It is no surprise that the resource that allows modern societies to function—an essential part of our everyday lives and a major asset to our global economy—is also a major contributor to the greatest threat to humankind’s future: climate change. For the past two centuries, energy has been sourced from fossil fuels, which have proven detrimental to our environment in the wake of climate change. To combat these dangers, we must turn to more sustainable, renewable sources—which only account for 26% of our world’s energy production as of 2018. Despite a recent spike in abnormal climate activity due to human intervention—much of which includes fossil fuel consumption—prominent nations, such as China and the United States, continue to support the growing production, consumption, and distribution of harmful energy sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. Recent initiatives, such as the efforts to establish solar power in rural sub-Saharan Africa to promote energy equity initiated by the Global Commission to End Poverty, have been a step in the right direction, but we must continue to follow through.
Germany has proven itself as a leader in renewable energy usage, production, and distribution. Over the next 19 years, Germany plans on closing all 84 of its coal plants, despite the fact that coal currently accounts for approximately 40% of its electricity. This refutes claims made by many large, developed nations with dynamic economies stating that they are too reliant on this carbon resource to replace it, attempting to justify their continued production and consumption of the fossil fuel. It should be recognized that the effective transition to fossil fuels requires gradual initiatives in order to avoid economic disruptions, including employment in fossil fuel plants and overall economic benefit. Germany passed the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) to gradually encourage renewable energy production and to promote new, sustainable jobs. EEG aimed to further advance renewable energy technologies to lower costs and increase efficiency of renewables. The Act was so successful it surpassed its goal of covering 12.5% of Germany’s electricity needs by 2020. By 2007, 14.2% of Germany’s electricity was derived from renewable sources, and the EEG was even adopted in other countries due to its success. By these figures, Germany can appropriately be deemed a model for developed nations’ renewable energy production. Following the successful footsteps of the EEG, it is imperative that we make global initiatives to adopt advanced technologies in order to increase renewable sources’ efficiency and decrease their cost.
While this is an important component of renewable energy usage in developed nations, developing nations simply do not have the funding and resources to take this approach. There are tried and true options, such as the encouragement of wind, hydroelectric, and particularly solar power, which can promote long-term cost and energy efficiency, as communities would have access to locally produced, clean energy without having to pay the extra cost of refinement and distribution that imported fossil fuels require. This has become increasingly more feasible following renewables’ recent trends of the decreased cost of production. As of early 2018, the cost of solar energy has decreased by 73% since 2010. The gradual transition to renewable energy sources can include the conversion of oil refinery plants to wind or solar fields, as both require large amounts of land. The first is causing local—as well as global—environmentally detrimental impacts, and the second is renewable energy. In doing this, there can be a direct job turnover of any current employees of oil refineries into sustainable energy production. Because the new renewable energy plant would be in the same location, these employees would avoid unemployment, but could instead stimulate the transition and, once solar panels or wind turbines are installed, they will have the opportunity to be employed by a new, sustainable energy plant. This not only promotes the usage of renewables but also avoids disrupting citizens’ job stability, as well as solves any issues regarding land availability.
- Lily Kappa