As we previously said, some greenhouse gas emissions are part of the carbon cycle, and in limited use, it isn’t going to affect things all that much, but we have bypassed that plateau of safe usage a long time ago, and in combination with deforestation and other similar events, we are creating a big surplus of greenhouse gas emissions that the planet can’t absorb or cycle properly, thus we are altering the carbon cycle and the chemical makeup of our atmosphere, which is resulting in global warming, or now more commonly referred to as climate change. To reduce the risks of runaway climate change, or reaching a tipping point in our climate, we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, which will mean renewable, clean energy sources. Oil, coal, and gas are all finite resources as well, which makes them limited in their lifespans as energy sources, and as supplies dwindle, the cost to extract and use them increases in our current supply and demand economic models. So it is huge that we eliminate our dependance on the fuels, not only for the enhancement of our planet and Eco-systems, but for our own health and well-being, not to mention probably adding more to our pockets and more jobs in the long run.
There are several different definitions of this term, with energy efficiency and renewable energy being the twin pillars of SE.
- Effectively, the provision of energy such that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. SE has two key components: renewable energy and energy efficiency.
- Dynamic harmony between equitable availability of energy-intensive goods and services to all people and the preservation of the earth for future generations.” And, “the solution will lie in finding SE sources and more efficient means of converting and utilizing energy.
- Any energy generation, efficiency & conservation source where: Resources are available to enable massive scaling to become a significant portion of energy generation, long term, preferably 100 years..”
- Energy which is replenish-able within a human lifetime and causes no long-term damage to the environment.
What makes energy that is sustainable different from other new renewable energy terminology like alternative energy, green energy, or green power, is that it focuses on the ability of that energy source to continue to provide energy, and also allows it to produce some pollution to the environment as long as it does not prohibit heavy use of the source for an indefinite amount of time. On the other hand, low-carbon energy is different from SE in that low-carbon energy is only sustainable in the sense that it does not add to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere.
Green Energy is simply put, and defined as energy that can be extracted, generated, and/or consumed without any significant negative impact to the environment. The planet has a natural capability to recover which means pollution that does not go beyond that capability can still be termed as green.
Green power is a subset of renewable energy and represents those renewable energy resources and technologies that provide the greatest benefit to the environment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources. Customers often buy green power to avoid the environmental impacts of fossil based fuel supplies and its greenhouse gas reduction benefits.
Renewable Energy Technologies
Renewable energy technologies are the essential contributors to SE as they generally contribute to worldwide energy security, reducing dependence on fossil fuel resources, and providing opportunities for controlling and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to The International Energy Agency:
- There are currently three generations of renewables technologies, reaching back more than 100 years.
- First-generation technologies emerged from the industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century and include hydropower, biomass combustion, and geothermal power and heat. Some of these technologies are still in widespread use.
- Second-generation technologies include solar heating and cooling, wind power, modern forms of bio-energy, and solar photovoltaics. These are now entering markets as a result of research, development and demonstration (RD&D) investments since the 1980s. The initial investment was prompted by energy security concerns linked to the oil crises (1973 and 1979) of the 1970s but the continuing appeal of these renewables is due, at least in part, to environmental benefits. Many of the technologies reflect significant advancements in materials.
- Third-generation technologies are still under development and include advanced biomass gasification, bio-refinery technologies, concentrating solar thermal power, hot dry rock geothermal energy, and ocean energy. Advances in nanotechnology may also play a major role.
First and second-generation renewable energy technologies have already entered the energy markets, and third-generation renewable energy technologies heavily depend on long term research and development commitments, where the public sector has an important role to play.
A 2008 comprehensive cost-benefit analysis review of energy solutions in the context of global warming and other issues ranked wind power combined with battery electric vehicles (BEV) as the most efficient, followed by concentrated solar power, geothermal power, tidal power, photovoltaic, wave power, coal capture and storage, nuclear energy, and finally biofuels.
There are few signs that the urgently needed change in direction in global energy trends is underway. Although the recovery in the world economy since 2009 has been uneven, and future economic prospects remain uncertain, global primary energy demand rebounded by a remarkable 5% in 2010, pushing CO2 emissions to a new high. Subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption of fossil fuels jumped to over $400 billion. The number of people without access to electricity remained unacceptably high at 1.3 billion, around 20% of the world’s population. Despite the priority in many countries to increase energy efficiency, global energy intensity worsened for the second straight year.
Against this unpromising background, events such as those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the turmoil in parts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have cast doubts on the reliability of energy supply, while concerns about sovereign financial integrity have shifted the focus of government attention away from energy policy and limited their means of policy intervention, boding ill for agreed global climate change objectives.
