Thursday, 21 August 2014

Renewable Energy: The Game Changer.

The energy sector contributes the largest proportion of greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Burning of oil, coal and gas is pushing our Earth in deeper ecological debt than ever before. Most people are under the assumption that we can just go on looking for more fossil fuel reserves- mine and dig till there is nothing left. But advocating something like this would have devastating and irreversible impacts on our biodiversity.

The topic of our looming energy crisis although daunting, does have a solution. Renewable energy comprises of solar, wind, hydro-power, geothermal, bioenergy and ocean energy. These sources are available this very moment around us and can provide the answer to all of our energy needs. Did you know that the Sun provides enough energy in one hour to provide all of our energy demands for a whole year? The untapped potential of these resources is infinite, however the main question that lies before us is how to harness this energy and utilise it for all our needs.

Although renewable energy is taking off in a big way- mainly due to rising fuel costs, a drop in costs of technology and carbon pricing, there are a lot of political and practical barriers blocking them from reaching their full potential. The political consensus on the matter is different for each nation across the world. Needless to say, the countries taking the lead in this regard and not sinking in climate change denial, will soon find themselves at a significant advantage over the rest. Think Iceland, Germany, Denmark or Spain. Don't get me wrong, there are much smaller and weaker nations too who have taken up renewable energy and can put the G20 to shame. Take Bhutan for example. Not only are 97% of its commercial activities fuelled by hydroelectricity, the entire backbone of the country's economy is based on exporting renewable energy. Producing much more energy than it needs, Bhutan exports close to 75% of its power generation to India.

The advantages of adopting renewable energy are endless. Electricity generation in Australia, which is mainly done through the burning of coal, accounts for about 37% of the country’s emissions. In contrast, renewable sources produce little to nil greenhouse gas emissions- this is after accounting for their entire lifecycle processes such as manufacturing, operations, maintenance and so on. The inexhaustible nature of these resources can provide us with the security of having enough energy to sustain our needs many times over. Furthermore, there are also economic benefits involved. In contrast to the fossil fuel industry which is primarily mechanized, the renewable energy industry has the potential to create much more jobs for communities since it is more labour intensive. Besides the initial investment required to build renewable facilities, their actual operations can be done at a very low cost. Thus they can offer affordable energy and stable energy prices over a period of time. However, governments have a major role to play in this regard. It is imperative that they provide the necessary incentives needed for a mass up-take of renewable energy technologies.

Renewable energy sources such as solar and wind can also help build a more resilient energy system. This is because the distributed systems are spread out over such large geographical areas, that electrical failures due to bad weather in one region will not lead to power failure in another. In addition, these two sources require basically no water to run their facilities, reducing the risk of water pollution and health risks that are otherwise associated with coal mining and natural gas drilling. The health benefits that come with adopting renewable energy include lower risks of lung cancer, cardiac dangers, allergies and many more. What’s not to love?

Renewable energy is the answer. Whether it's the energy crisis, whether it's reducing our collective ecological footprint, whether it's improving the quality of the environment we live in or whether it's a strategy to meet a nation's emission targets. The barriers blocking the effective implementation of achieving the energy efficiency renewables offer, are largely political and not technological. Nevertheless, let that not stop you as an individual, community or a business to utilise the benefits that come with adopting them. Let's not make renewable energy a lost opportunity and have the environmental vision to secure a greener future for us and our future generations!


  1. Well written. What are the possibilities and challenges to start and work with creating renewable energy on a small scale?

  2. Thanks Vinay. Small-scale renewable energy has a lot of potential. It varies of course, depending upon the renewable energy of your choice and the geographical location. The major barriers largely remain political. For instance, India has a lot of potential for solar power generation. The government needs to provide the necessary subsidies to encourage businesses/individuals to make the switch. However, it cannot be denied that besides the initial costs of setting up something like a rooftop solar panel, over its lifetime it will give you much higher economic returns than say, diesel power generation. Rising fuel costs and lowering prices for renewable technology definitely predict the coming of green energy in a big way.