Could Renewable Energy Solve the Problem of Climate Change?

Renewable Energy and Climate Change
IMAGE: flickr @Christine

Climate change is fast letting itself known to citizens worldwide. In India, farmers who have never seen the inside of a school, are scratching their heads as to why the rains are not happening at the time of the year they normally do. In contrast, the skies open up when they least expect it, resulting in flash floods. Either way, their crops get affected – and India has 1.3 billion hungry mouths to feed.

Everyone, everywhere is affected. Temperatures have both soared and dipped to never-before seen record levels throughout the world, and irregular weather phenomena can be observed everywhere. There are more hurricanes hitting the Americas and causing billions of dollars in damage. The loss to the economy is even more.

The World Economic Forum has identified CO2 emissions as the cause of climate change, and this comes primarily from burning fossil fuels. Instead of realizing the impact on their own economy, countries are haggling over carbon credits, or how much they can receive for cutting down on carbon emissions.

Climate Change and Electricity Grid
IMAGE: Pexels @PokRie

Making a case for renewables

The argument against renewable energy was that it cost more to produce than power from fossil fuels.

But that is no longer the case. Thanks to billions of dollars that have already been invested, the cost of renewable energy is now cheaper than coal-powered thermal energy. In Australia, the cost of producing a megawatt-hour of wind energy is $61, while the same unit of energy would cost $109 from a coal plant and $88 from a gas plant. Private players are already selling solar power to India at the rate of just $65 per megawatt-hour. Technology has improved to the point that solar power plants can be set up in virtually no time – a solar project in energy-deprived Rwanda went from concept to completion in just a year.

With all these, nuclear power – which was once touted as the cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels – should no longer be given any second thought to. But the United Kingdom is pushing ahead with a $22 billion reactor project, while its neighbor Germany is producing excess energy from its wind farms. Austria finds it cheaper to buy renewable energy from Germany than set up their own plants. India too could buy power from China, another excess producer of wind and solar energy.

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Apart from power production, other contributors to carbon emissions are manufacturing/industry, heating and cooling, transportation and cement-making. While governments might feel the need to protect these sectors and the jobs of millions of workers who are involved, they don’t realize that their half-hearted approaches are costing them more. The 2016 Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions is a start, but there really is no excuse for them to not begin immediately.

Electric vehicles for transportation could solve the problem to a large extent. As of now, only Tesla and a few manufacturers produce electric cars, owing to a lack of support from Governments worldwide. But if they all joined hands together, the world would be a much better place if they shared their renewable energy among them. comment