Sustainable Energy and Renewable Energy are terms that are thrown around a lot these days, but what exactly do they mean, and how many countries are taking them seriously?
The US Energy Information Adminstration (EIA) estimates that in 2008, 10% of the world’s energy consumption was from renewable energy sources. EIA forecasts that by 2035, consumption of renewable energy will be about 14% of total world energy consumption.
What are these renewable sources?
First, what they are not: the coal, oil and natural gas that the U.S. relies heavily on are all non-renewable, and will eventually dwindle and disappear.
By contrast, the many types of renewable, or sustainable, energy resources, such as wind and solar energy, are constantly replenished and will never run out.
The sun is the chief source of most renewable energy: not only can solar energy, through the use of solar panels, be used directly for heating and lighting as well as for generating electricity, the sun’s heat also drives the winds, whose energy is captured with wind turbines. Then sunlight causes plants to grow, and the organic matter that makes up these plant, biomass, can be used to produce electricity, transportation fuels, or chemicals, collectively known as bioenergy.
Not all renewable energy resources come from the sun: there’s also hydrogen, geothermal energy, and ocean energy.
And why do we love renewable energy?
These are clean sources of energy, meaning they have a much lower environmental impact than conventional energy technologies. They won’t run out, their costs revolve around materials and workmanship for facilities rather than on expensive energy imports, and better yet, renewable energy technologies developed and built in the U.S. are being sold overseas. Finally, U.S. energy security is at risk when we become so dependent on foreign oil supplies.
Which nations have the best record for using renewable energy?
1. The United States: 24.7 percent of the world total
The U.S. use of alternative energy sources is increasing due to federal, state, and local tax and other incentives, as well as mandated state goals. This is in spite of the fact that attempts to join international agreements or introduce long-term, large scale reductions in emissions have met with opposition in Congress and in the private sector.
2. Germany: 11.7 percent of the world total
Germany made a historic decision when the country decided to phase out nuclear power in favor of alternative sources by 2022. Ironically, it is the only country in the G-20 economic bloc to project a decline in clean energy investment, partially because it has already done so much as an early leader in renewable energy.
3. Spain, 7.8 percent of world total
Last April, wind power became Spain’s largest source of electricity generation, although the country still imports the majority of its energy. Spanish producers are also building turbines and installing wind farms internationally, including in the U.S. Sadly, with the current economic problems in Spain, this may change.
4. China: 7.6 percent of world total
China is erecting 36 wind turbines a day and building a robust new electricity grid to send this power thousands of miles across the country from the deserts of the west to the cities of the east. It is part of a long-term plan to supply 15% of the country’s energy from alternative and renewable sources by 2020.
5. Brazil: 5 percent of world total
Brazil has boosted large investments into the wind sector through government auctions for contracts, and is also working to attract foreign investment into solar energy. The country has also made a pledge to have solar power in all twelve venues when it hosts the 2014 World Cup.
These are exciting times in the inevitable development of renewable energy!
What do you think?
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