Thursday, November 30, 2023

Is green energy really the solution to global warming?


Yes, we have managed to learn how to harness green energy from the easily accessible and never-ending energy resources like solar and wind to fulfil our energy needs but shouldn’t we also talk about reducing our energy needs?

Green energy, sustainable energy, renewable energy, clean energy, CO2-free energy.. many names were given to one idea which is the talk of the town worldwide. Generating energy that is clean, emits less or preferably no CO2at all and is widely accessible. Researchers, governments, industries are all engrossed in developing and implementing technologies to generate electricity, heat and fuel based on low carbon technologies such as solar, wind, biomethane, biomass, hydrogen etc.

Cost analyses are being made and plans are being formulated to install green energy technologies in giga-watts capacities. But there is another necessity sitting somewhere in the dark corner that isn’t yet as much addressed as it should be – ‘The need for energy conservation and consciousness’. There is much less emphasis being laid upon the need for changing lifestyles and reducing our energy needs and consumption, ultimately leading to a reduced carbon footprint.

The world’s energy consumption has been rapidly increasing every year due to rising population, globalization and advanced technologies. As can be seen in the graph below, a very low percentage of this energy comes from renewable sources.

Total global primary consumption (Source)

We are living in a world where everything is slowly getting electrified, increasing more and more our dependence on energy. Flight tickets have never been cheaper. Conferences worldwide are being attended by millions of people willing to travel in carbon-intensive airplanes from one end of the world to another just for a few days. Food is being exported and transported from one continent to another.

Gone are the days when you would eat only seasonal and local. We are lucky that mankind is intelligent enough to be able to invent technologies to satiate this ever-increasing hunger for energy without polluting our environment. But can that alone sustain us in the long term? When will we start talking about energy consciousness?

Today everything is about being economically feasible and maximizing profits, which could be a reason why reducing energy usage is not yet a matter of concern for policymakers and industry leaders. It is time that people take matters into their own hands by being energy conscious in everyday life choices – every kWh energy not used saves all the emissions resulting from manufacturing to production to transport of that energy. Below are some ways in which we can reduce our energy usage:

  • Avoid running small loads in the washing machine, run only full loads
  • Avoid flights and personal cars whenever possible, prefer walking, cycling, carpooling or using public transport
  • Do you have roof-installed solar panels? Then run your washing machine and other energy intensive equipment during the peak hours of solar production
  • Insulate your living space well and use natural light during daytime
  • Replace all lighting with LED lights
  • Turn off lights and fans when not necessary
  • Optimize the heating or cooling in your indoor environment using thermostats and proper settings
  • Give energy efficiency more importance when buying new appliances
  • Pay attention to your monthly energy usage and look into how you can further optimize your consumption
  • Buy local and seasonal products
  • Buy less, re-use and recycle more

And this list can go on and on……

Reduce, re-use and recycle – this should be an integral part of an individual’s behaviour. It should be included in the educational system. 20 years ago waste segregation was easy. Plastic and electronic use was minimal, paper waste was collected with rewards in return and residential waste bins were filled with predominantly kitchen waste. With the advancement in technologies, our waste is getting equally advanced too.

Sadly the same cannot be said for the waste collection and recycling systems. There are things being sold and bought, for which people aren’t aware of their safe disposal or recycling methods like mobile phones, charging cables, hairdryers, batteries, contact lenses etc. In lots of places, there aren’t proper methods in place yet.

Reusing after the repair is especially a huge problem in western countries. A recent experience got me thinking of the ways things operate today. The refrigerator at our newly bought home had some issues of ice build-up. It was about 7 years old but refrigerators are supposed to have a lifetime of at least 10 years.

Keen on getting it repaired I called the manufacturer requesting somebody come take a look and repair the problem if possible. The manufacturer however suggested I buy a new fridge as it would cost me the same for someone to come home and repair it as buying a brand new fridge. How could the manufacturing of a brand new appliance cost the same as fixing a part in the existing appliance?

Mankind is developing, we are finding ways to build, manufacture with lower impact on the environment but everything comes at a cost. Renewable sources of energy like sun and wind are definitely never-ending but the means to harness this energy have their own limits. The rare earth materials needed to build solar panels, batteries, fuel cells are rather limited; land space to implement these systems is limited. Therefore only focusing on implementing clean technologies is not sufficient. The equal focus should be paid to reducing the worlds energy demand so we are able to generate and use only renewable energy to fulfil the necessary energy demand for basic needs.

Also Read: How Hydrogen as energy is showing its potential

(Rashi Mor is a renewable energy enthusiast with experience in PEM fuel cells system designing and testing. She is a hydrogen system technical consultant working in the Netherlands.)

(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)


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