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Last updated: 14 May 2024

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Renewable Energy?

What Exactly Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy is any form available in the natural environment and can be replenished repeatedly. For example, solar energy is naturally available, and we can't run out of it by consuming it.

On the contrary, as we burn fossil fuels like oil and coal, their resources constantly decrease. Scientists have estimated that the remaining oil resources might last around 190 years. This estimation is up to 230 years for natural gas resources.

Unfortunately, renewable energy supplies less than 16% of the total energy we consume worldwide. However, this share constantly increases, especially in advanced countries with supportive policies. For instance, the UK has planned to increase its renewable capacity from 47.16 GW in 2019 to 86.21 GW by 2026.

Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy

7 Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Fortunately, renewable energy is available in various forms depending on the location and the season. For example, some areas have gale-force winds, but the sunlight is not enough because of cloudy weather.

Having a distributed network of different forms of energy can ensure that we have sustainable and clean energy. Here are 7 types of alternative energy sources available out there:

Solar Energy

Solar energy is the only type of renewable energy you can easily harness at home. You need to buy either solar water heaters or solar panels to use solar energy and reduce your energy bills. There are different types of PV panels and you can choose the best one for your home according to the price, efficiency, and other criteria. Read more about it in our article.

Wind Energy

To utilize gale-force winds, we need to build large turbines in windy areas. Wind farms can help rural and remote areas to have green electricity. For example, offshore and onshore wind in the UK is generating around 24.2% of the UK’s electricity.

Hydroelectric

Hydroelectric power is similar to wind energy technology except for the working liquid, water instead of air. Building large dams and using turbines might be expensive, but it will produce a great amount of electricity.

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy is another clean and renewable energy that can be regarded as a sustainable power source. It is the heat within the planet Earth that can be harnessed in some areas.

Biomass

Biomass energy is the heat we can derive from organic waste by burning it. It's regarded as a renewable energy source because we always regenerate organic materials, mostly plants.

Tidal Energy

Tidal or ocean energy is the hydropower energy we can get from tides. This energy is sometimes sorted under the category of hydropower, not in a separate one.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen is the most abundant element available on our planet, two-thirds of which is water. This element can be used as a zero-carbon fuel if we separate it.

Advantages of Renewable Energy

First, looking at the advantages of using renewable energy sources instead of burning fossil fuels is good. Here are several important benefits of using renewable energy:

1. Renewable Energy Sources Will Not Run Out

As it comes from the name, a renewable energy source is sustainable, meaning it will not run out soon. For example, the sun is expected to shine every morning for at least 4.5 - 5.5 billion years to come, so we can consider it a renewable energy source. This might be the most important difference between renewables and fossil fuels.

2. Renewable Energy Is Reliable

Despite fossil fuels, which are always subject to disputes and wars between countries, we can easily and peacefully gain control of renewable energy sources.
In other words, trade laws, political instabilities, territorial claims, and market turmoil cannot impact the use of renewable energy sources.

Although renewable energy sources are not distributed equally, with a smart and widespread energy network, they can be used as reliable means of supplying energy.

3. Renewable Energy Is Environmentally Friendly

Renewable energy sources are natural ways of energy generation and, therefore, can be considered clean. Although renewable energy technologies can cause some emissions, overall, minimum carbon and GHG will be emitted to the environment.

When you compare them with fossil fuels, the difference is significant. Therefore, catastrophic environmental issues like global warming, climate change, and low air quality can be omitted if we go for renewable energy.

4. Renewable Energy Can Increase Public Health

We'll have healthier air and soil by reducing greenhouse emissions and other polluting substances. This will improve public health, and people will have happier lives. Additionally, having a healthier population will cause a significant reduction in the health budget people and governments should set aside each year.

Scientists have tried to improve fossil fuel technologies to make them less polluting without reducing their efficiency. However, renewable energy technologies are still way healthier than traditional technologies.

5. Renewable Technologies Create Lots of Jobs

Besides the environmental impact of using renewable technologies, they can benefit the economy. This is especially important in some unprivileged regions. This new and stable job market has recently emerged and can empower people in poor areas.

With a concerted effort and prudent investment, renewable jobs can reduce poverty all over the globe. Also, it can prevent people from emigrating from the countryside to urban areas. Governments can offer them a fair share of the energy generated by renewable electricity on their farms. In advanced countries such as the UK, numerous renewable jobs have already been created due to governmental grants.

