One of the most critical questions that majorities ask and the main hurdle to renewable energy is whether renewable energy can ever efficiently become a viable energy option relative to the traditional, ready available sources of energy. This question has become relevant as the world continues to face an ever-growing energy and environmental crises due to negative impacts of burning fossil fuel.
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As a result, many stakeholders such as environmentalists, scientists, governments and the public have embarked on reviewing the latest developments in the renewable energy sector. Renewable energy may be obtained from a wide range of sources such as solar, wind and biomass.
These are cheap sources of energy, friendly to the environment, but they are not the mainstream sources, and account for low rates of energy consumed today. It is imperative to evaluate whether renewable energy is a viable option for the world energy crisis. This is a consequential explanation essay on adoption of modern technologies to create viable renewable energy to meet the world’s energy demands.
Renewable Energy Technologies
The traditional sources of energy such as coal, oil and other natural gases have shown that they are greatly dependable sources of energy, but their damaging effects on the public health and the environment have prompted the world to seek for alternative viable sources of energy (Herzog, Lipman, Edwards & Kammen, 2001).
These conventional sources of energy have created greater impacts on the environment, which are mainly related to global warming and the increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Clearly, continued use of traditional energies will escalate global warming and the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Renewable energies can cater for the global energy needs. In these attempts to meet the world’s energy demands, technologies have become critical aspects in generating renewable energies. Globally, biomass, solar and wind energy resources are abundantly available.
If new efficiency measures and technologies are deployed, these renewable energy sources can meet the world’s energy needs. Renewable energy sources can provide decentralised energy and help in reducing the cost of infrastructures relative to centralised power stations (Herzog et al., 2002).
Technologies could be used to facilitate mass production of solar energy, wind power, biomass and hydropower. In this case, technologies will reduce costs of energy production and meet specific needs during production and service factors. Moreover, technologies have minimal impacts on the environment.
In case activities from technologies generate negative impacts, such impacts do not cause severe damages to relative to centralised power stations, which may even result in acid rain and massive air pollution. Over the years, the cost of using technologies to generate renewable energies have continued to decline, whereas costs of producing energy from traditional sources have continued to surge.
Generally, renewable energy technologies offer relatively low or no costs related to fuel usages. Costs of initial investments in such technologies may be considerably high. Technologies allow manufacturers to develop efficient photovoltaic cells with few mechanical components relative to other combustion systems of traditional sources of energies.
This implies that photovoltaic energy systems are likely to be affordable on a long-term basis. As a result, costs of renewable energy systems will continue to decline considerably over the years with enhanced efficiency, reliability and low emissions.
Figure 1: A forecast shows that costs of renewable energy technologies will continue to drop (Herzog et al, 2001)
On the other hand, some researchers in the energy industry have noted that prices of oil and natural gas have been “predictably unpredictable”.
Conversely, some studies have shown that low incremental costs may be required to “increase the production capacity of wind and solar energy compared to traditional sources of energy” (Herzog et al., 2002). Still, technologies can enhance efficiency of renewable energy and make it competitive with the preferred energies from fossil fuels.
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Previously, analysts had focused directly on damages to river channels and pollution in urban areas and crops to understand environmental costs of traditional energy sources. They did not account for impacts of such energies on global warming, which could have shown high costs of depending on traditional sources of energy.
It is imperative to note that the need to develop clean energy technologies for producing renewable energy has resulted from advancement in technologies, environmental concerns, competitive abilities and viability of such technologies to support clean energy initiatives.
Moreover, traditional energy sources continue to lose their appeal to stakeholders because of massive investments required, heavy regulation, unpredictable growth and cyclical nature of the industry.
Although the world does not show adequate support for innovative ventures that rely on technologies to produce renewable energy, clean energy players will continue to make inroads into the market to become leaders in the energy industry as costs of traditional energy production become unbearable. The major hurdle is, however, breaking a large-scale reliance on fossil fuels among users.
A possible explanation to this scenario is that in the past, technologies were expensive and costs could not allow mass production to drive the generation of renewable energy. Moreover, various governments continued to offer subsidies for extractions of energy from traditional sources. This is, however, likely to change as costs of renewable energy technologies continue to drop.
As a result, there would be mass production of technologies to support the generation of renewable energies from various sources (Pernick & Wilder, 2012). In some instance, governments have even offered security for oil and gas extraction, facilitate the development of infrastructures and offered tax breaks to make traditional energy sources economically viable.
One major drawback is the intermittent nature of solar and wind energy which affects renewable energy generation. Developing several systems to generate energy could eliminate this problem. This approach would ensure that there is adequate energy to meet daily needs of users at all periods. Renewable energy technologies must compete with well-established technologies in nuclear and fossil fuels.
For several decades, many countries have focused on both fossil and nuclear fuel technologies, but neglected renewable energy technologies (Herzog et al, 2001). Such systems were designed to cater for existing infrastructures only and did not allow for the introduction of new technologies to support new sources of energy.
Moreover, various governments globally have focused on expanding natural gas, oil, coal and nuclear fuel sources without accounting for alternative sources of energy. Such intentions aim at increasing the number of available power plants for the next many years (Herzog et al, 2001). Most of these power plants will run on coal and natural gas. Hence, many countries will continue to depend on coal and natural gas than in the past years.
As noted earlier, renewable energy technologies have relatively low environmental costs. These are, however, externalities which are neglected and do not influence the market prices. In some cases, costs that arise from such impacts may be considered when they have significant impacts. Although the Kyoto Protocol introduced carbon-based tax, some countries have failed to implement it.
Renewable energy technologies can, therefore, play critical roles in developing new forms of energy that may protect the world from pollution, greenhouse gases and global warming. In addition, such technologies will eliminate expensive mitigation approaches by many nations and stakeholders. This should provide a basis for supporting renewable energy technologies to join the mainstream energy business (Pernick & Wilder, 2007).
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