Is renewable energy good, or bad? And, why?
In this guide, we outline the reasons on both sides, along with an overall summary of the role of renewable energy in society now and in the future.
Summary – The Good & Bad Of Renewable Energy
The good and bad of renewable energy centres around what renewable energy can offer us in comparison to fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and other types of energy (although, some energy mixes may benefit from a mixture of different types of energy over the short or even long term).
There are certainly going to be short term problems and challenges integrating renewable energy into our energy systems, and transitioning over to majority renewable energy supplied electricity and other forms of energy (such as in transport and heating), but there’s some evidence to suggest that the benefits/good parts of renewable energy outweigh the bad aspects over the mid to long term.
Overall, each region, city, State, and country will have different approaches to their uptake and inclusion of renewable energy in their electricity and energy mixes because the variables and factors facing each are different
Why Is Renewable Energy Good?
It’s worth reading the full guide, but as a short summary:
– Sustainable Energy
Renewable energy can renew itself quickly and might not face the depletion or scarcity of resources issues that fossil fuels might in the future.
This makes it a potentially more sustainable energy source.
Having said that – some reports indicate that large scale renewable energy transitions can be unsustainable in terms of raw material use to build solar panels and wind turbines, and also because fossil fuel is required still.
– Economic Benefits
There’s many potential economic benefits to renewable energy, but something a lot of people might not know is that renewable energy is projected to create more total jobs in the future than fossil fuels.
We may also save a lot of money spent addressing other environmental, social, and health related issues that dirtier forms of energy contribute to.
– Environmental Benefits
There’s many potential environmental benefits, but perhaps the biggest two are reducing greenhouse gas emissions (and helping address climate change and global warming), and reducing air contaminants (helping address outdoor air pollution and reduction of air quality).
– Social & Health Benefits
There’s several potential social and health benefits, but perhaps the biggest benefits are the reduction of air pollution leading to decreased air quality related health problems and mortality rates, and the subsequent decreased costs and burden on the health system.
– Other Benefits
Renewable energy may have other direct and indirect benefits.
One example is the water that we may save switching from some types of fossil fuel plants (that use water for cooling and other applications) to some types of renewables.
Water is a precious resource we need to use efficiently in the future.
Why Is Renewable Energy Bad?
We’ve discussed the drawbacks to renewable energy in several guides across the site, with a couple of examples being:
Some drawbacks may only be short term, such as costs for renewables reducing over time, or technological breakthroughs and other solutions solving some problems over time.
Some drawbacks can be longer term or permanent.
Potential drawbacks to renewable energy can include:
Research and development costs
Requirement to upgrade existing infrastructure, and build new infrastructure (and power grids and power lines)
Reliance on government support (at least in the short term) – although, it should be noted that fossil fuels receive heavy subsidies as well, and have done so for at least the last 100 years
Decentralization presenting siting and transmission issues
Intermittency and variability
Impact on electricity prices
Impact on a competitive market, and especially on demand and supply
Need for other energy sources, or dispatchable energy sources to make the entire system flexible and diverse
Need for expensive battery energy storage to make the entire system flexible and diverse
Political, social, cultural and institutional barriers
Solving penetration into other sectors like transport and heating/cooling (currently, electricity and the power sector is the only sector where renewables has penetrated heavily)
Difficulty of market entry
How established fossil fuels and other energy sources already are in the energy market
Misconception of renewables
Environmental problems with each renewables energy source
+ Other potential issues and drawbacks/problems
Other Resources On The Good & Bad Of Renewable Energy