We’re all used to seeing rooftops covered in solar panels, hilltop turbines and even backyard windmills now and there’s no doubt that renewable energy is A Good Thing.
Renewable energy, which includes biomass, hydropower and geothermal energy as well as wind and solar, is increasingly a part of our lives, but there are more advantages to it than you might imagine.
It’s clean and green, rather than mean
This is the biggie, and the benefit that most of us think of first. Renewable energy doesn’t rely on fossil fuels – the main source of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions – so we can have more clean electricity. Increasing the use of renewables slows down climate change and maintains air quality without the need to do without all our favourite gadgets.
Renewables improve public health
As renewables don’t pump out sulphur dioxide and particulate pollution into the atmosphere, the air we breathe is getting cleaner and healthier. Common health complaints like asthma and other respiratory conditions, as well as heart disease and even some forms of cancer should all start to reduce in frequency and severity. Childhood ailments like eczema and asthma should also reduce and this is as good for the economy as it is for human wellbeing.
Renewables make energy cheaper
The sun isn’t going anywhere for quite a while, and neither is the wind or the waters… Being able to turn these natural resources into energy means we have a pretty much limitless power supply that’s not going to get more expensive as it becomes scarcer, because it’s not about to become scarce.
The only costs involved with renewables are the equipment to harvest the power and the infrastructure needed to transmit it to wherever it’s needed, as well as some minimal ongoing maintenance. These low costs can eventually be passed onto consumers, reducing their power bills and accelerating the transition to carbon-free energy.
Renewables enable people to become energy-independent
As we’ve seen from the recent bushfires, the grid is vulnerable to outside influences. Even before the fires, areas like South Australia had regular outages and so decreasing people’s reliance on grid power helps homes and businesses to keep running. In fact, with the advent of the virtual power stations (networks of solar arrays and batteries), people can send power back to the grid, store it for downtime and become fully independent if they choose to be.
Renewables are creating more jobs in the economy
The renewables sector could create many new jobs and other employment opportunities as it grows. As many as 24 million people could be working directly within this sector by 2030, and then there’s the downstream jobs to think about, such as those in cafes and other services “following” this new sector.
The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) believes that these 24 million jobs will contribute AUS1.9 trillion to the global economy and boost Australia’s economy by almost 2% above the usual rate. This rise actually takes into account the decrease in coal exports and the gradual decline of the coal industry.