The continuous rise in carbon dioxide emissions for the last 30 years has led to increased atmospheric temperatures today. And the environment is getting more and more polluted due to the rapid industrialization and usage of fossil fuels for energy production.
That is why there is a growing global demand for sustainable electricity, ensuring access to clean and affordable energy in order to stop climate change. This article focuses on how sustainable energy can lead to a green future and the several challenges of achieving this goal.
Sustainable electricity: Explained
Sustainable electricity refers to the electricity generated from sustainable sources of energy, which help meet the needs of present generations without compromising on future generations. Since sustainable energy is inexhaustible, clean, and naturally replenished, it includes energy that is generated using the sun, wind, and water, as well as geothermal energy and bioenergy.
Sustainable electricity causes no harm to the environment and emits no greenhouse gases or pollutants in the process. The cost of sustainable energy has gone down drastically in the last decade and has become more affordable than ever.
What is the difference between sustainable and renewable electricity?
The terms “sustainable” and “renewable” are often used interchangeably when discussing energy. However, they have distinct meanings, especially when referencing electricity generation.
Renewable electricity refers to power derived from resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale. Common sources include:
- Solar: Harnessing the sun’s energy using photovoltaic cells or solar thermal systems.
- Wind: Utilizing wind turbines to convert wind energy into electricity.
- Hydropower: Generating power through the movement of water, often by damming rivers.
- Geothermal: Tapping into the Earth’s internal heat to produce electricity.
- Biomass: Converting organic materials, such as plants or animal waste, into energy.
While these sources can be continually harnessed, it’s essential to note that not all renewable energy practices are sustainable. For instance, large hydroelectric dams might produce renewable electricity, but they can have significant ecological and social impacts.
Sustainable electricity encompasses a broader concept. For electricity to be sustainable, it must meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This means that the generation of electricity should:
- Have minimal negative impacts on the environment.
- Be socially responsible and consider the well-being of communities affected by its production.
- Be economically viable for long-term production without undue subsidies or external costs.
What are the benefits of sustainable electricity?
Sustainable electricity that does not deplete natural resources and has low environmental impact offers numerous benefits. These advantages span environmental, economic, and social dimensions.
- Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions: Sustainable electricity sources, such as solar and wind, produce little to no greenhouse gases when generating power, helping to combat climate change.
- Conservation of natural resources: Sustainable practices prioritize the efficient use of resources, ensuring they aren’t depleted or permanently damaged.
- Decreased air and water pollution: Unlike fossil fuel-based power, sustainable electricity production processes release fewer pollutants, leading to cleaner air and water. This results in healthier ecosystems and reduced harm to biodiversity.
- Mitigation of habitat destruction: Sustainable electricity projects, especially when compared to large-scale coal or hydroelectric plans, often have a smaller footprint, causing less disruption to local habitats.
- Job creation: The renewable energy sector, a significant contributor to sustainable electricity, has been a substantial source of job creation. From manufacturing to installation and maintenance, new opportunities arise as demand grows.
- Stability in energy prices: Renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind, are free. Thus, once the infrastructure is established, prices are less susceptible to the volatile global energy markets.
- Diversification of energy supply: Utilizing a range of sustainable energy sources reduces dependence on a single type of energy, insulating economies from supply shocks.
- Attracts investment: As the global focus shifts towards sustainability, regions and countries prioritizing sustainable electricity become more attractive to both domestic and foreign investors.
- Improved public health: A reduction in pollutants from burning fossil fuels result in fewer respiratory and cardiovascular problems among the populace. It leads to reduced healthcare costs and increased life expectancy.
- Energy security: By reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels, nations can achieve greater energy independence. It translates to enhanced national security.
- Community engagement and development: Many sustainable electricity projects, like community solar or wind farms, involve local stakeholders, fostering community ownership and participation.
- Enhanced global diplomacy: Countries leading in sustainable electricity production and consumption can influence international energy policies, fostering collaborative global efforts to combat climate change.
Technological and educational benefits
- Innovation drive: The push for sustainable electricity has spurred technological innovations. It leads to more efficient energy storage solutions, smarter grids, and advancements in renewable energy technologies.
- Education and awareness: Efforts to promote sustainable electricity often go hand in hand with educational campaigns. This raises public awareness about sustainability and its importance for future generations.
Why is sustainable energy important for our electricity?
Sustainable energy is vital for our electricity because it ensures that we generate power in a manner that can meet current needs without compromising the future. Here’s why it’s indispensable:
- Environmental protection: Sustainable electricity sources, like solar and wind, substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is pivotal in combating climate change, which threatens ecosystems, sea levels, and weather patterns.
- Economic viability: Sustainable electricity sources, being less dependent on finite fuels, offer more predictable and often decreasing cost structures over time. This can translate to more stable electricity prices, insulating consumers from volatile fossil fuel markets.
