Sustainability has become a big priority for many people in recent years.
Entrepreneurs finally began to realize that their ways of production and conducting business are not sustainable in the long-term.
While some only care about the short-term profits, others strive to adapt their production to the changing trends to succeed in the long-run.
That applies to consumers as well.
Many choose to go vegetarian or vegan to protect animals.
People favor cruelty-free and eco-friendly cosmetics.
Men and women turn to essential oils for healing their bodies and minds, rather than using products full of harmful chemicals and artificial ingredients.
Finding and implementing renewable sources of energy is a big step towards the new eco-friendly lifestyle.
National Geographic describes renewable sources of energy as ways to combat global warming, rather than to support general sustainability.
One of the main causes of global warming is the emission of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane.
Greenhouse gases are released during the burning of fossil fuels we use to power our cars, homes, and devices.
These gases trap heat in the atmosphere, thus increasing the temperatures on earth.
That can ultimately lead to climate change, causing extreme weather conditions and rising sea levels.
That, in turn, can end in animals losing habitats and people being unable to harvest crops due to unfavorable weather conditions.
Renewable energy, on the other hand, is generated directly from natural resources such as wind, sunlight, and water.
Some well-recognized types of renewable energy sources include hydropower, solar power, wind, and biomass.
That is not all, of course.
You might be surprised to find out that eucalyptus oil was used in the 1850s to light up houses and other buildings in Victoria, Australia.
Unfortunately, implementing new technologies is never a walk in the park.
Right now, renewable energy generation and usage do not equal sustainability, and it has many drawbacks that people often forget to consider.
Below are ten reasons why renewable energy is not as great as it seems.
1. Reliance on Weather Conditions
First of all, switching to renewable energy means fully relying on the weather for all our energy needs.
As Solar Schools rightfully pointed out, hydro generators are heavily reliant on rain, so if it’s not raining – there will be no power.
Wind turbines require wind to work, therefore they won’t work on a nice, still, sunny day.
Solar panels need sunshine to generate electricity, so they won’t be able to power our houses at night.
We can’t always predict the weather with 100% accuracy, which means we cannot generate power from renewable sources all day every day.
Fossil fuels, on the other hand, do not need sunshine, wind or rain.
Using them means having a stable supply of energy every day, no matter the weather.
2. Higher Initial Investment
Environmentalists claim that switching to renewable energy can save us money in the long-term.
However, switching to different energy sources requires a very high initial investment.
A lot of money lies in research and development, where scientists and researchers find ways to implement the resources our planet provides.
Lots of funding goes out to develop the technology required to produce and distribute renewable energy.
We already have traditional energy generators, so we don’t need to start from scratch there, while renewable energy generators are still in their early stages of development.
Governments of different countries offer financial incentives and tax budgets to help develop this technology, but it’s not nearly enough.
A well-recognised consulting firm that works in the field of energy calculated the approximate cost of switching to renewable power in the whole of USA.
It reached a whopping $4.5 trillion, which equals to a quarter of the total GDP in the US in 2018.
Switching to renewable sources of energy will require not only a large monetary investment but also a change in people’s mindsets.
This change will trickle down to many aspects of living, including the electricity market and so on.
The transition is so extreme, that even if we start now and go at full speed, it will still take us a minimum of 11 years, and that is the best-case scenario.
3. Difficulty in Implementation Due to Geography
Renewable energy is more available to some than it’s to others.
Kerry Thoubboron of EnerySage finds that you can install a solar panel or a windmill relatively easily if you live on a big farm out of town.
You can’t as easily do that if you live in a big city like New York, in an apartment building inside a concrete jungle, covered by other taller buildings.
If you’re sharing a property with other people (such as an apartment building or an office complex), you can initiate the installation of a solar panel, but it’s ultimately not just up to you.
If you’re unlucky enough to live in a place with no sun or rain throughout the year, this option is not viable for you at all.
Overall, the switch to renewable energy can be difficult to implement depending on your geographic location.
As mentioned above, renewable energy can’t be generated just anywhere; it depends largely on the weather conditions of the location you’re in.
If you’re not lucky enough but still want to reap its benefits, you need to have it transported to you.
Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem – you have your non-renewable energy transported to you every day!
Except not every city can produce renewable energy, so it might have to travel a long way to reach you.
The costs of transportation accumulate.
A finance blog Vittana claims that the distribution networks that need to be set up to deliver this energy to you require a large fossil fuel investment.
That completely defeats the purpose of using renewable energy in the first place.
5. Storage Capabilities
The supply of renewable energy is not consistent or predictable due to the reasons mentioned above.
The sun doesn’t shine at night, meaning solar panels won’t be able to provide you power at night.
Currently, any variability in the energy supply can be smoothed with non-renewable energy, of which we have a steady supply.
