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In this guide, we’ll be looking at renewable vs non-renewable energy, the different types and how we can use it to fight climate change.
Read Time : 3 mins
There are a number of benefits to using renewable energy sources, but what exactly is it? In this guide, we’ll be looking at renewable vs non-renewable energy, the different types and how we can use it to fight climate change.
According to NASA, in 2020, Earth’s global average surface temperature tied with 2016 as the year’s warmest year on record at 1.02ºC, despite the significant reduction in traffic and emissions due to the Coronavirus lockdowns around the world. This shows that a lot more needs to be done in order to fight climate change and protect the planet from the harmful effects of global warming.
Thankfully, renewable energy is one of the greatest tools we have to fight against climate change and, unlike fossil fuels, won’t run out.
Fossil fuels are a type of energy source that include coal, oil, and natural gas. Millions of years ago, they were plants and other organisms. Decomposed and trapped beneath sediment and rock, these prehistoric organisms formed what we now know as the carbon-rich fossil fuels that provide our electricity, heat our homes and power our transportation.
When these fossil fuels are burned, greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide are released which then trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere, making them the number one contributors to global warming and climate change.
Not only do we need to consider reducing our usage of fossil fuels for the sake of our planet, it is also important to find alternative energy sources as fossil fuels are non-renewable. This means that they will eventually run out and, according to Octopus Energy, if we continue to burn fossil fuels at our current rate, it is estimated that all of our resources will be depleted by 2060.
A renewable energy source is one that is sustainable, meaning it doesn’t run out. The most common renewable energy sources include
Sunlight is one of the most abundant and accessible energy sources. Did you know that the amount of solar energy that reaches the earth’s surface in one hour is more than our total energy requirements for an entire year?
Whilst this might seem like the ideal renewable energy source, there are factors which interfere with how much solar energy we can actually use including the time of day, season and geographical location. However, this is still a very popular method of powering UK homes through the use of solar panels on roofs.
Wind is a copious source of clean energy and wind farms are becoming familiar sights. Electricity is created when the wind turns the propeller like blades of the turbine around a rotor which in turn spins a generator. This electricity is then fed into the National Grid. Unfortunately for homeowners and small businesses, whilst there are some domestic wind turbine systems available, they are not yet suitable for every type of property.
Hydro power is one of the most commercially developed renewable energy sources and tends to be more reliable than solar and wind energy and allows electricity to be stored for future use when demand reaches a peak. By using a large reservoir in combination with a dam or barrier, a controlled flow of water is created that drives a turbine, generating electricity. Similar to wind energy, hydro energy is more viable as a commercial energy source but in some circumstances, it can be used for domestic generation.
Tidal energy is actually a form of hydro energy, however, it uses twice-daily today currents to power the generators. While tidal flow isn’t constant, it is very predictable, making it incredibly reliable.
Geothermal energy is one of the most domestically developed renewable energy sources, both generating electricity and heating homes directly. Despite having the potential to generate 100 GW, which is enough to cover the heating needs of the entire UK, this source of renewable energy is used far too little. The heating and electricity is generated by tapping into the natural underground reservoirs of steam and hot water. This type of energy source is used widely across countries such as Iceland, where geothermal energy is more freely available than in the UK.
Biomass energy is produced through the conversion of solid fuel made from plant materials to electricity. Whilst this process still involves burning organic materials, it is significantly cleaner, more energy efficient and affordable.
Renewable energy has the potential to provide the energy we need without producing all the harmful effects that fossil fuels do, minimising carbon pollution, global warming and climate change.
Because renewable energy sources aren't burned like fossil fuels, they don’t release pollutants such as carbon dioxide, making them much cleaner and helping to keep the environment healthy. Renewable energy is also, well, renewable meaning it cannot be depleted.
As technology advances, the cost of using renewable energy is decreasing, making it much more affordable. Not only are they becoming more affordable to implement, but running and maintenance costs are generally low too.
With the demand for more trained technicians to maintain and fix the equipment as renewable energy becomes more popular, it also has the potential to create more jobs than highly mechanised fossil fuel plants.
Despite the cost for setting up renewable energy plants decreasing, it still remains somewhat high and requires a great amount of diligent planning and implementation.
For example, building dams for hydro energy requires a lot of money and maintenance expenses.
Even renewable energies such as solar and wind need large amounts of land to produce similar quantities of energy to the burning of fossil fuels.
Many renewable energy sources are also heavily reliable on certain conditions such as the weather, season, time of day etc, making them less reliable and constantly available compared with fossil fuels. For example, solar only works effectively during the day when there is plenty of sunlight and wind turbines require enough wind in order to generate a decent amount of electricity.
Non-renewable energy, or fossil fuels have been powering and heating our homes, buildings and transport for thousands of years and are incredibly reliable. This also means that most power plants, vehicles and industrial plants are build around using them.
Non-renewable energy also doesn’t rely on certain conditions such as the weather, season, time of day etc… making them much more readily available to use.
Despite non-renewable energy releasing harmful emissions into the atmosphere, nowadays, technology is advancing and many appliances are becoming much more efficient than in recent years, meaning significantly less harm is being done than in the past.
Non-renewable energy is just that: non-renewable. This means there is a limited supply and they will one day run out and according to a number of energy experts, this is expected to happen around 2060- just under forty years away!
Fossil fuels also release harmful emissions into the atmosphere when burned, contributing significantly to global warming and climate change. The process of mining for these fossil fuels also causes a great amount of damage, from strip mining to accidental oil spills, there are a large number of risks involved.
Discuss how this may benefit customers' energy bills moving forward.
With such advancements in technology over the past decade, a future where nearly all of our electricity comes from renewable energy sources such as the sun, wind and water doesn’t seem so unrealistic anymore.
Not to mention, we’ve already made significant progress in implementing these sources. Since 2004, renewable energy in the UK has multiplied by ten, with 37% of our electricity coming from renewable sources. Additionally, Scotland produces 90% of its electricity from renewable sources.
We can now see a future where almost all our electricity in the UK comes from climate-friendly energy sources like the wind, wave and sun.
We're already making progress. Since 2004, renewable energy in the UK has grown ten-fold, and 37% of electricity is now from renewable sources. What's more, Scotland produces 90% of electricity from renewable sources.
According to Friends of the Earth, making the shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources will be a good value for UK taxpayers as the price of renewable energy is rapidly decreasing. Solar costs have dropped by 90% globally since 2009 and wind and solar have now been found to be the most affordable sources of new electricity.
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