Are renewable energy sources the power of our future? Electricity generation from renewable sources of energy is booming, and it doesn’t look like the trend is going to slow down anytime soon. Greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic disrupting economic activity, travel, and trade. This reduction could be the incentive we needed to ramp up the production of clean energy technologies.
Even before the pandemic, alternative energy sources started to gain momentum, which is another clue that sustainable energy is increasing in popularity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) showed that in 2020, the nation generated 40% of its power with non-fossil fuel sources. That figure is significantly up from just five years prior when renewable energy sources fueled less than 20% of US energy consumption. This rise indicates we’re steadily moving away from our dependence on fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas.
Can we anticipate this trend will continue on the same path and at the same rate? If so, how does that affect us personally? In this article, we’ll take a close look at current energy trends. We’ll evaluate the new developments in energy production and the vital role renewable energy sources could play in our future.
What Are the Benefits of Using Renewable Energy Sources?
Local governments and household consumers alike can substantially reduce their carbon footprint and directly impact global warming and climate change by implementing renewable energy sources. Let’s take a look at the environmental benefits green energy provides as well as the economic benefits it can offer:
- Conserve fossil fuels: Renewable energy comes from virtually inexhaustible resources. Using these natural sources allows us to extend and conserve the lifespan of nonrenewable fossil fuels, which is dangerously close to depletion.
- Slow and reverse climate change: The leading cause of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. is electricity generation from fossil fuel power plants. Carbon dioxide and additional greenhouse gas emissions are leading contributors to various forms of climate change, which include global warming. Renewable energy sources have a much lower carbon footprint than coal, natural gas, and other fossil fuels. Making the switch to renewable energy sources to produce electricity can help the planet by slowing and even reversing climate change.
- Save lives: Making the switch to hydropower, wind energy, and solar energy can save up to seven million lives annually by reducing air pollutant emissions.
- Reduce severe weather: By slowing and eventually reversing the effects of climate change, we can expect a reduction in severe weather like droughts, storms, and floods caused by global warming.
- Minimize fuel dependency: Implementing the widespread use of large-scale renewable energy technologies diversifies our energy supply, minimizing our dependence on imported fuels.
- Economic and job development: Producing more utility-scale energy systems will create economic growth and jobs in the manufacturing and installation industries as well as the sustainable energy industry.
I’m Ready to Use Renewable Energy Sources. What Are My Options?
Although some regions face the challenges of availability and quality, it’s still possible to meet people’s energy needs using a combination of renewable energy options. The three main options for using renewable energy sources include the following.
- On-Site Renewable Energy Generation: Some examples of on-site renewable energy generation include installing photovoltaic (PV) solar energy panels on a building or home, implementing a small residential wind turbine, and using geothermal heat pumps or biomass-fueled power and heat.
- Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): RECs can be used to purchase green energy power. People also refer to them as tradable renewable certificates, green tags, or green energy certificates.
- Green Marketing or Green Pricing Programs: Participating in a green energy program allows consumers to pay a small premium to an energy provider that uses local green power sources for power generation.
What Are 10 Clean Energy Trends to Watch in 2021?
Renewable energy’s boom is sure to play an essential role in 2021. Although it could take around 30 years to transition to a fully sustainable global energy landscape, researchers believe we can reach at least 80% worldwide renewable energy generation by 2030. We expect the progress made in 2021 to provide a significant leap forward in electricity generation from alternative energy sources. Here are the 10 clean energy trends to watch in 2021.
1. Green Hydrogen Is Expected to Grow
Green hydrogen is a fuel produced through electrolysis of water using renewable energy resources, like solar power or wind power, instead of fossil fuels. Versatility is one of green hydrogen’s best traits. We can use it in liquid or gas form, and it provides clean electricity or fuel for many industries. Ammonia production, chemical and fertilizer production, food processing, metallurgy, oil refining, steel manufacturing, transportation, and many other sectors can benefit from using green hydrogen.
Even better, hydrogen is virtually inexhaustible. About 90% of all atoms are hydrogen atoms, meaning there’s more hydrogen than anything else in the universe. Plus, it’s only byproduct is oxygen, making it pollutant-free.