- Health benefits: Transitioning to sustainable electricity leads to a reduction in pollutants typically released by burning fossil fuels. This means cleaner air, fewer respiratory ailments, and overall improved public health.
- Resource conservation: Sustainable energy ensures efficient use of resources. This approach safeguards our planet’s natural assets, ensuring they are available for future generations.
- Energy security: Sustainable electricity reduces dependence on imported fuels, bolstering national energy security. It diversifies the energy mix, reducing the risk of supply disruptions.
- Technological advancement: The push towards sustainable energy drives innovation. This leads to the development of advanced technologies that make electricity generation even more efficient and sustainable.
In essence, sustainable electricity is not just an environmental imperative but also a strategy for long-term economic, health, and security benefits. Adopting sustainable energy is a proactive step towards a resilient and prosperous future. Below, we have mentioned some of the many sources of sustainable energy.
Sources of sustainable electricity
In today’s time, the focus is on the long-term energy supply adequacy while considering the energy sources’ environmental implications. The most significant advantage of these sustainable sources of energy is their abundance and widespread occurrence. Here are some of the widely used energy sources to produce sustainable electricity: –
Solar energy uses sunlight and photovoltaic cells to produce sustainable electricity. This technology converts sunlight into electricity using semiconductors. Hence, when sunlight hits the semiconductor in a PV cell, the electrons are freed, and busbars collect the running electrons resulting in electric current.
International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a dedicated platform through which the global community, including the governments, organizations, and industries, can contribute to help achieve the common objective of maximizing the use and improving the quality of solar energy to meet all the energy needs in a sustainable manner.
Wind energy is one of the fastest-growing sustainable energy technologies. It produces sustainable electricity using the kinetic energy created by rotating turbines. Usage of wind energy to produce electricity has increased significantly in recent years, with thousands of turbines installed around the world, they enable smooth functioning and operational excellence.
According to the International Renewable Energy Agency or IRNEA, the global offshore and onshore wind generation capacity has increased by a factor of 75 in the last two decades. Wind speeds are high in many parts of the world; however, the best wind power generating locations are sometimes remote areas.
Hydroelectric power is harnessed by using the potential of flowing rivers. Hydropower provides sustainable electricity for over 17% of the world, and the primary advantage of these systems is their ability to handle seasonal as well as daily high peak loads. The small-scale hydropower plants under 10 MWe consist of about 12% of world capacity, and most of them are run-of-river ones.
Since Earth’s core comprises extremely hot elements, and temperature increases 2.5 to 3.5 degrees Celsius with every 100 meters depth. In the case of geothermal energy, the hot steam underground is tapped and brought to the surface to generate power or sustainable electricity.
The Global Geothermal Alliance has set a goal to achieve a 500% increase in global geothermal capacity for sustainable electricity generation as well as a 200 % increase in geothermal heating by 2030.
Advancing towards a sustainable future
There is still a huge amount of work to be done to develop the next generation of sustainable electricity solutions, including the policy frameworks to minimize the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
According to the analysis from International Energy Agency, the technologies currently available will only get the world halfway to the reduction required for net-zero emissions by 2050. Therefore, to make way for a sustainable future, the policymakers and researchers need to explore the following possibilities: –
- Work out and implement large-scale carbon capture systems to utilize and store carbon dioxide without deteriorating the environment.
- Establish renewable or low-carbon energy sources to produce sustainable electricity for everyday applications.
- Implement hydrogen fuel cells with zero-emission to power transportation and utilities.
- Increase the usage of bioenergy harnessed from plants and algae for sustainable electricity production.
Even a revolutionary technology may not be able to do the job alone. Ambitious renewable energy goals and long-term emission cuts demand international cooperation, especially among the biggest emitters.
Strategic thinking and large investments are required to realize a future with 100% renewable power where smart highways are full of electric cars. It is more crucial than ever to build leaders who understand take up the global sustainable energy initiatives and implement the latest technologies to secure a green future.
Building a sustainable future with Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric is continuously working towards increasing sustainability and inclusiveness on a global level. We are on our way to expediting sustainable progress across industries and communities. Our purpose is to empower everyone to make the most of our energy and resources by bridging the gap between sustainability and progress for all. Additionally, Schneider Electric has promised to become carbon-neutral by 2025 in operations and end to end by 2040.
Our aspiring targets to build a sustainable future are aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. Schneider Sustainability impact (SSI) program spanning 2021 to 2025 pledges a significant acceleration of previous targets.
This is built on the six long-term commitments set to deliver in each of the UN SDGs. We have committed to a climate-positive world with efficient resources that live up to the principles of trust and create equal opportunities for all. Explore our site today to know more about our sustainable technologies, products, and services!