Arguments against Renewable Energy: A 2021 Outlook
Renewable energy has gained much popularity in the last couple of years and so, the arguments against it are also on the rise.
Although a movement towards a healthier energy future seems pretty straightforward, there are also multiple issues that need to be addressed.
The benefits of promoting renewable energy are claimed to be energy independence, climate change mitigation, and job creation.
The use of alternative energy sources is a very effective way to improve the state of nature and the environment.
However, not everyone agrees. In this article, we will discuss some of these arguments against alternative energy sources.
Before diving into the arguments against renewable energy, let’s first have a brief overview of renewable energy and its sources.
What is Renewable Energy?
Renewable energy is energy whose reserves are practically inexhaustible. It is the energy from sources that are naturally refilling but the flow is limited.
Alternative energy resources are virtually inexhaustible in duration but the amount of energy that is available per unit of time they produce is limited.
Renewable forms of energy include sunlight, wind, geothermal energy, biomass, and others.
Currently, renewable energy is utilized in the electricity, heating and cooling, utility purposes, and also in transport sectors. Below are some primary sources of renewable energy:
Sources of Renewable Energy
The major sources of renewable energy are:
Biogas is a combustible gas mixture containing a mixture of 50 to 70% methane, CO2, water vapor, and some other components produced from anaerobic fermentation of biomass by bacteria.
Biomass includes manures, starch, plants, and food crops like sugar-cane and corn, etc.
The energy harnessed from water is called hydro energy.
When water gets vaporized by sunlight and gets condensed in the form of clouds, it then turns out as rain or snow over the mountains.
In the hydel power plant, this water runs down with potential energy and converts the potential energy into hydropower.
It is renewable energy that is generated and stored in the core of the earth.
Geothermal heat is the underground heat leftover from the molten rocks and the radioactive decay of materials that were buried in the earth billions of years ago.
It is harnessed using HydroThermal Reservoir, using Hot or Dry Rock, or with the use of Heat Pumps.
The flow of the wind produces kinetic energy then, that kinetic energy helps to rotate the turbine blades, and thus, electricity is generated.
Wind turbines are used to convert wind energy into electricity.
Wind speed and air density are the factors that directly affect the amount of energy generated by a wind turbine.
Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity. PV panels are used to convert sunlight into electricity.
Solar energy is one of the most popular renewable sources of energy. After wind, it is the most used renewable energy around the world.
The converted energy can be stored for later use with the help of various solar storage methods.
Arguments against Renewable energy
Since the use of renewable energy sources is much cleaner and safer than traditional methods.
They carry less environmental pollution and do not leave problems as the non-renewable ones do, such as pollution, health diseases, and water waste, and much more.
Yet there are some arguments that question its ability for the betterment of our needs and economy. Below chart by EIA shows consumption by Energy source in 2020:
- Renewable energy will not fulfill our needs:
Currently, renewable energy sources cover around 8% of the US’s energy consumption and about 14% of the world’s energy needs.
Due to the growing world population and increasing wealth, demand for electricity is rising.
And, also there are geographic limitations, including environmental factors, that could prevent the dependency on renewable sources.
The most commonly used source for electricity production today is coal, 41% of all electricity is produced from coal. Not only, it negatively affects the environment but it is also not sustainable.
Sustainability is determined by three different factors:
- environmental sustainability,
- social sustainability and
- economic sustainability.
Environmental sustainability means that it doesn’t do harm to the environment.
Social sustainability refers to healthy circumstances for workers and decent wages.
When a product is subsidized easily, then it is Economically sustainable.
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind are sustainable as these are not going to end in the foreseeable future.
- Renewables cannot provide sufficient energy:
It is another argument that says that it is difficult to get reliable power from reliable energy as it is intermittent.
Intermittent energy refers to electrical energy that is not continuously available due to external factors that cannot be controlled like weather conditions and geographical location.
Intermittency is an issue at the moment as the technology is expanding, but it can be managed by thinking about the overall energy system. Over-reliance on one renewable technology could result in severe risks.