Many have noted green hydrogen as a key player in drastically reducing global carbon dioxide emissions for a long time now. Still, the cost has been a determining factor. With renewable energy sources becoming increasingly affordable, green hydrogen is now cost-competitive. It should therefore play a more prominent role in the energy industry. In fact, Australia, Chile, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. Department of Energy have already committed to making significant investments in green hydrogen.
2. Renewable Energy Production Will Rebound
The majority of renewable energy projects planned for 2020 had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of those will now be completed in 2021, helping our renewable energy capacity rebound back to pre-pandemic levels. PV solar panels and onshore wind farm installations, and the commissioning of two enormous hydropower projects in China are the major players leading the renewables rebound.
3. Gasoline and Diesel Trends Will Dictate Biofuel Recovery
Bioenergy is a renewable energy resource procured from biomass, an organic matter derived from recently living organic materials found in areas such as ponds and landfills. Biomass generates energy in a variety of ways, including burning it to produce heat or by harnessing methane gas to convert it into biofuels such as biodiesel and ethanol.
Covid-19 lockdown measures have reduced economic activity and the demand for transport fuels which has majorly impacted the global biofuels market. Biogas is expected to recover alongside gasoline and diesel fuel, returning to pre-pandemic production levels as long as lockdowns remain lifted.
4. Geothermal Energy Will Gain Popularity Due to Reliability
Solar power may be one of the most well-known renewable energy sources, but the sun doesn’t always shine. Geothermal power might be the most reliable renewable energy source we currently have. The Earth’s surface indeed varies in temperature and often feels cool to the touch or even frozen at times. But just two meters below lies very valuable and very reliable thermal energy. At this depth, the temperature remains a consistent 52-53 degrees Fahrenheit, regardless if it’s sunny or not, which is warm enough to create geothermal heat.
Geothermal energy is generated using underground reservoirs of hot water and steam, producing electricity or heating and cooling buildings. It may have been around for billions of years, but today’s renewable energy technologies have improved geothermal energy. Now it’s one of our most promising options when it comes to sustainable energy efficiency. Taking advantage of the ground’s constant thermal energy is also very cost-effective, making it an increasingly popular choice for consumers.
5. New Innovative Solutions Will Push Green Efforts Forward
You’d be hard-pressed to come across someone who hasn’t heard the term “going green.” But how many friends do you have that are actually powering their home or business with hydroelectric power, windmills, solar panels, or other renewable energy resources? That answer will vary depending on your geographic location. However, the point is that although many have heard of green energy, most of us are still relying on fossil fuels for electricity generation, heating, and cooling.
It may seem ambitious to strive for a fully sustainable global energy landscape in a timeframe of only 30 years. Still, constant innovation is the secret weapon that has allowed the significant strides forward we’ve already seen. As new innovative renewable energy solutions continue to hit the market, they’ll become more obtainable. Expect to see eco-friendly, affordable adaptations in everything from consumer marketing to infrastructure.
6. Small Businesses Leveraging Sustainability Tax Credits Will Gain Consumer Trust
In an attempt to lower environmental impacts, the U.S. federal government already offers a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) to all companies choosing solar energy over fossil fuel-generated energy. Financial breaks like this are what make renewable business models not only accessible but also widely expected from today’s consumers.
It seems likely that additional tax credits could become available to encourage more people to make the change to a renewable energy platform. Companies that choose to switch to sustainable energy are more likely to build consumer trust due to their commitment to maintaining a greener future.
7. Traditional Energy Companies Get on Board
Traditional power plants that work strictly with fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil are fully aware their days are coming to an end. It’s in their best interest to diversify and expand their offerings to include renewable energy technology options. Traditional gas, oil, and electric companies will invest in green technologies to remain competitive, potentially contributing to funding for the growing renewable energy sector.
Depending on how many energy companies make the leap in the coming year and how much they’re willing to spend, the extra funding could prove significant. Some may choose to start with single investments. In contrast, others may go right to partnering with clean energy titans that can guide them on a viable path forward for both profitability and consumer relations.
