We often take our energy for granted. Every time we flick on a switch, we probably don’t stop to think about whether that power is coming from coal, oil or a renewable energy source – sun, wind or geothermal power (power extracted from heat stored in the earth). But next time you turn on a light, consider this: what if that simple act were saving you money, protecting the planet and creating jobs? It’s possible that renewable energy will power a larger part of our future.
We can start by thinking about it from a historical perspective. Since the industrial revolution, our energy systems have been based on carbon. These resources, such as coal and oil, are not renewable and have implications for the economy and our security. They have caused the build-up of greenhouse gases and the need to fight climate change. When the price of heating or summer air conditioning skyrockets, we feel it, too.
The notion of renewable energy is not new. In the 1700s and 1800s, wood, a form of biomass, supplied up to 90 per cent of our energy needs. Windmills have existed in Europe for 800 years. We became less reliant on these forms of energy when the use of coal, petroleum and natural gas expanded. Today we are looking at different kinds of renewable energy as the way of the future. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable sources do not directly emit greenhouse gases.
Some countries have made a substantial investment in this area. In Denmark, wind makes up nearly 20 per cent of its power generation. And the Kingdom of Morocco’s recent $9 billion investment in solar energy, recognised by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, demonstrates the country’s dedication to a green future.
We need to be able to meet energy demands as well as complete the transformation from fossil fuels to renewable fuels. It will take a lot of innovation to get us there.
We have to start with ourselves. Next time you look at your utility bill, see if there is an option for renewable energy and sign up for it. If you want to go further, there are many programs for installing solar power at your home. Many homes are also now being built with geothermal systems. And you can advocate for renewable energy policies with your elected officials.
You can have a stake in the growth of renewable energy and can reap its many benefits – cleaner skies, lower utility bills, greater national security and knowing that your children will have a better future.