Sustainable Energy: Sources, Definition & Examples
Inspire Clean Energy
8 min read
category: Clean Energy 101
Sustainable Energy: Meaning, Examples & More
The way we use energy is changing. Compared to previous decades, we’re far more aware of the damaging effects of fossil fuels on the environment, and many of us are trying to live as sustainably as possible. With an ever-increasing number of buzzwords around the topic of food, fashion, and ecology, it can be hard to know what’s worth researching and what will fade out of popularity in the next year.
One such buzzword is the word “sustainable.” Plenty of cosmetics, food, and fashion companies use the word to describe how they acquire their materials, but what does sustainability mean in terms of energy?
One of the most notable causes of global warming is the daily burning of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are finite resources, meaning they’ll run out one day, which is just one reason why it’s important for the world to shift toward renewable sources. Read on to discover what sustainable energy is, how it got its name, and why it’s so important to the health of current and future generations.
What is sustainable energy?
Sustainable energy refers to the use of any type of energy that can meet demands without putting the resources in danger of running out. Sustainable energy sources cause minimal damage to the environment and will never deplete. They offer sustainability in the form of healthy, safe, long-lasting, and self-replenishing energy sources.
In ecological terms, anything sustainable poses minimal risk to the environment and can be reused or replenished relatively quickly. For example, sustainable living involves making life choices that reduce our daily food, water, material, and energy waste. Using renewable energy is a small but vital part of living sustainably, and it’s one of the easiest changes you can make.
Why is it called sustainable energy?
It’s called sustainable energy because it can sustain us for the long term. For example, imagine a house that uses a coal fire to heat it and one that uses a wind turbine to power an electric radiator. If you were to take a bag of coal and use it to exclusively heat the home, you would burn through that bag, and then there would be nothing left. You’d either get cold or you’d have to buy more coal, which you’d then use and run out of again.
However, if your home used the wind turbine to power an electric radiator, you could do so freely. That turbine, once erected, would generate power for decades to come so long as there was enough wind to power it by. This is sustainable energy. The energy produced is sustainable because the source (wind) is indefinitely available and doesn’t harm the planet to produce.
What is the most sustainable form of energy?
Renewable or “green” energy sources, including wind, solar, geothermal, and hydropower, are the most sustainable. Wind and solar power are generally considered the most sustainable because wind turbines and solar panels can be used almost anywhere in the world without significantly changing the natural landscape.
Both solar power and wind power can be harnessed on a large and small scale. Wind and solar farms have the potential to create a huge (and growing) amount of power that they contribute to national grids, but can also be used by single homes and commercial buildings.
Why do we need sustainable energy?
There are many reasons why sustainable energy is important to us today. Here are a few of them:
1. Sustainable energy can reduce (and eventually eliminate) our reliance on fossil fuels. As of right now, the most common energy resources are not sustainable. We currently meet our energy needs with a combination of several resources, but around 63% of the US’s energy is still generated from natural gas, coal, and oil. Only 18% is from renewable resources.
The more we drive up the demand for unlimited clean energy and renewable energy, the fewer fossil fuels we will need to power our world. Fossil fuels may be reliable and easy to access right now, but this won’t always be the case. Each corner of the globe has the potential to harness at least one form of sustainable energy, so it’s always possible to increase our dependence on healthier and safer energy resources.
2. Renewable energy will never deplete or run out. Relying on nonrenewable resources is only delaying the inevitable. If we continue to depend so heavily on finite sources that damage the planet, we will run out faster, and the damage will be longer lasting, if not permanent. Thankfully, resources like wind energy, solar power, geothermal energy, and hydropower will continue to provide us with energy as long as the wind blows, the sun shines, and the tides roll in.
3. Sustainable energy does not harm the environment and can help improve public health. Renewable energy resources emit little to no greenhouse gases, which is better for the environment and our health. The smog produced by fossil fuels irritates our lungs and can lead to lung diseases and respiratory conditions. The fact that sustainable energy is better for the environment also ties in with the financial element of how we use energy. In the UK, for example, the total National Health Service and social care cost incurred by particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide combined in 2017 were estimated at £42.88 million (almost $59 million USD). Governments spend billions of dollars on healthcare every year, and with cleaner air and water, much of this money could be spent elsewhere, and living conditions in cities could be improved.
4. Renewable energy will eventually be the more affordable option. Renewables like wind and solar power are becoming far cheaper each year. Within a decade or so, they will likely be fully competitive with nonrenewables globally. The cost of wind and solar power has become so consistent that many utility companies can now offer customers a flat monthly price for clean energy.
How can we use sustainable energy?
We can use sustainable energy in our daily lives by switching to utility companies that provide access to renewable and green energy sources. Switching to renewable energy allows us to continue our lifestyles, but with the knowledge that our energy usage is clean and sustainable.
No matter where you live in the country, there should be a green energy option available to you. If you want to switch to renewable energy, we’d love to help. Click here to find out more about an Inspire membership.
What are the disadvantages of renewable energy?
While renewable energy is clearly better for the environment and our health, there may be some minor setbacks that come with making the switch. However, these disadvantages come almost entirely from upfront costs to governments and large organizations.
One example of how renewable energy could put a business at a disadvantage is installation costs. If a corporation installs solar panels at its business facilities, the upfront costs may be high. However, solar panels can save businesses an average of $20,000 over 20 years, and if you take into account the improved reputation of businesses who “go green,” the switch is very often worth it.
For governments, the disadvantages are simply that our infrastructure has been built on the use of fossil fuels. Fortunately, most world leaders are now striving to ensure the switch to renewable energy is encouraged through incentive programs, and many have policies in place to ensure our dependence and emissions are drastically reduced over the next decade.
As for individuals and households, there are only advantages when it comes to using sustainable energy. It requires no additional upfront investment, it’s safer and better for the environment, and it will result in more stable energy bills.
Is sustainable energy right for me?
Sustainable energy is right for anyone who wants to ensure the world is still a beautiful and comfortable place for future generations. We no longer live in a world where fossil fuels are the only option, and we now have more sustainable energy resources to choose from.
While some people may have the means and budget to install solar panels or even a small wind turbine to power their own home, most people do not have that option. Fortunately, we can access renewable energy by switching to a clean energy provider.
If you’re currently on an energy plan that uses nonrenewables, the good news is that you can switch to sustainable energy easily and quickly.
At Inspire Clean Energy, we know it can be overwhelming to consider all the daily practices necessary to reduce our global carbon footprint. And we don’t think it should just be governments and corporations making the big decisions. That’s why we want to empower you to make a switch that will help drive up the demand for clean, reliable, and sustainable energy. Click here to make the switch to sustainable energy today.
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