If the goal is to go 100% renewable, we need to find a way to store the excess generated for later.
If the storage was cheap, we could store enough energy to smooth over any fluctuations.
It’s, however, very expensive.
The average community simply cannot afford to pay that much for its energy needs.
Researcher Jessika Trancik determined that energy capacity costs would have to drop down to $20 per kilowatt-hour.
That would be a 90% drop from today’s costs.
While that will be possible in the future, the funding we have today will not suffice.
6. Pollution is Not Eliminated
Pollution is a big problem that most people on our planet are affected by.
Polluted air can lead to a lower quality of life, a number of illnesses and even premature death.
People are turning to alternative treatments, such as essential oils, to alleviate the discomfort caused by pollution.
Our governments have a slightly different approach – eliminate pollution altogether.
Renewable energy came to the rescue! Unfortunately, it’s not 100% clean, it’s merely cleaner.
Research from the European Environment Agency shows that in 2015 renewable energy helped to cut greenhouse gas emissions by only 10%.
While they promise the percentage will rise in a few years, the results right now are less than impressive.
Since renewable energy production is still in the development stage, many generators and storage units are yet to be built.
The technologies used to build renewable energy resources require fossil fuels, which defeats the purpose of using renewable energy again.
In addition to that, some renewable energy resources still produce pollution, just less of it.
In conclusion, pollution is not eliminated completely.
7. Cost Vs. Amount
For reasons explained above, renewable energy is expensive.
In order for it to work, we need to build power plants, storage units and distribution networks.
The quicker we want to switch to renewable energy, the more money we will have to spend.
The production of non-renewable energy, on the other hand, has already been set up.
The cost of production of renewable power is huge, considering the amount produced; a large chunk of government funding will only make a small amount of power.
A great example of that is a corn-based fuel called ethanol.
Ethanol was created in the US as a crude oil replacement.
In 2007 the US managed to produce 430,000 barrels of ethanol per day, which was only enough to replace 2% of all the oil being consumed.
In addition to that, the prices of corn rose, since a lot of it was pumped into the production of ethanol.
In 2013 ethanol accounted for 4.6% of all the fuel in the US.
That’s a very modest improvement, considering the amount of money invested in this experiment.
8. Space Efficiency
The production of renewable energy often requires a massive amount of space.
Biomass, hydro and wind take up the most space, according to environmental scientist Paul Behrens and student John van Zalk.
They found that the production of natural gas may require as much as 1000 times more space than the production of its non-renewable alternatives.
Solar and wind power “only” need 40 to 50 times more space than coal to produce the same amount of energy.
Research shows that solar power needs increasingly more space due to the rising population.
People need land for agriculture and living, but more and more land is being used for renewable energy generation.
This is especially inconvenient for densely populated countries and less economically developed countries that cannot afford to install these technologies.
9. Loss of Habitats
Using renewable energy is marketed as a remedy for global warming and all its effects.
What is rarely mentioned is that it can actually contribute to habitat degradation – one of the impacts of climate change.
To generate a significant amount of energy through the sun, solar farms need big strips of land.
People often neglect to consider that even seemingly uninhabited land can be someone’s home.
The solar system in the Mojave Desert of California left a large number of desert tortoises homeless.
It also contributed to the death of many birds, whose wings were burned from the heat of the solar panels.
The death of a species in one location can affect other species around the same location, leading to habitat degradation.
Bioenergy faces the same problem.
Its resources are crops and forest products.
AltEnergyMag claims that a substantial amount of trees is required for the production of bioenergy.
That implies cutting down forest land, thus ridding animals of their habitats.
Some land used in the production of renewable energy could also be useful for agriculture and farming.
10. Low Amounts Produced
Given the state of our technology and research right now, it’s near impossible for renewable energy to compete with fossil fuels.
We’re unable to control some renewable energy sources, so their production is very limited.
Based on the statistics of the US Energy Information Administration, renewable energy only accounted for 9% of total primary energy consumption in 2011.
Naturally, that amount is not nearly enough to supply the whole world with energy, especially considering the increasing population.
Storage is currently very expensive, making switching to renewable energy in the short-term highly unrealistic.
The drive to create renewable energy carries the right message – it strives to eliminate greenhouse gases and therefore avoid climate change and all the things that come out of it, such as destruction of habitats.
In reality, generating and using renewable energy, using the technologies we have right now, can do more harm than good.
Unfortunately, almost any construction and production process require the use of fossil fuels, which renewable energy should eliminate.
How can increasing the consumption of fossil fuels help us decrease it at the same time?
While switching to renewable energy is an interesting idea, it’s important to see both sides of the coin and understand the whole process of its generation, rather than focusing only on the outcome.
At the end of the day, we should strike a balance in using renewable energy and manufactured energy to avoid the negative side effects from both sources.