydrogen fuel cells is how the hydrogen will be split. If nuclear energy or fossil fuel-based energy is used to split the hydrogen, we are not achieving a sustainable energy resource. Fortunately renewable sources of energy can power fuel cells. The European Union is leading the way in making it more technically and economically feasible to power fuel cells with renewable energy sources.
Renewable Energy Resources
For more information on renewable energy technologies, please visit the Rocky Mountain Institute website.
National Renewable Energy Lab website offers case studies.
Many international campaigning groups are working to empower citizens to take action against climate change. Visit www.greenpeace.org
What You Can Do
You can help begin the transition away from fossil fuels by using renewable energy to meet your own power needs.
You may be able to purchase green energy from a local green power company. If this is not an option, consider purchasing a renewable energy system such as solar photovoltaics (PV) or wind for your home or business.
Also, reducing your personal energy use is the easiest and most effective way to help curb global warming. You can do this by:
- Turning down the temperature on your refrigerator, your washing machine, and your water heater;
- Using compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use one fourth of the energy of conventional light bulbs and will save you money in the long term;
- Insulating your home to ensure that heat or air conditioning is not escaping through windows and cracks;
- Walking, biking, or using public transportation whenever possible;
- Using efficient showerheads; and
- Purchasing appliances that are the most energy efficient you can afford.
Want to know more about how you can use energy more efficiently? Visit these websites:
SafeClimate for Business (U.S. specific)
The Power Scorecard (U.S. specific)
Or be politically active — political action can take many forms. It can mean supporting a public official who supports renewable energy or educating people about the problem of global warming.
You could also write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about energy and global warming, or form a group in your community to discuss the problem and call for action on a local level.