Generating a Revolution in Energy Production and Consumption by 2030
The United Nations has made it a priority to make affordable and clean energy accessible to all by 2030. Access to energy is essential for the wellbeing of the people as well as economic development and poverty alleviation.
As the population of the world increases so does its energy consumption. Fossil fuels, hydroelectricity, and, since the 1950s, nuclear energy have been the primary energy sources used to generate electricity over the last century. Despite the fact that renewable energy has grown rapidly in recent decades, fossil fuels continue to dominate the global energy landscape. In 2017, fossil fuels generated 64.5 percent of global electricity, up from 61.9 percent in 1990. When fossil fuels are burned, they release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the air. Greenhouse gases trap heat in our atmosphere, causing global warming. Already the average global temperature has increased by 1C. Warming above 1.5°C risks further sea level rise, extreme weather, biodiversity loss and species extinction, as well as food scarcity, worsening health and poverty for millions of people worldwide. The burning of fossil fuels for energy causes considerable numbers of deaths due to air pollution. For instance, it is estimated that in China alone 670,000 people die prematurely - every year due to the use of coal.
Nuclear power reactors do not produce direct carbon emissions like burning fossil fuels. It however produces radioactive waste that is a major environmental concern.
Nuclear accidents are fatal as witnessed in both Hiroshima nuclear disaster and Fukushima disaster.
Investment and research should be made in renewable energy as an alternative to burning fossil fuels. Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale. It includes sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Many countries are investing heavily in renewable energy sources as a solution to reducing the greenhouse effect caused by burning carbon fuels. Chinese investment in clean energy is the highest worldwide. In 2019, China pumped some 83.4 billion U.S. dollars into clean energy research and development. The United States and Japan had the second and third highest clean energy investments that year, at 55.5 billion and 16.5 billion U.S. dollars, respectively. All selected countries combined had spent 219.2 billion U.S. dollars in alternative energy technologies. The leading three entries accounted for roughly 71 percent of total investments.
Although renewable energy produces electricity with low amounts of greenhouse gas emissions across their entire life cycle, they do not produce electricity predictably or consistently due to their inherent reliance on the weather. Electricity generation from wind turbines varies with the wind speed, and if the wind is too weak or too strong no electricity is produced at all. The output of solar panels is reliant on the strength of the sunshine, which depends on a number of different factors, such as the time of day and the amount of cloud cover (as well as the amount of dust on the panels).