Renewable energy can meet energy needs in a safe and reliable way.
Energy derived from the sun, the wind, the earth’s heat, water, and the sea has the potential to meet the world’s electricity needs many times over, even allowing for fluctuations in supply and demand.
However, renewable energy cannot be perfect for all locations or in all weather conditions. It will vary depending on the geographical location and seasons. Wind energy performs quite well in coastal areas.
- Renewable energy is not cost-effective:
One of the arguments against alternative energy is the high cost of production.
The total cost of any renewable energy depends on various factors like the fuel used, the cost of capital used to build power plants, the total time which a plant operates, and the amount of power generated at times of peak demand.
Related: How can you earn from Solar Panels?
The cost of energy obtained from fossil fuels does not factor in all the “hidden” costs.
Renewable energy setups do have high upfront costs but the return on investment is quite higher.
However, the upfront cost is also decreasing. Like, the costs of some renewable energy inputs such as PV panels have halved the price since 2008. Also, the capital cost of a solar power plant fell by 22 percent between 2010 and 2013.
In the past five years renewable energy has saved over €1 billion in fossil fuel imports; has reduced CO2 emissions by 12 million tonnes and has not added to consumers’ bills.“ The easiest way to reduce our large-scale carbon footprint is to become a lot more efficient, and there is still a lot of low-hanging fruit that businesses are beginning to recognize.” -Eric Orts Click To Tweet
- Occupy large area:
Renewable energy power plants occupy a large area for installation either in the case of solar power installation or wind energy power plants in comparison to non-renewable energy sources like coal which need just combustion to generate energy.
It is true to some extent but not completely.
As area might not be the concern for the ones who want to install solar for their home.
Usually, for homes, the rooftop is used for solar installation.
Many renewable technologies are scalable. Also, the land which is used for renewable energy projects, like solar power plants or wind farms, can still be used for farming and cattle grazing.
For solar installations, there are also floating solar farms placed on the surface of still water like dams or a reservoir.
- Climate change is a very long-term issue:
Some arguments claim environmental issues like climate change as a long-term problem and claim that we have more other priorities.
Climate change refers to significant, long-term changes in the global climate.
Changes in temperature change the great patterns of wind that bring the monsoons in Asia and rain and snow around the world, making drought and unpredictable weather more common.
This is why scientists have stopped focusing just on global warming and now focus on the larger topic of climate change.
The claim that nothing is happening is very hard to defend against visual, land-based, and satellite data that clearly shows rising average sea and land temperatures and shrinking ice masses.
According to the WHO ( World Health Organisation), air pollution affects 9 out of every 10 people worldwide and the resulting diseases kill approximately 8 million people every year.
Climate change is a global challenge and requires a global solution.
The Predictable Future
Predictions estimate that global energy demand will rise three times by 2035. Also, more than 1.2 billion people around the world still do not have access to electricity.
As the global population continues to increase which is predicted to be nine billion people over the next 50 years, so, the world’s energy demands will increase proportionately.
All life on earth depends on energy. By the coming years, energy demand will double or even triple as the population is growing globally and so our energy dependencies.
So, we need an environment-friendly future of energy.
Non-renewable sources are exhaustible and last in the coming future. Also, the price will get high with the increasing energy demands and decreasing fuels.
It is the right way to combat this problem to adopt renewable energy.
Renewable energy does have some disadvantages. But it has more benefits than drawbacks.
Also, IRENA is compiling data while making renewable energies more readily available and attainable to countries around the world.
With further research and innovation of technologies, renewable resources will further creep into the market, causing a drop in price and a more reliable energy future.
I have discussed the most discussed arguments against renewable energy and also given the fact that clarifies the disagreement. Renewable energy is the future.
In conclusion, it is our responsibility to advance alternative power solutions. However, we should remember that low-cost electricity generation is crucial for the economy. It increases income and employment in all sectors.
It also helps to grow the purchasing power of the consumer and makes exports more competitive.
Renewable energy certainly can supplement conventional power, and its use will likely continue to grow.
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