6. Renewable Technologies Require Less Maintenance Cost

If you compare renewable energy technologies with fossil fuel power stations, you see fewer moving or combusting parts. Solar energy systems don't need rotating parts although you can see turbines in wind farms or hydropower stations. This makes renewable energy technologies more durable; therefore, you will spend less on maintenance and repair. Overall, the operational cost of renewable energy stations is significantly less than traditional power stations.

7. Renewable Energy Can Reduce Turmoil in Energy Prices

If you usually follow the news, you must have heard of daily ups and downs in oil prices. Renewable energy can greatly help in this regard, reducing this turmoil and stabilising the global energy market. Because using renewable energy only demands an initial investment and doesn't require any fuel, as for instance with an air source heat pump.

On the contrary, using traditional technologies demands a significant budget for fossil fuel prices, which are subject to ever-existing inflations. When countries reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, the prices in this market will change more smoothly.

8. Renewable Energy Can Increase Countries' Economic Independence

Countries with no fossil fuel resources can reduce their energy dependence with a distributed network of renewable energy technologies. In fact, local people can generate electricity using renewable technologies and help governments reduce oil imports. This will decrease the risk of an energy crisis and benefit the countries' sustainable development.

9. Leftovers Can Be Used in Renewable Technologies

Landfills are among the major crises in the world. It's good to know that some sorts of renewable energy technologies can use leftovers and reduce the amount of waste materials that are piled in landfills.

Biomass energy, for instance, biomass boilers, has this beneficial aspect that can consume used organic products as fuel. This is a promising way to kill two birds with a single stone.
First, the size of landfills should be reduced, and second, energy should be generated without paying for fossil fuels.

Disadvantages of Renewable Energy

Now, it's time to look at some disadvantages of renewable energy that make it difficult.

1. Renewable Energy Is Not Available Round the Clock

Renewable energy sources are natural forces that are strongly dependent on the weather conditions. Therefore, when you have bad weather conditions, renewable energy technologies such as solar cells will be of less use.

For example, when it rains, your PV panels can't generate electricity, so you have to get back to traditional power sources. This uncertainty is the most important drawback of relying on renewable technologies.

2. The Efficiency of Renewable Technologies Is Low

Each type of energy requires a specific technology so that we can convert it into electricity. The efficiency of energy conversion devices is very important when prioritizing energy sources. Unfortunately, the efficiency of renewable technologies is not that high compared with traditional energy conversion devices. 

For example, solar panel efficiency, that are available in the market, is between 15% and 20%. On the other hand, traditional technologies that use coal or natural gas can reach efficiency levels of up to 40% and 60%, respectively.

3. The Initial Cost of Renewable Energy Is High

Considering the energy we can get from renewable technologies, their initial cost is high and sometimes unaffordable. Renewable energy devices' manufacturing and installation processes, like PV panels, are relatively expensive. Also heat pump costs can be quite high for some households. Governments are setting aside considerable budgets, such as solar panel grants and heat pump grants, to help these technologies grow.

4. Renewable Energy Sites Require A Lot of Space

To harness nature's energies, we need a lot of space. This will cause many problems for renewable energy sites. Compared with traditional power stations, we must use more land to establish renewable energy farms.

5. Renewable Energy Devices Need Recycling

Generating electricity from renewable energy sources produces way lower levels of pollution. However, renewable devices are subject to some concerns because manufacturing them and their disposal process might emit pollution.

For example, solar cells will fail to perform well after a while, so we need to throw them away. However, these devices might be toxic, so we need to think of a recycling process for them.

Why is Renewable Energy Important?

We're now facing unprecedented heatwaves, polluted air, and unbelievable health issues caused by fossil fuels. In Addition to this issue, fossil fuels are about to run out if we continue to burn them uncontrollably.

Renewable energy sources are our best chance to stop the current trend and make the world a better place to live. Therefore, governments are considering using renewable energy sources to generate electric power. As a result, renewable energy is increasingly used to generate electricity in all countries.

For example, the share of renewable energy in global electricity generation increased to 29% in 2020. This is a success compared with a 27% share in electricity generation in 2019.

Some advanced countries, such as the UK, have aimed for 100% renewable cities by 2050. Around 43% of the UK’s electricity is generated by renewables. Despite many obstacles towards 100% renewable energy, there are promising advantages to using renewable technologies.

Overall, the advantages of using renewable energy sources outweigh the disadvantages. Although the initial cost of establishing a network of renewable technologies might be higher, the expenses will be offset over time. Considering the lateral influencers of using renewable energy, postponing shifting toward 100% renewable is not a wise course of action.

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