Katie King challenges some of the myths surrounding renewable energy.
There have been major advancements in renewable energy over the past decade, and the evolution has already surpassed expectations.
Renewable energy is increasingly becoming a day-to-day energy source on a whole scale of levels, from residential houses running off domestic heat pumps, to Google’s impressive commitment to running its global operations on 100% renewable energy.
Renewable energy is now more real than it has ever been, and a clean energy revolution is well underway as we have reported previously on The Hub, with news that more of the country’s energy has been supplied from renewable sources.
Yet despite rapid progress, there remains considerable misinformation and confusion surrounding the benefits and capacities of renewable energy. We aim to separate fact from fiction, and to help set the record straight to illustrate just how much our world can benefit from renewable energy.
Renewable sources offer a far cleaner and more sustainable option for energy supply
Myth 1: Climate change is a hoax
It is true that there are still some people who simply do not believe that climate change is happening, or that it is a significant problem that will impact us all on a global scale.
However, there is simply no denying that climate change is in fact an increasingly severe universal issue.
Perhaps the most unambiguous evidence is the rise of mercury levels around the world, with research consistently revealing that the global surface temperature is creeping up every year at more than a natural rate; NASA has found that 16 out of the 17 warmest years on record have occurred since 2001.
Although the reports we hear of an increase of 0.6 degrees Celsius may not sound like a significant rise, if sustained it’s a big enough change to considerably damage coral reefs, cause an increase in extreme weather, and see a rise in other devastating impacts on the natural environment.
There are visible signs of climate change everywhere, from the melting ice caps, more extreme weather patterns, changes in migratory patterns of animals and rising sea temperatures. Therefore the myth that climate change isn’t happening is one that needs to be set straight quickly.
Myth 2: Renewable energy is bad for the environment
To say that renewable energy is bad for the environment is perhaps a little extreme. As with anything, there will be some negative side effects, however, these impacts are, of course, considered and avoided or minimised through environmental impact assessments, in a similar way to any other development project.
A common concern with wind power is its damaging impact on birds and bats caused by collisions with turbines and changes in air pressure. Environmental assessments examine local bird population and migratory patterns to avoid this problem.
Other problems include the noise and visual pollution from wind farms and the need for large areas of land and volumes of water required for some solar power plants. These are all problems shared with other non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear and coal plants.
So although renewable energy sources may present some negative environmental impacts, these are all considered in the design and development of renewable energy schemes.
Looking at the bigger picture, the impacts on the environment and the future of our planet far outweigh the negatives; renewable solutions are a much cleaner and more sustainable option than conventional fossil fuels.
Myth 3: Renewable technology is too expensive
Thanks to technological advancements and increased outputs, the cost of renewable energy sources has significantly declined over the years.
According to Goldman Sachs, the cost of wind and solar power has dropped by up to 60% since 2009, and is set to decrease by a further 40% in the next 10 years.
Research even predicts that renewable energy will emerge with lower costs than current energy sources by the end of the decade, and forecasts a $3 trillion investment in wind and solar power over the next 20 years.
On a smaller scale, domestic renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly affordable; heat pump technology and solar panels amongst others are all becoming popular choices in UK homes over traditional sources such as fossil fuels.
Besides, fossil fuels are finite resources and, in line with the rules of economics, we can expect to see prices rise as supply dwindles, resulting in many opting for alternatives, such as the equipment benefiting most from renewable energy like heat pumps.
Myth 4: Renewable energy can’t supply electricity 24/7
It’s a logical assumption that solar power only works when there’s sunlight or that wind energy only works when it’s windy. Whilst renewable energy sources are intermittent, the fact that this is such a clear hurdle has led to great innovation and developments to overcome the problem and provide adaptable and consistent energy.
A combination of intelligent technologies provides solutions allowing renewable power sources to be more flexible and provide energy whenever it is needed. Energy consumption can be tracked and managed, power supply can be flexible depending on demand, and energy can be reliably stored and used when required.
Understanding and believing
If we want to stand a chance of tackling climate change before it’s too late, we need everyone to understand and believe the severity of the problem we are facing and the potential detrimental impacts to our planet.
Although renewable energy is increasingly becoming a popular choice, it can be a complex topic to understand, particularly as it is constantly developing and evolving.
What is clear, however, is that renewable sources offer a far cleaner and more sustainable option for energy supply and will play a key role in the global fight against climate change.
Katie King, MBA is founder of social media experts Zoodikers @zoodikers and @AIinFM; Director of Transformation @DigitalLeadersA; and a keynote speaker on AI and social media @TEDx