In present days, international community becomes more concerned with environmental issues such as global climate change, the increase of polluting emissions, the increase in energy consumption and other, because all these problems lead to the imbalance of ecosystems. The urgency of these environmental issues requires the development of methods aimed at improving and maintaining environmental and socioeconomic sustainability. Renewable energy sources may serve as an alternative to conventional sources of energy such as fossil fuels and nuclear power. As of 2010, renewable energy sources made up 16.7% of final global energy consumption with 80.6% and 2.7% shares of fossil fuels and power, respectively (Edenhofer et al., “Economics of Renewable Energy Sources” 1). Conventional or “brown” energy sources produce more emissions but have low cost and high availability, thus being more appealing for industries and manufacturers (Twidell and Weir 29). Renewable energy sources produce less emission but are more expensive because they require expensive technologies and equipment for their cultivation and application. Although conventional energy sources are more economically appealing, they present a serious threat to the environment, and the society should recognize the obvious benefits of renewable energy sources by analyzing possible externalities, existing policy instruments, and market failures that prevent the renewables from being more appealing.
Use of Renewable Energy Sources
The use of renewable energy sources should be analyzed from the perspective of externalities, existing policy instruments, and market failures that prevent the widespread occurrence of renewable energy. Currently, the majority of large manufacturing companies, investors, and consumers are not guided by rational considerations concerning environmental and climate damage that industries cause by their activities. Apart from climate externalities that imply the air pollution by fossil fuels combustion, there are technological externalities that include the lack of research and development activities for the purpose of innovation and facilitation of the use of renewable energy sources (Edenhofer et al., “Sustainability of Renewable Energy Sources” 175). Although the problem of technological externalities is more applicable to markets, both climate and technological externalities create market failures that result in the low market potential of renewable energy sources (Edenhofer et al., “Economics of Renewable Energy Sources” 2). Because of the latter, the international community should develop optimal renewable energy policies concerning market failures, welfare-optimal renewable energy sources application, and policy instruments that will be able to motivate large manufacturing companies, investors, and consumers to substitute conventional energy sources with the renewables.
Benefits of Renewable Energy Sources
Renewable energy sources present a great benefit for the environment because they contribute to the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions that may cause climate change. Renewable energy sources include solar, geothermal, hydropower, wind, ocean energies, and the biomass. The extraction of energy from these sources does not result in thermal, physical, or chemical pollution of the environment. Thus, the extraction of energy from wind, for example, does not interfere with agricultural activities, while fossil fuel mining negatively affects the land and does not allow for its further use (Twidell and Weir 29). Moreover, nuclear and coal electrotechnical industries require huge amounts of water for thermal cooling at manufacturing facilities, while the production of electricity with the help of solar and wind sources uses a comparatively small water volumes (Twidell and Weir 29). Among other advantages of renewable energy sources Stigka et al. lists energy quality and security, the conservation of natural resources, the reliability of electric power systems, and the decrease of operating costs (101). On the whole, renewable energy sources help to establish and maintain the right balance between the environment, technology, and economics.
Use of Conventional Energy Sources
The obvious advantages of conventional or non-renewable energy sources such as low costs and high availability are greatly outnumbered by disadvantages. First of all, mining, processing, and consumption of non-renewable energy resources significantly contribute to the pollution of the environment. Coal treatment results in toxic pollution of ground waters, fossil fuels combustion results in carbon dioxide emissions that may cause dangerous climate change (Twidell and Weir 30). Nuclear resources present a threat to the normal functioning of internal organs. Moreover, since conventional energy sources are non-renewable, industries will eventually face the lack of resources which will result in higher costs, low availability, and absolute depletion (Edenhofer et al., “Sustainability of Renewable Energy Sources” 176). Although the main counterargument against renewable energy sources is their expensiveness, one should consider that with the development of technologies the construction and installation of renewable energy facilities will become cheaper. Besides, since renewable energy sources do not depend on the state of global economy, the operating expenses on industrial facilities will be decreased (Stigka et al. 101).
In the course of time, renewable energy sources will become more widespread because of their obvious advantages such as environmental friendliness, sustainability, high quality and security. The problem of expensiveness will eventually be solved since technological development always progresses. However, if the international community aims to reduce the risks of dangerous climate change and increase the emissions, it should develop new political instruments and analyze the market failures that currently prevent the widespread application of renewable energy sources.
Edenhofer, Ottmar, et al. “On the Economics of Renewable Energy Sources.” Energy Economics, vol. 40, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-12.
“On the Sustainability of Renewable Energy Sources.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 38, no. 1, 2013, pp. 169-200.
Stigka, Eleni K., et al. “Social Acceptance of Renewable Energy Sources: A review of Ccontingent Valuation Applications.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, vol. 32, no. 1, 2014, pp. 100-106.
Twidell, John, and Tony Weir. Renewable Energy Resources. Routledge, 2015.