Renewable energy has been a growing trend around the world for a few years now. As the global population rises and technology advances humans are consuming more and more energy as time passes and it is necessary that we find sustainable solutions. In short renewable systems allow us to gather energy from sources that are naturally replaced at an equal or greater pace than is being used. But with any major shift in an industry, especially one as far reaching as energy one, concern is bound to arise: Money. Is renewable energy worth the investment and what are the economic benefits?
Renewable Energy Prices are Coming Down
It is true that renewable energy tends to have a higher initial cost but once the system is set up it tends to be very cheap to run. Since the energy being farmed is usually free most of the remaining costs is just maintenance and upkeep. It’s also important to note that the cost of installing renewable energy systems continues to drop making them more accessible. For example, the cost of solar power has dropped by nearly 75% since 2010. The International Renewable Energy Agency or IRENA believes that the cost of solar power will drop to half of what it currently is by 2020 adding that they believe the most efficient solar and wind farms will be operating at $0.03 per kilowatt hour or less by then. This will potentially put renewable energy at a lower cost than traditional fossil fuels. Currently fossil fuels operate at anywhere between $0.05 to $0.17 per kilowatt hour.
Solar Panel Capacity Keeps Rising
It’s not just the cost that’s been improved the International Energy Agency announced in 2016 that solar panel capacity rose by 50%. The organization believes that the capacity for renewable energy will increase by another 43% by 2022. This would total to half of the global capacity of coal power.
Jobs Will Only Increase With Renewables
But what about jobs? While renewable energy is a relatively new industry it actually does create a lot of jobs. Occupations in renewable energy range from project coordinators to managers to technicians and in some cases even software developers. In 2017 IRENA reported that they were over 9.8 million people employed globally in the renewable energy industry. The United States Department of Energy has stated that the amount of people employed in the solar industry rose by 25% in 2016 adding that the employment in the wind sector had risen by 32%.
Many Countries Are Finding Renewables Is Still Worth The Investment
Workers in this field aren’t the only ones that benefit. Job creation stemming from this field include the suppliers providing the materials needed. Those who lease their land such as farmers can also obtain additional income by allowing solar and wind farms to be built on their property. In the past, renewables have been seen as a waste investment, but times have changed and so have the prospect of renewable energy. According to the UN when China invested $103 billion into renewables in 2015 they were followed by the U.S. with $44.1 billion and Japan at $36.2 billion. BCC, a market research company, reported that they expect renewable energy to be worth over $777 billion by 2019.
Renewables have become a relatively safe investment due to rising energy demand, lower manufacturing costs, and constant technological advancements.
Renewables vs. Natural Gas
Now to address the inevitable question what about natural gas? It’s true that natural gas is cheaper than renewables on average, but there are a few problems with its use. Economically natural gas prices aren’t all that stable because most of the investment in renewables system is in building the infrastructure rather than operating. The costs of renewable energy are able to stay relatively stable compared to fossil fuels. From a different perspective even though natural gas plants produce less carbon dioxide than a coal plant the extraction of natural gas releases methane, which is far better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide. The contribution methane makes to global warming creates unpredictable climates that even further reduce the stability of the energy market. At the end of the day one thing is for sure natural gas is a finite source due to being a fossil fuel. We will use it up far faster than we can get it. Although natural gas is cheaper right now this will likely not remain to be the case we will eventually run out of fossil fuels and renewable options continue to become cheaper and more viable every year.
As of 2018, renewable energy accounts for about 20% of the world’s electricity, according to the World Economic Forum. Although the US has chosen to withdraw from the Paris agreement other growing countries such as China and India have taken initiative and the renewable energy industry is still growing. Some countries such as Norway already generate over 98% of their energy through renewable sources. As technology advances and the costs continue to drop renewables will continue to expand around the world.