Top 10: Benefits of Renewable Energy

Top 10: Benefits of Renewable Energy
Including environmental, societal, cost-saving & health, Energy Digital explores the advantages renewable energy brings to all corners of the globe

Energy is at the heart of the climate challenge – but is also one of the biggest solutions we have to hand.

Renewable energy boasts a plethora of benefits which offers both environmental and socio-economic benefits.

As well as all transitioning to renewable energy being an essential part of achieving sustainable development goals, it is integral to combating climate change and creating a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous future for all.

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Some of the benefits of renewable energy hit headlines, others are well known. But some benefits aren’t even primary benefits at all, and are happy by-products of other pursuits.

So for this week’s Top 10, we run through some of the benefits that renewable energy brings businesses, individuals, governments and countries, to name a few.

10. Enhanced reliability, security, and resilience

By diversifying energy sources, decentralising generation and integrating smart grid technologies, renewable energy offers enhanced reliability, security and resilience. As three of the key factors that ensure energy systems operate at their peak, renewable energy reduces reliance on a single energy source and centralised infrastructure as a result.

9. Job creation

Renewable energy industries have seen a boom in green-centric jobs, but the International Energy Agency (IEA) says the number of workers pursuing degrees or certifications relevant to energy sector jobs is not keeping pace with growing demand. Its Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said: “The unprecedented acceleration that we have seen in clean energy transitions is creating millions of new job opportunities all over the world – but these are not being filled quickly enough.

“Governments, industry and educational institutions need to put in place programmes to deliver the expertise needed in the energy sector to keep pace with growing demand, particularly to manufacture and build the clean energy projects necessary to meet our energy and climate goals.”

8. Reduced carbon emissions and air pollution

Producing energy from renewable sources, and transitioning to renewable energy overall, plays a crucial role in mitigating climate change, especially when it comes to improving air quality and protecting public health. This is thanks to the significant reduction of carbon emissions and air pollution from energy production in this space. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power don't produce carbon emissions as part of the electricity generation process. However, fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas are by far the largest contributor to global climate change, accounting for more than 75% of global greenhouse gas emissions and just shy of 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

7. Increased energy independence

Renewable energy promotes energy independence by leveraging domestic resources, reducing dependence on imported fuels, diversifying energy sources, decentralising generation and empowering local communities to participate in the energy transition. By tapping into domestic resources like sunlight, wind and water, renewable energy reduces reliance on imported fossil fuels, mitigating vulnerabilities to global market fluctuations. 

RenewableUK’s CEO Dan McGrail says: “Renewables can deliver new, low-cost power quicker than any other option and wind will be at the heart of a secure, affordable net zero energy system. Scaling up our ambitions for renewables, and increasing speed of delivery, will help us cut bills and be more energy independent. The sector is investing tens of billions of pounds in cheap wind power, as well as cutting-edge green hydrogen and floating wind technology, so that the UK can reduce our dependence on gas.

“Green investment is creating tens of thousands of jobs across the UK to support levelling up and reaching net zero faster.”

6. Increased affordability

Renewable energy is cheaper than new and existing fossil fuels plants. The IEA reported that in 2023, an estimated 96% of newly installed, utility-scale solar PV and onshore wind capacity had lower generation costs than new coal and natural gas — sources that aren’t cheap. It also increases affordability by offering cost-competitive electricity generation thanks to declining technology costs making it cheaper than fossil alternatives. Wind power giants Ørsted advocates that newly-constructed offshore wind — the power of which has the potential to power hundreds of millions of people sustainably — has become cheaper to produce energy from than newly-built coal or gas-fired power plants.

5. Expanded clean energy access

Statistics from the IEA show that solar PV and wind account for 95% of the expansion of renewable power, with renewables expected to overtake coal to become the largest source of global electricity generation by early 2025. The body’s research also showed that the world added 50% more renewable capacity in 2023 than in 2022, with the next 5 years seeing further fast growth, set to be the fastest yet. 

4. Improved public health

Because fossil fuels cause air pollution and can contaminate water and soil, energy from renewable resources — which do not emit carbon — prevents air pollution, making the air safer to breathe and leading to better health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 99% of people worldwide breathe air that exceeds air quality limits and threatens their health. It also attributes more than 13 million deaths annually to avoidable environmental causes, including air pollution. The United Nations (UN) says switching to clean sources of energy, like wind and solar, helps address not only climate change but also air pollution and health.

3. Unlimited supply availability

Thanks to the of many renewable power sources being naturally occurring — the light produced by the sun, an abundance of wind — they are widely available and infinite in their nature. Despite this, the UN says around four in five worldwide  — six billion — live in countries that are net-importers of fossil fuels.

Renewable energy is available regardless of geography, with the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimating 90% of the world’s electricity can and should come from renewable energy by 2050.

Speaking a decade ago at COP20, the then Head of Climate Negotiations team for France Paul Watkinson said: “Renewables have a huge role to play in mitigating climate change because one of the key challenges is to decarbonise our energy system and renewables are the key way forward in doing that. 

“This is not just about reducing emissions, it’s about development, access to energy and moving forward in a positive way…renewable energy can change people’s lives overnight.” His words still ring true 10 years later.

2. Enhanced energy security

Renewable energy enhances energy security by diversifying energy sources, reducing reliance on imported fuels and decentralising energy generation. It has also influenced energy security through the negative impacts of climate change, the security of oil supplies and the implementation of policies and incentives to promote renewable energy.

Even more than 15 years ago the IEA recognised the role renewables play in this space, saying that although the environmental benefits of renewable energy are well known, the contribution that they can make to energy security is less widely recognised. Its 2007 report aims to redress the balance, showing how in electricity generation, heat supply and transport, renewables can enhance energy security.

1. More inclusive

Renewable energy promotes inclusivity by decentralising energy production, offering opportunities for participation and ownership by diverse communities. Community-owned projects enable local engagement and economic empowerment, fostering social equity.

Access to efficient and reliable renewable energy can also provide significant climate, development and equity benefits. Transitions to clean energy are compatible with sustainable economic development and women’s economic empowerment, for example, but adequate policies are vital to ensure its success. This is underpinned by the IEA’s Our Energy Future: The Global Commission on People-Centred Clean Energy Transitions. Established in 2021, the commission has 30 members and brings together government leaders, ministers and prominent thinkers in pursuit of ensuring the benefits of clean energy technologies reach all segments of society.

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