Benefits of green energy – reducing our footprint with renewable sources. Electricity is an essential resource we need in many aspects of our lives – from cooking food to entertaining ourselves. It’s hard to imagine life without all that electricity allows us to do. Yet if we continue to rely on non-renewable resources, that may become the reality we live in.
Many of the non-renewable resources we use to generate electricity are predicted to be depleted within the next 40 years, unless we make a change to our consumption patterns and switch to renewable energy whenever possible. While the share of renewable energy in the grid is going up in many countries, there is still a lot of disparity worldwide. At the time of writing, UK is now producing 40% of its energy from renewable sources (thanks to its windy shores ideal for wind turbines and wide access to the sea for gathering the power of tines). In the US the share of green energy still sits low on 17%. Australia is doing better than the US, although not significantly, with 21% of its energy coming from renewable sources. Canada has managed to progress only to 16%.
Why is non-renewable energy problematic?
We can’t expect to rely on non-renewable energy resources forever – because they’re non-renewable and we will run out of them at some (quickly approaching) point. On the other hand, green energy comes from renewable sources, such as the sun or wind, which we can rely on indefinitely, making it not only more sustainable but also less prone to shortages and price fluctuations in the long run.
Another big issue associated with non-renewable energy sources is the carbon footprint. The combustion of fossil fuels produces large amounts of greenhouse gasses, which only accelerate human-induced climate change. In the US and other western countries, energy and heat production is the single largest producer of greenhouse gasses. However, this figure is due to the substantial share of non-renewable sources. Switching to green energy can make a world of a difference.
Production and pollution
The production of solar panels, wind turbines or any other equipment releases some greenhouse gasses. But they are then carbon-neutral through the rest of their lifetime. As our energy supply shifts more toward renewable energy and our grid becomes greener. Additionally, lower consumption of non-renewable sources results in even fewer greenhouse gas emissions. This makes for a much lower carbon footprint than that of non-renewable energy.
Another threat posed by our heavy reliance non-renewable energy sources is the increasing level of air pollution across the world, particularly in urban areas. According to the WHO, the current air pollution levels (especially in cities) are responsible for millions of premature deaths and cost billions of dollars. Switching to green energy production may lower both these figures.
Green energy for economic and social improvements
Green energy doesn’t just help improve our environmental performance, such as our carbon footprint. It’s also beneficial in a social and economic aspect, proving that green energy is the perfect circular economy solution supporting all pillars of sustainability.
As fossil fuels become rarer, their prices are expected to increase, because the supply in the grid won’t match the demand. This will mean that the fuel needed for non-renewable energy production will become very expensive. It will become essential to have a solid system of renewable energy production to rely on, as non-renewable energy will increase in price. Overall, renewable energy is also much less prone to the affects of price spikes, geopolitical crises or supply chain disruptions.
Potential for supporting local communities
Most of the investment into renewable energy goes into construction. But the maintenance of facilities is also important, to keep them running safely and efficiently. This creates more jobs in the local community, as most renewable energy is sourced within the country where it is used. The money the local community pays for utilities is poured directly back into the area and jobs for local people. Currently, the renewable energy sector employs 11 million people worldwide and the number is only set to grow, as the share of green energy increases.
Ways to support more green energy use
Knowing about the impact of non-renewable energy on the environment, and the benefits of opting for green energy instead, how can we reduce our impact and support more green energy use? We could donate to organisations that research and develop green energy or make changes in our own homes.
Once you decide to go green with your energy, you’ve got two main options to choose from. You can either switch to a green energy supplier (if you choose ecotricity you will also be supporting Permaculture Magazine through this affiliate link) or invest in domestic green energy. Or both, using each partially, as not all domestic green energy production methods create energy 24 hours a day. Consider how your home is built and where you live to find your best option. A green energy supplier works similarly to a regular one – except the energy comes exclusively from renewable sources.
Many domestic green energy options are becoming increasingly affordable. Solar panels for example, which may now pay for themselves within 3-5 years. Even when only partially powering your home with them. Battery storage costs are also going down, even though they’re not as quick to pay off as solar panels. As the cost of buying electricity from a supplier keeps increasing (as it has been for the past few years). Domestic green energy could save you a lot of money in the long run! If you produce more power than you can use, then there might also be the option for feeding power back to the grid and get paid. The specifications of this depend on where you live.
Not just solar panels for Green Energy sources
Besides solar panels, other home green energy options include wind turbines or water turbines. Different solutions are best for different people. For example, water turbines may not be for everyone, as you need to have a garden with flowing water to power them, but they’re easily the best solution for anyone in that situation.
If you’re as focused on becoming more self-sufficient and resilient as we are, these domestic green energy options may work for you. It’s one of the changes for a more conscious life that we love to see people adopt.
Downsides to consider
There are some drawbacks to consider too. Space limitations you may have or a potential for an increase in your consumption in the future. Some options might also not be suitable for some climates or situations. For example, solar panels will not be much use if your location gets very little sun through the year. Likewise if your home has trees or buildings casting heavy shade over areas where solar panels can be placed. Before you commit to domestic green energy, don’t forget to consider the cons as well. Perhaps, if your home is not suitable for at-home green energy production, a green supplier may be a better option.
At Byther Farm
We have photovoltaic panels on the roof at the front of the house. And there are water heating solar panels on the other side of the roof. When the panels were installed the owners at the time signed a contract to receive FIT payments. Feed-In Tariff (FIT) payments were a scheme introduced by the government to encourage installation of renewable energy sources. The government have now ended the FIT payment scheme, but our contract continues for a few more years. We also make careful choices about the electricity suppliers that we purchase our power from.
For more content on saving energy, resources, and making your home and garden more efficient, check out these articles –
- A review of a heat-powered stove fan
- Polytunnel review
- A how-to explainer of seed saving all year round
- Using vegetables to their full potential and avoiding food waste
- Zerocarbonista Ideas and inspiration on how we can all live more sustainably, with green entrepreneur and climate campaigner Dale Vince
- 10 tips to reduce plastic use in your home.