8. Corporate Giants Spell Out Their Green Energy Plans
Eco-friendly is no longer a fad — it’s now the expectation. When corporate retailers first started taking steps towards sustainability with reusable bags, consumers thought it was great. But smaller scale actions like that are now a thing of the past. Today, people are looking for large-scale companies to do much more. Corporate giants looking for success in 2021 and 2022 should put out a plan demonstrating how they will broaden their sustainability efforts. This announcement should also include what their ultimate goal is and when they plan to reach it.
Going 100% green is a serious commitment that contributes to significant long-term change. Curbing climate change should be reason enough to get behind clean energy. But corporate giants also realize that sustainability is now an expectation and requirement of their consumers. This understanding is why Google not only made the pledge to become carbon dioxide-free by 2030 but also outlined its plans on how it’s going to make it happen.
9. Scope 3 Emissions Will Decrease
Scope 3 emissions, or value chain emissions, get their name because they are not a result of the company’s factory or production plant but rather from partnering organizations. Regardless, the company is ultimately responsible for any environmental impact their scope 3 emissions cause. As corporations look to reduce their carbon footprint, they will also aim attention here. This reduction will contribute to a decrease in scope 3 emissions in 2021.
10. Multiple Renewable Energy Sources Proliferate
It’s no secret that renewable energy is taking the world by storm. There are many different options, so what are the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the world? There are five major players that are topping the charts in 2021.
Top five fastest-growing global renewable energy sources:
- Hydropower: The most widely used renewable power source globally is hydropower, contributing to 54% of renewable energy’s generation capacity. While hydroelectricity is widely used throughout the U.S. and other countries worldwide, China is the current hydroelectric generation leader. With hydropower, mechanical energy from moving water generates electricity.
- Wind energy: Coming in second after hydropower for most used sources of renewable energy is wind energy. In the U.K., onshore wind power delivers about 10% of the country’s total energy even though it’s their most cost-effective alternative energy option. Meanwhile, offshore wind farms, which are constructed in large bodies of water (and therefore more costly), power approximately 4.5 million U.K. homes.
- Solar energy: Solar is the winner of the fastest-growing global renewable energy source in 2021, and the year’s third-largest renewable source in the world. The largest solar power plant in the world is in the United Arab Emirates. Here, solar energy produces enough electricity to reduce its carbon footprint by the equivalent of removing 200,000 cars from the road.
- Bio-power: The fourth-largest renewable power source is bio-power. We see an increase in biofuels used for power generation and heat and more traditional biomass sources like agricultural byproducts. China, the U.K., and India are the current leaders in bio-power generation. At the same time, Brazil, Germany, the U.S., and Sweden are also strong contributors.
- Geothermal energy: Last but not least on the list of fastest-growing global renewable energy sources is geothermal energy. The biggest producer of geothermal electricity in the world is Iceland. When it comes to geothermal power, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, and U.S. are among the top in production.
Can Renewable Energy Save the World?
Is there a future in renewable energy? Could it help solve the world’s global warming and climate change problems? Research suggests the answer to those questions is yes, and it seems leaders around the world would agree.
- In China, President Xi Jinping announced that by 2060 the entire country would zero out carbon emissions.
- In Europe, electricity generation from solar farms increased over 60% in 2020 compared to just one year prior.
- The U.K. has already had a 67-day coal-free stretch while Britain is transitioning to wind farms to phase out the fossil fuel pollutant by 2025. Britain also plans to ban the production of new gas-powered cars by the year 2030.
- In sunny Australia, the rising power plant prices inspired 29% of the country’s residents to turn to rooftop solar panels. This growth hurt utility providers that don’t offer renewable energy technology options.
U.S. residential solar panel installations dropped nearly 20% from quarter one of 2020 to the year’s next quarter due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the sector was already making a comeback by year’s end. At this time, they added a whopping 19 gigawatts of total energy generated by solar power. Due to this increase, new battery storage capacity also showed a sharp rise.
As the clean energy industry continues to gain support, it becomes more and more accessible. Are you ready to introduce renewable energy sources into your energy system? Get familiar with the resources and products available in your area by looking at the Energy Savings marketplace, where it’s easy to compare your energy options.
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