This guide outlines why renewable energy is important to our future.
It also outlines the benefits and advantages of renewable energy economically, environmentally, and socially (including health benefits).
Summary – Importance Of, & Benefits & Advantages Of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy will play a significant part in the future of society.
One of the main reasons is the fact that these energy sources don’t face the same depletion and scarcity issues that non renewable energy sources might (although, it’s interesting that some reports indicate that a large scale renewable energy transition can involve the unsustainable use of raw materials, and still requires some fossil fuels)
But, this is only one of many reasons.
Renewable energy has different economic, social (and health), and environmental benefits to consider.
Perhaps two of the biggest issues (apart from depletion of resources) that renewable energy has the potential to help us address are climate change via reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution/air quality via reduced air contaminant pollution
Something that should be noted is that individual types of renewable energy all provide their own set of benefits, and pros and cons.
For example, wind and solar may provide different benefits to hydropower and geothermal.
Furthermore, there can be different types of bioenergy (which is considered a renewable source of energy), and the different types of bioenergy may provide different pros and cons to each other.
So, the different types or energy production methods of an individual renewable energy source need to be considered too.
This guide looks at renewable energy as a whole.
For the purposes of this guide, renewable energy sources are solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal, and wave and tidal energy.
Bioenergy can also be classified as a renewable energy, but not all bioenergy processes can be classified as sustainable.
Nuclear isn’t a renewable energy source, but it does have a relatively clean operational stage with little or zero emissions and air pollution.
Non renewable energy sources generally include fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil.
Why Is Renewable Energy Important?
Renewable energy is important for a number of key reasons.
What makes renewable energy different from non renewable energy is that it generally comes from natural sources and processes, and it won’t deplete after use.
Compare this to non renewable energy like fossil fuels which often need refining processes, and take hundreds of thousands, and even millions of years to regenerate after being mined.
Immediately, we can see that renewable energy sources don’t face the same depletion or scarcity issues that fossil fuels might.
So, they have the ability to provide us with sustainable energy sources going into the future.
But, there’s additional factors that make renewable energy important – the potential economic, environmental, and social benefits they provide.
Economic Benefits & Advantages Of Renewable Energy
Some of the potential economic benefits of renewable energy are:
Job creation (increase the total number of jobs)
Higher quality and safer jobs
A good ROI on investment in renewables
A trickle effect on other areas of the economy
Can reverse the poverty cycle in poorer regions
Trade, import and export benefits
More independence and control over energy, which leads to more independence and control over the economy for individual countries
More competition creating lower electricity prices
Creates additional and different sources of income for individuals
Increase locally sourced services
Saves costs having to address other issues caused by fossil fuel energy (environmental, health, etc)
Save on costs with increased energy efficiency and reduced consumption
Other indirect economic benefits
We’ve already written several guides on the economic impact of renewable energy:
Environmental Benefits & Advantages Of Renewable Energy
How environmentally friendly an energy source can be analysed:
Across the entire lifecycle of the energy source (from extraction, all the way through to use and any waste products)
Or, at a particular stage of the energy process e.g. during operation/during energy production.
Renewable energy in general tends to be more environmentally friendly than non renewable energy, especially fossil fuels, because:
The energy source doesn’t need to be mined (like coal, oil, and natural gas do for example … compare that to sunshine which we get directly from the sun for solar energy)
The energy source doesn’t need to undergo processing or human refinement (like for example refinement of crude oil into gasoline or diesel products)
Greenhouse gas emissions during operation are generally far lower, or zero
Air pollution and air contaminant emissions are generally far lower, or zero
There’s reduced, or zero waste products from energy generation (compare that to coal for example which produces coal ash, which contains heavy metals, just as one example)
Some of the main environmental benefits of renewable energy are:
Addressing Climate Change
Fossil fuels tend to emit carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases during energy generation, and GHGs are thought to be the main cause of climate change and global warming.
Renewable energy sources are clean in their operation with little to no greenhouse gases emitted.
Addressing Air Pollution
Fossil fuels emit an array of air contaminants, which degrade air quality (the air that humans breathe in – especially around cities and heavily populated areas).
Renewable energy does not pollute the air during operation.
Other environmental benefits of renewable energy can include:
Addressing Water Pollution
Both mining of fossil fuels, and the discharge from power plants (including heavy metals and other toxic chemicals) can pollute the water.
Renewable energy can severely reduce water pollution in these regards.
Addressing Land Degradation
Mining of fossil fuels can cause land degradation, and other land issues.
Address Waste Pollution
Wastes from fossil fuels like coal ash can compose a large and toxic % of a country’s waste stream.
Renewables have little to no waste
Provide Better Ecosystems For Our Wildlife
Water and air pollution, as well as the clearing of land for mining, are not good for the ecosystems that wildlife live in.
Address Ocean Acidification and Warming
Side effects of carbon emissions.
Reduce Acid Rain
Aside effect of air pollution.
Other Environmental Benefits
There are sure to be other indirect environmental benefits of using renewable energy not mentioned above.
In addition to these environmental issues, the mining of precious metals (and their scarcity/depletion), and recycling energy storage batteries (from electric cars and for electricity energy storage) in the future may become bigger environmental issues. It’s interesting that some reports indicate that a large scale renewable energy transition can involve the unsustainable use of raw materials, and still requires some fossil fuels)
Social (& Health) Benefits & Advantages Of Renewable Energy
Renewable energy sources:
Are some of the least dangerous and most safe forms of energy generation for humans. Outdoor air pollution is one of the biggest causes of health problems and increased mortality rates in some cities and countries. Using renewable energy sources can not only improve our health, but also decrease the number of energy workplace accidents
Can put less strain on our health systems
Can provide better and higher quality jobs compared to fossil fuels
Can reduce the political and power based wars that are fought over oil and fossil fuels
Can give energy sovereignty to less powerful States and countries
Can reach remote and rural areas, and help lift the quality of life in societies and countries worldwide
Other (Miscellaneous) Benefits & Advantages Of Renewable Energy
– Save water (which is a precious resource) in energy generation
Fossil fuel plants like coal plants use a lot of water in cooling towers and for other applications.
Renewables tend to be far more water efficient.
– Renewable energy seems to have a lot more potential left to increase performance and energy capabilities (to provide more benefits to society) with further technological breakthroughs compared to fossil fuels
– Renewable energy can be portable
– Renewable energy can be used on an individual, domestic and large scale commercial/utility level – can be used as part of, or away from the grid. Lots of flexibility
– In the future, we might consider the role and impact Artificial Intelligence technology and systems can play in more sustainably using or maximizing renewable energy. There could be improvement here
Further Resources On Renewable Energy