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January 24, 2019

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Renewable Energy: The Way to Reverse the Damage We Have Caused to Mother Earth

Burning matter in order to produce the energy needed for heating, cooking, lighting or powering machinery has been the principal method used by us, humans. Lately, a shift from burning things for energy production to harvesting it can be observed and this is due to 4 major technological advancements that enable the decarbonisation of our households and vehicles.

 

 Source: Ensia

 

1. Renewable forms of energy have become more cost effective than fossil fuels, not only creating energy autonomy, but also fostering innovation and generating job opportunities.

2. Newly discovered  forms of artificial intelligence have become more precise and accurate in collecting, analysing and making forecasts about increasingly complex data as compared to human engineers.   
3. The development and evolution of battery technologies enable us to store electrical energy faster and in exceptionally smaller cells.
4. New paths of energy exchange have emerged as people focus on the decentralisation of where power is generated, particularly on a better connected network of nodes.

All these forces, taken together, form a new energy distribution and shape our modern economic models.


To begin with, the costs of solar and wind power are steadily decreasing year after year, becoming cheaper than our dependence on fossil fuels. By 2018, onshore wind in the UK is on track to be even lower than the cost of natural gas, according to an engineering consultancy firm, Arup. In the US, a report prepared by Lazard, an asset-management company, has revealed that onshore wind and utility-scale solar have notably lower costs today than any other form of energy, given that the energy playing field is made even by subtracting subsidies.
 

“Solar and wind have just become very competitive, and costs continue to fall. It is not only a commercially viable option, but an outright compelling investment opportunity with long-term, stable, inflation-protected returns” , said Michael Drexler, Head of Long Term Investing, Infrastructure and Development at the World Economic Forum in April 2017.
 

Because lately, individuals have acquired the means and skills necessary to consume and at the same time produce and sell electricity, startups and large energy companies are investigating ways in which they can assist a peer-to-peer market. In the near future we may get paid to produce energy, rather than just getting a compensation and selling the energy produced directly to our neighbour. This will have a great impact in our energy consumption behaviour. In a decentralised market, blockchains and flexible regulations in the low-voltage energy production (e.g. photovoltaic cells on your roof) represent the formula for small companies to enter the market of community-based power production.
 

The platforms provided by governments for others to rely and build upon have given rise to two major challenges: the connection and integration of complex data across those platforms and the subsequent in-depth analysis of data supplied. By solving the issues related to those matters, our daily life can be drastically improved, in the sense that our urban living environments would become not only cleaner, but also safer and overall more pleasant. To some extent, there are already some cities who are working on their control centres. The one in Rio de Janeiro, for example, utilises a combination of machine learning and artificial intelligence to collect, store and interpret information about the current situation of the city, so that they will be able to predict future general activity.
 

The renewable energy industry is more labour intensive, unlike fossil fuel technology, which is in most cases mechanised and capital intensive. Qualified workers are needed to install solar panels and to ensure maintenance of wind farms. Thus, predominantly there are more job placements for each unit of electricity generated from renewable sources than from fossil fuels.
 

To conclude, we have to take responsibility for our actions and try to reverse the damage done because of global warming and energy crises, by changing our habits. Without question, in the long-run, renewable energy represents the answer to some of our environmental problems, as it is not only sustainable, but also non-polluting.

 

Sources:

1) Tomorrow’s Promise: Sustainable Energy https://medium.com/method-perspectives/tomorrows-promise-sustainable-energy-7a81dbd519f0
2) Solar and wind power cheaper than fossil fuels for the first time http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/solar-and-wind-power-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels-for-the-first-time-a7509251.html
3) Renewables are about to become our cheapest form of energy http://www.wired.co.uk/article/onshore-wind-solar-cheaper-energy
4) Benefits of Renewable Energy Use https://www.ucsusa.org/clean-energy/renewable-energy/public-benefits-of-renewable-power#

 

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