Renewable energy—commonly referred to as “clean” or “green” energy— has long been hailed as one the most efficient solutions to combat current global warming trends. While the main objective of switching to a clean energy economy is to minimize pollution and cause less harm to the environment, the benefits of clean energy go far beyond that.
That being said, it would only seem sensible to develop a reliance on clean energy as much as is possible. Global warming emissions are one of the most worrying consequences of current energy production methods (electricity production alone accounts for more than a third of all U.S. emissions), so incorporating renewable sources of energy—which produce little to no carbon emissions—more thoroughly into our grid would allow for a significant decrease of these dangerous emissions. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted a study that determined global warming emissions could potentially be reduced by 81 percent by the year 2050 if we were to continue our transition to a clean energy-dependent economy.
The use of renewable energy also requires the addition of manpower and thus fosters job creation. Clean energy is one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the United States. A recent report published by the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that solar and wind jobs are actually growing at a rate 12 times as fast as the rest of the US economy. Furthermore, the Department of Energy’s 2017 Energy and Employment Report suggests that the solar industry now employs more people than coal, oil, and gas combined.
But clean energy is not only growing in the US. A recent report by the United Nations and Bloomberg shows that countries like Japan and the UK spent upwards of $20 billion on renewable energy in 2015 (the US invested $40 billion that same year.) However, these amounts are dwarfed by China, who spent $103 billion—making it the world’s biggest investor in renewable technology. Other countries like Chile, Brazil, Germany, and South Africa also invested billions on clean energy over the past couple of years, proving that it is an industry certain to drive global economic growth in the future.
Despite its many advantages, there are some drawbacks to using clean energy on a large scale. To begin with, clean energy instruments such as solar collectors, hydro generators, and wind turbines rely solely on the weather, which is an ever changing variable. Moreover, it requires a larger quantity of clean energy plants to produce the same amount of energy we get from a lesser amount of traditional fossil fuel plants. Additionally, the technology required to implement clean energy practices is not always easily accessible in developing areas of the world.
Undoubtedly, the energy industry is currently in a state of constant evolution and development, but as new technology is introduced, changes to energy production will be inevitable. However, a balanced combination of energy sources seems like the most sensible solution for now.
By Robyn Forbes