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Is the sun setting on fossil fuels?

Is the sun setting on fossil fuels?
23/09/2019

Does Renewable Energy Have the Potential to Entirely Replace Oil & Gas?

We see renewable energy everywhere, whether it’s in the form of solar panels on city homes or wind turbines adorning the countryside. Yes, it’s no secret that renewable energy sources are increasingly entering a market that has traditionally been dominated by oil and gas. As renewable energy technology continues to evolve and become more cost-effective, many (including ourselves) have wondered whether renewables have the potential to replace the oil and gas industry in its entirety.

While clean energy is something that we can all get behind, not all sources of renewable energy can scale. That being said, solar photovoltaic and wind power are two readily available (and affordable) sources with the potential to become a mainstream energy source. Currently, solar and wind produce around 7% of the world’s electricity, which doesn’t sound very impressive. However, over the past five years, the worldwide annual capacity of solar and wind power has grown by 28% and 13% respectively. When you combine these growth rates with the fact that oil and gas growth has slowed or ceased altogether, the world has the potential to reach 100% renewable electricity by 2032.

Why Solar and Wind Power?

So, why are solar and wind power the best renewable sources to scale? Well, it all comes down to accessibility, environmental impact, and affordability. Although hydro, geothermal, and wave and tidal energy are amazing renewable energy sources, they can only be utilised in specific areas. Solar energy is much more abundant since the majority of the world’s population lives at low latitudes where sunlight is plentiful all year round. Wind energy is also readily available, specifically at higher altitude. Given this disparity, combined wind and solar power provide nearly flawless energy output. Solar and wind power also have a very minimal impact on the environment. While other sources require a lot of water or non-renewable resources to operate, solar and wind power have very limited requirements. Affordability is another important component for scaling worldwide. Fortunately, solar and wind technology have become so affordable that they could completely replace worldwide fossil fuels in the next two decades.

What Will Global Renewable Energy Look Like?

Although opponents of renewable energy often argue that renewable sources require more space than oil and gas, that’s not the case when it comes to solar and wind power. Even if we replaced all fossil fuels with renewable energy, solar and wind collectors would cover less than 1% of the world’s land surface area. That’s really not much of a sacrifice for clean energy, especially since most collectors are on rooftops or in remote areas, which are often out of sight.

Since both solar and wind are considered ‘intermittent energy sources’, a major scaling concern revolves around energy storage. After all, we need a way to store energy for days where the sun doesn’t shine, or the wind doesn’t blow. Fortunately, pumped hydro and batteries make stabilising the grid pretty straight-forward. So, you don’t have to worry about local weather effects cutting off your electricity supply.

Currently, nations across the globe are turning to renewable energy to reduce their environmental impact and mitigate global warming. This year alone USD 161 Billion will be invested in solar energy generation, globally. Although the future of solar and wind power is promising, we still have a few hurdles to overcome. In the meantime, the oil and gas industry will have to adapt to the new energy marketplace, which may even include hopping on the renewable bandwagon – but more on that later.

For more information on  Is the sun setting on fossil fuels?  talk to  KTR U.K. Ltd

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