Since the Industrial Revolution we have been generating power in many different ways. For over a hundred years, the burning of fossil fuels such as coal has helped generate power. As well as this, substances such as uranium are also used in nuclear power stations. Recently, the use of renewable resources such as solar or wind power has become much more popular as they generate power in a much cleaner way and the stores of these resources are infinite. It has been calculated that almost a half of all power produced is now created using renewable resources and environmental agencies are hoping that this proportion will increase.
There are a number of different ways to generate power; one example is the burning of fossil fuels which include coal, oil and gas. At one point, all of our power was generated this way and many generations of people worked underground in the mines and on the coastline to collect these fuels. When it was found that the amount of these resources is finite and that at the current rate of usage could only last for a few centuries, it gave one reason to find another alternative to use in our power stations.
In addition to this, the amount of carbon released during these processes was seen to be affecting our environment. This gave another huge reason for other methods of generating power to be planned and put into practice. Nuclear power stations also supply the globe with power by using uranium in their reactors, although as well as uranium being non-renewable, the waste produced from the process has to be stored for many years underground. With incidents such as those at the Fukishima power plants in Japan, some people may have been discouraged by this method.
Renewable energy is produced using resources that have an infinite supply, such as wind or solar power. There are other examples such as geothermal energy, which uses heat from underground, and tidal power, which uses the motion of the waves to produce energy. Until recently, the start-up price for these methods were costly, especially with technology such as solar panels. There has been a gradual increase in the amount of wind farms and infrastructure has been developed to enable the supply to meet the growing demand and increase the proportion of clean energy being produced.
We are now in a time where wind farms are common place and where some houses have solar panels on their roofs. Electric and hybrid cars are becoming more popular and more car manufacturers are using the technology in newer models. Many homes may recycle their waste rather than throwing it all away, and people have become more conscious of how much power they are using. We as a society are more aware of how our lifestyles can affect the environment, and this has led to more energy companies investing in renewable energy, which has in turn reduced the amount of carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere. The price of installing solar panels and building the infrastructure for other renewable power plants is decreasing as they are becoming more and more common. Grants are now given to help subsidise the installation of solar panels and other technology, thanks to the increased efforts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This move is a huge step forward and the already amazing proportion of just under a half of all energy produced being from renewable resources has the opportunity to increase further.
With the meeting of the IPCC upcoming, there will be discussions as to what the next steps are for increasing the amount of clean energy produced. The options being discussed will be worldwide solutions and will help to make a huge contribution to the effort. These meetings occur throughout the year to help track the progress being made and discuss what can be done to improve the rate of progress. It is a great achievement to produce almost half of the world’s energy sustainably, nonetheless it is possible to increase this proportion even further and the options available will be discussed in the meeting. With the developments we have in technology, we are capable of drastically reducing the amount of non-renewable resources used in the generation of power and of carbon emissions being released in turn. The possibility of having much more clean energy produced is right in front of us, and with innovation, determination and investors, the end goal is more achievable than ever.
What can we do as individuals to reduce the amount of unsustainable power we use?