Sustainable Living: Renewable energies and global warming

Power pole in lawn field at sunrise

With #SWOXIMPACT we are on a mission to educate the SWOX community about climate change and global warming. Sustainability can only be widespread and lived by many, if exemplified by a few. Renewable energy, or green energy, is key for sustainable living. The the power sector is the highest-emitting sector of all. Generating power currently accounts for around 40 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere.
Read on, if you want to learn about the differences of non-renewable and renewable energy, the status quo of energy usage in the world, the latest status of the most impactful climate change agreement and what you can do today to use more green energy.

fossil fuel-fired power plant air pollution

“What is non-renewable energy and what’s wrong with it?”

Non-renewable energy comes from sources that will eventually run out: fossil fuels, such as oil, coal or natural gas. Besides emitting pollutants, causing acid rain and thermal pollution, the biggest impact of using non-renewable energy sources is the emission of greenhouse gases

Nuclear energy is considered a non-renewable, alternative energy source. While it produces the least amount of greenhouse gases of all renewable energy sources, it has its own critical risk factors and a significant back-end environmental impact.

“What’s renewable energy and why should we switch?”

Renewable energy is energy produced from sources that do not deplete or can be replenished within a human’s lifetime. The most common examples include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydropower. The big advantage of renewable energy, is that they produce no or very little greenhouse gas emissions.

On top of that they also don’t produce air, water and environmental pollution or at least a lot less than non-renewable energy resources. Even when including “life cycle” emissions of clean energy the global warming emissions associated with renewable energy are minimal. Life cycle emissions are the emissions from each stage of a technology’s life including manufacturing, installation, operation and decommissioning.

“What’s the status-quo of renewable energy worldwide?”

The good news is, that renewable energy is the fastest-growing energy source globally. 2018 was a record year for renewable energies. The estimated share of renewables in global electricity generation was more than 26% by the end of 2018. Renewable power is increasingly cost-competitive compared to conventional fossil fuel-fired power plants.

By the end of 2018, electricity generated from new wind and solar energy plants has become more economical than power from fossil fuel-fired plants in many places. While these facts sound fantastic, the International Energy Agency notes that the development and deployment of renewable energy technologies will depend heavily on government policies and agreements.

“What is the most important climate agreement and whats the current situation?”

The Paris Agreement is a landmark environmental agreement to fight climate change and its negative impacts. The deal aims to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

The agreement includes commitments from all major emitting countries to cut their pollution and to strengthen those commitments over time. The agreement went into force in 2016. While the Paris agreement has its critics and weak spots, it’s sure to be the most important international agreement of the century to fight global warming.

In 2017 US president Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. The earliest the United States could officially exit is November 4, 2020 – a day after the 2020 presidential election in the US.

solar panels photovoltaic green energy

“How can YOU support clean energy and switch to renewable energy?”

While a lot of people think, that they have to be home owners and able to put solar panels on the roof in order to use or promote renewable energy, it’s a lot easier:

The easiest way of switching to green energy is by researching your local energy provider. A lot of cities and regions offer this option. To switch your plan, you just have to make a call or go online. Depending on where you live, this decision might even come with a reduction in your energy bill. In some countries or regions it might go up a notch. That said, it’s a lot less than most people anticipate.

Depending on the country you live in there might be another option for you: If you would like to switch to clean energy but your local utility doesn’t offer a green power option, you could also go with a renewable energy certificate provider. The advantage of renewable energy certificates is that they create a market for clean energy where currently there isn’t one.

Another fairly new and smart way to support renewable energies is to take part in energy saving projects, such as Ohm. They reward energy users for using less energy, during the grid’s high demand hours. These are usually the times, when energy providers have to turn on or intensify the use of fast-acting power plants. By saving energy you minimize the use of fossil fuel plants. Look up your local projects or, if none are available, find out when high-demand hours are and limit your energy usage during that time.

The most effective way to reduce CO2 emission #SWOXIMPACT

Rooftop solar or community solar is another alternative in terms of renewable energy. While you would need to own a home in order to put photovoltaic cells up on the roof, there is also the option to look into your employer’s possibility to do so. Most businesses can count on the government’s financial support for installation and save money moving forward with solar energy. On top of that, for a “community solar” project a community would come together to purchase or develop a solar farm in a site other than where they live

“What are future sources of renewable energy?”

While nowadays solar energy, geothermal, wind and hydropower are standard, scientists around the globe research every day to find other sources of renewable energy.

Energy from Space – Up to 60% of energy from the sun is lost on its way to earth. Generating solar energy in space is thus believed to be one of the future sources of energy. The same is true for wind in space. However, both systems would require a way to get the energy down to the earth. In 2015 the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully converted 1.8 kilowatts of electricity into microwaves. After that they wirelessly beamed them a distance of 55 meters, proving the ideas viability in the long-term future.

Sunshine above clouds

Power from the human body – One of the simplest ways to generate renewable energy is through our own bodies and body movement. Especially small devices need less and less power and could therefore be powered through very little amounts of energy. Devices, which can be worn would collect and convert energy.

Wave power – We know about the power of waves. Wave farms take advantage of this power and transform it into electricity. At the moment the technology is still developing, but grid-connected farms using different technologies are currently generating green energy in Sweden, Spain and the US.

Other more or less viable future clean energy sources include hydrogen power, magma power or algae power.

Last but not least, there is also the option of renewable, clean energy through nuclear fusion. While the reaction, which is used in the current nuclear power plans, nuclear fission, uses unstable and radioactive elements, splits them apart into smaller radioactive components that then release energy, nuclear fusion doesn’t involve radioactivity at all. The reactants and products are light stable elements. The outcome could be unlimited clean energy for everyone, but the technology is not proven yet and very expensive.


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