- Ensuring global energy supplies and economic growth
- Building a cleaner, more efficient energy future globally
- Promoting energy technologies to bridge the future
- Tackling energy challenges together … without borders
Thirty-five years after the Agency’s founding, the IEA responsibility for ensuring access to global oil supplies is still a core mandate – but new energy-related concerns have arisen. Energy security is no longer only about oil. And the industrialized nations of the world are no longer the only major consumers of energy. Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions – 60% of which derive from energy production or use – is a growing threat. So energy policy was tasked with a new objective: to cut greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic growth.
This information paper accompanies the IEA publication Deploying Renewables 2011: Best and Future Policy Practice (IEA, 2011a). It provides more detailed data and analysis on policies for Deploying Renewables, and is intended to complement the main publication.
It provides an account of the strategic drivers underpinning renewable energy (RE) technology deployment (energy security, economic development and environment protection) and assesses RE technologies with respect to these drivers, including an estimate of GHG emissions reductions due to RE technologies.
The paper also explores the different barriers to deploying renewables at a given stage of market maturity and discusses what tools policy makers can avail of to succeed in removing deployment barriers.
An additional topical highlight explores the challenges associated with accelerating the diffusion of RE technologies in developing countries.
Moving towards energy sustainability will require changes not only in the way energy is supplied, but in the way it is used, and reducing the amount of energy required to deliver various goods or services is essential. Opportunities for improvement on the demand side of the energy equation are as rich and diverse as those on the supply side, and often offer significant economic benefits.
Renewable energy and energy efficiency are sometimes said to be the “twin pillars” of a SE policy. Both resources must be developed in order to stabilize and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Efficiency slows down energy demand growth so that rising clean energy supplies can make deep cuts in fossil fuel use. If energy use grows too fast, renewable energy development will chase a receding target. Likewise, unless clean energy supplies come online rapidly, slowing demand growth will only begin to reduce total emissions; reducing the carbon content of energy sources is also needed. Any serious vision of a SE economy thus requires commitments to both renewables and efficiency.
Improving energy efficiency is one of the most constructive and cost–effective ways to address the challenges of high energy prices, energy security and independence, air pollution, and global climate change. The many benefits of energy efficiency include:
- Increased efficiency can lower greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, as well as decrease water use.
- Improving energy efficiency costs significantly less than investing in new generation and transmission. Energy efficiency can also boost the local economy and create downward pressure on natural gas prices and volatility.
- Utility System Benefits:
- When integrated into energy resource plans, energy efficiency can provide long-term benefits by lowering baseload and peak demand and reducing the need for additional generation and transmission assets.
- Risk Management:
- Energy efficiency also diversifies utility resource portfolios and can be a hedge against uncertainty associated with fluctuating fuel prices and other risk factors.
The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, recognizing that “…access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development, which would help to reduce poverty and to improve the conditions and standard of living for the majority of the world’s population.”
The UN General Assembly is encouraging Member States and other actors to increase the awareness of the importance of addressing energy issues and to promote action at the local, national, regional and international levels.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is leading a global initiative on SE for All to mobilize action from all sectors of society in support of three interlinked objectives to be achieved by 2030: providing universal access to modern energy services; doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency; and doubling the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.
- Solar Renewable Energy
- Environmental Technology
- Is Electricity Renewable
- Green Power
- Sustainable Development
- Offshore Wind Power
- Renewable and Non Renewable Energy Sources
- Solar Power Advantages and Disadvantages
- Renewable Energy Policy
- SE Coalition
- Sustainable Energy For All
- California Center for SE
- IEA Renewable Factsheet
- National Science Foundation: Energy for Sustainability
- American Council for an Energy- Efficient Economy: The Twin Pillars of SE: Synergies between Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technology and Policy
- SE Fund
- EU Sustainable Energy Week June 18 – 22, 2012
- Every year hundreds of organizations and individuals in over 30 countries take part in EU Sustainable Energy week by hosting Energy Day events and activities that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
- Be a part of it in 2012 by holding a SE-themed event, project or activity in Brussels or in your country between 18 and 22 June.
- Join the EU Sustainable Energy Week Here
- Energypath 2012 Conference and Expo June 28 & 29 2012
- The Energypath 2012 Conference ( June 27 & 28 & 29 – $125) presented by SEF is a fast-growing conference working to create a passion and understanding for SE in the leaders of today and tomorrow. At the week-long event attendees learn from energy industry experts, policy makers, regulators and industry leading businesses. Earn Act 48 Continuing Professional Education credits!
There are many things we can do to promote and facilitate the growth of sustainable energy, and the easiest and simplest is energy efficiency and energy conservation. If you choose to do more and use renewable energy or green energy, that is up to you. We know we can’t change the world overnight, but we can make significant changes over time one person at a time. If we all chip in and do our part, we can make for a healthier, cleaner planet to live on, which in turn will improve our quality of life and well-being, and make us and our future generations healthier, and happier! Peace my friends!