Most people understand the impact on Society of our reliance on fossil fuels for energy. The carbon dioxide released from burning fossil fuels is having an effect on the climate and is leading to global warming. This has consequences now, and for future generations. It is so important, that the UK government has a legally binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050. To meet this target it has introduced various financial incentives for homes and businesses to switch to renewable energy technologies, thereby reducing carbon emissions. These incentives take the form of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and the Feed in Tariff (FIT).
Another effect of relying on fossil fuel technologies is that the majority of people also depend on the big energy companies to supply the fuel. Consumers are exposed to cost fluctuations, and mostly have no option but to accept the variability as a by-product of using these fuels. This in turn influences the cost of living and impacts our disposable income. People become cautious about spending money and the economy suffers as a result.
There are many benefits associated with changing to green energy, and while the cost can be an issue, there is help available to aid the transition. Solar power is a clear winner in the switch to renewables because the price of installation has fallen substantially over the last decade. More and more households in the UK are installing solar panels and enjoying the benefits of lower energy bills. In fact it is believed that 10 million homes in the UK will have solar panels by 2020.
So what are the benefits of switching to green energy?
- Cheaper fuel bills. Homeowners and businesses can generate a great deal of their energy themselves. Sun, wind and water are free – so for those technologies that use these sources the cost of generating energy is much lower – and the energy is, of course, renewable.
- Less reliance on fluctuating gas and oil prices. This in turn means that people find themselves with higher disposable income, which has a positive effect on the economy.
- Cleaner air and water to enjoy. The impact of burning less fossil fuel is that the emissions are reduced and Society can enjoy the benefits of cleaner air and water. Waste is reduced or is non-existent. Oil spillages and environmental accidents are a thing of the past, and the earth is less contaminated.
- As a result of cleaner air, those with respiratory diseases may find that their health improves and there may be fewer admissions to hospitals for acute breathing difficulty episodes. The costs associated with healthcare provision could consequently be reduced.
- Renewable energy projects tend to be situated away from urban areas, which can lead to the regeneration of areas which have suffered as traditional industries have closed down. As a result local services may prosper, which in turn brings more jobs.
- Those people who live off-grid can enjoy even more significant financial benefits because the disparity in price between oil and LPG and renewable energy is even greater.
- As a country, we have the potential to be self-sufficient, removing the need to import energy from abroad. This would mean that political decision making processes would not be influenced by our energy requirements.
- Fewer infrastructures need to be built to deliver the energy. Mostly, the energy it is generated and delivered onsite. This means that costs are reduced. Unsightly power stations are no longer required and are not a blight on the landscape.
These are just some of the benefits to Society. Whilst it is unreasonable to think that all these are imminent, it is fair to think that it would only take one generation to significantly increase the rewards reaped from renewable energy.