One major impact the use of renewable energy has on the environment is the reduction of greenhouse gases. On the consumers’ end, landowners make a substantial income on wind turbine farms on their properties. The current trend shows that as more technological solutions are deployed, renewables become cheaper.
Long-Term Payoff Vs. High Cost
- With the government policies and RSPs in place, companies that go into renewables will eventually gain enormously by selling energy to other providers.
- Coal and gas energy prices are significantly above utility-scale renewable energy prices, confirming that building new renewable plants is economically cheaper than running existing coal plants considering several factors.
- Unsubsidized energy costs range from:
- The current trend shows that as more technological solutions hit the power sector, renewables become cheaper.
Why Renewable Energy
- The main reason energy production in the US is shifting from traditional methods to renewables is to boost sustainability. This covers reducing fossil fuels, the carbon footprint, and greenhouse gas emissions.
- Another important reason for the preference for renewables is to mitigate climate change.
- Also, renewables are considered more efficient than their traditional counterparts.
- Renewable energy plants have high initial costs but significantly reduced operating expenses, unlike fossil fuels.
- Other reasons include the impacts of using green energy on the environment, the impact on the country, the impact on consumers, and government policies.
- Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) mandates all-electric utility providers to provide a specific amount of customer electricity with eligible renewable resources.
- Output-Based Environmental Regulations clench specified emissions limits for energy production. These limits are measured per unit of the output of an energy production process. The regulations are contained in EPA’s Energy and Environment Guide to Action.
- Net Metering compensates customers for the electricity they generate via renewable sources.
- There are several other government policies, programs, incentives, and rebates that increase renewable energy use. These include the Green Power Partnership (GPP), Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), AgSTAR, RE–Powering America’s Lands, and the Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE).
- In 2020, 38 states had renewable energy goals, and nine states aim for 100% by 2050.
- It is reported that the District of Columbia and 29 states and enacted renewable portfolio standards (RPSs), ensuring that a certain fraction of electricity generation is done from renewable sources.
- For example, RPSs in some states require customers to make 13% of their consumption from renewable energy by 2030.
Impact on the Country
- In 2019, renewable energy sources accounted for roughly 11.4% of US energy consumption and 17% of the entire US electricity generation. About 56% of the renewable energy consumption (of the 11.4%) was from the electric power sector.
- The figure below shows the 1776 to 2019 shares of total US energy consumption by primary sources.
- The figure below shows the distribution of renewable energy consumption by source.
- The figure below compares the sources of renewable energy used in the US (2000-2018).
- The figure below shows the energy consumption by sector.
- Building the nation’s green energy capabilities reduces dependence on imported fuels which will lead to energy independence.
- Renewables that reduce greenhouse gas emissions improve the air quality and health conditions in communities.
- Green energy also creates employment opportunities (for example, manufacturing and installation) and leads to economic development.
Impact on the Consumer
- Farmers with renewable sources (usually wind and solar) on their lands report that they do not suffer from “financial stress.” The savings from power generation makes up for certain losses related to their businesses.
- Some of such landowners who live on the nation’s wind belt sell some of their energy. Such wind turbine leases, which can be sustained for 30 to 40 years, serve as a yearly income source.
- Landowners can earn up to $3,000 to $7,000 a year per wind turbine.
- According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), landowners realize roughly $222 million yearly from their wind farms in the US.
- Switching to renewable energy enables consumers to save money on their bills reducing gross energy bills to zero. EnergySage’s research proved that the average savings from using renewables range from $10,483 in Washington to $30,523 in Massachusetts.
- Not only does the use of renewable energy reduce bills, but consumers also enjoy stable and predictable energy bills and expenses that are not subject to increases in tariffs, inflation, and the removal of subsidies.
- For every dollar saved on energy bills, the property’s value rises by $20 when equipped with solar power. Therefore, installing renewable energy equipment increases the value of consumers’ properties.
Impact on the Environment
- Renewables such as bioenergy and biomass help reduce waste and land or water pollution.
- Using renewable energy in a state’s power board helps promote sustainability goals.
- It also reduces certain types of air pollution.
- Fossil fuels are the largest source of US carbon dioxide emissions. One major pollutant from fossil fuel is the fine particulate matter or PM2.5, which caused 93,000 premature deaths in 2016.
- Nonetheless, renewable energy generation still emits greenhouse gases though in much smaller amounts.
- Renewable sources release 11 to 230 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour generated. In comparison, coal and gas produce about 820 and 490 grams per kilowatt-hour, respectively.
- A nuclear plant generates 4 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
- Wind farms generate 4 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
- Hydro power generates 97 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
- Bioenergy releases 98 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
- Natural gas releases 78 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour
- Solar generators emit 3-6 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.