Clean energy or clean power is energy that doesn’t pollute the atmosphere and comes from renewable, zero emission sources. Green energy, on the other hand, is energy that comes from natural sources. The perfect mixture is when clean energy meets green energy, since not all green energies are renewable.
Earth, Our Home
Our planet is our home and we must protect it. Earth has a feedback mechanism, meaning that to an extent, the changes won’t be permanent: it can suffer great threats (such as a spike in temperature) and eventually return to its original state. However, scientists agree that we can only afford a 2°C temperature increase before facing enormous changes in life as we know it. Unfortunately, Earth can suffer only so long before reaching the point of no return — we must change our lifestyles before it’s too late.
Climate change is real and the consequences are terrible. It’s estimated that it’s already been responsible for 3% of malaria-, 3% of diarrhea- and 3.8% of dengue fever-deaths in 2004, as well as being the main cause of 0.2% of deaths in 2004, most of which were children.
There are also potential health risks, such as death from extreme temperatures, weather disasters, vector- and water-borne diseases, and conflicts over natural resources. To avoid such tremendous outcomes, we must reduce both CO2 emissions and fossil fuel usage.
As Professor Michael Duren suggests, the problem of climate change can be tackled by rethinking the way we use energy. A sustainable approach centers around energy production, energy consumption, and energy transport.
There are three main energy sources: fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy.
Fossil fuels — coal, oil, wood, natural gas — are major energy resources, but they also contribute significantly to climate change. Coal energy, for example, represents around 25% of consumed energy worldwide, but its impact is devastating: not only does it release CO2 into the atmosphere, but it’s produced through underground mining, which puts people’s health at risk: falling rocks, mine shafts, gas inhalation, and explosions are only some of the most common dangers the mining workforce faces every day. In the last century, more than 100,000 miners have been killed in mine accidents and more than double that amount has died because of pneumoconiosis, a lung disease caused by dust inhalation.
As of today, most of the energy demand is covered by fossil fuels, while only 15% of the demand is covered by renewable resources, and (fortunately) an even smaller percentage is covered by nuclear energy.
The Benefits of Clean Energy
Air pollution, which causes millions of deaths around the world every year, can be reduced by increasing the use of clean energy. The benefits of using clean energy sources aren’t limited to a reduction of air pollution, although that is one of the main improvements in terms of climate change.
Air pollution has dramatic consequences on people’s health. A reduction in air pollutants can benefit many people in different ways. For example, one of the main indicators of a country’s wellbeing is life expectancy at birth. A 2020 study, conducted in 12 countries, reviewed the data on using renewable energy and health from 1990 to 2015. As expected, the results showed that life expectancy at birth is influenced by the usage of renewable energy. The more clean energy is used, the greater improvements in life quality can be observed. Moreover, between 2000 and 2004, another study highlighted that as clean energy consumption nearly doubled in China, maternal mortality decreased by 59%.
There can be significant reductions in cost, as there isn’t a need to extract or transport fuels — such as coal and oil — because clean energy is based on resources that can replenish themselves naturally and occur worldwide.
An expansion of the clean energy sector can create numerous jobs. In 2018, around 11 million people were employed in the renewable energy field. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, this number could rise to 42 million job opportunities in the next forty years.
How to Use Clean Energy
Since clean energy is still a relatively new field, we don’t know all the possible applications of it yet. However, these three main clean energy sources have specific, yet not limited, uses.
The energy from the sun can be accessed through solar panels. Solar panels collect energy from the sun and turn it into electricity. Not only can this electricity be used for heating and light, but the panels can also be scaled up to a larger size, allowing them to provide power for entire buildings.
The energy from wind can be accessed through windmills. They’re attached to a generator that transforms wind into power. While they’ve historically been used to grind grain and pump water, they’ve recently started being used to produce electricity.
The energy from water can be accessed through the current of rivers, streams, or lakes and turned into electricity. However, some people object that water isn’t a renewable source because the amount of water is limited: if we move water from a place to another, the place we took it from won’t be able to access it anymore. Moreover, the building of hydro dams causes deforestation and the industrialization of large natural environments.
Although it seems like the problems connected to the environment are much bigger than us, we can still make a difference. We need the collective actions of millions of people who work together to protect the environment.
However, we’re still responsible for the small choices we make every day. For example, fossil-fuel-powered cars use only 20% of the fuel to move, while 60% is lost as heat from the engine. Not only are we using more energy than necessary, we’re also wasting it. But we can also do smaller things: turning off the lights when we don’t need them, avoiding heating the home unnecessarily, or taking shorter showers can be great first steps towards a better future.