Renewable energy

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Renewable energy is energy generated from natural resources — such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat — which are renewable (naturally replenished). Renewable energy technologies include solar power, wind power, hydroelectricity, micro hydro, biomass and biofuels.

"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power!" - Thomas Edison in a conversation shortly before his death in 1931. (This photo shows a combined heat and power solar installation on a barn roof in Germany.)


Wind turbines in Gansu province, China.
  • There is one forecast of which you can already be sure: someday renewable energy will be the only way for people to satisfy their energy needs. Because of the physical, ecological and (therefore) social limits to nuclear and fossil energy use, ultimately nobody will be able to circumvent renewable energy as the solution, even if it turns out to be everybody’s last remaining choice. The question keeping everyone in suspense, however, is whether we shall succeed in making this radical change of energy platforms happen early enough to spare the world irreversible ecological mutilation and political and economic catastrophe.
  • More solar energy falls on Earth in one hour than all the energy our civilization consumes in an entire year. If we could harness a tiny fraction of the available solar and wind power, we could supply all our energy needs forever, and without adding any carbon to the atmosphere.
  • Although photosynthesis typically has an energy conversion efficiency below three percent, it is, together with heat from the sun, the main energy source of all living organisms, and the energy source from which biomass and fossil fuels are derived. Each year the earth receives an energy input from the sun equal to 15,000 times the world's commercial energy consumption and 100 times the world's proven coal, gas and oil reserves.
    • Bernhard Scheffler, quoted by J. Clarke and D. Holt-Biddle in Coming Back to Earth, p. 78 (2002)
  • Every percentage point increase in homegrown renewable energy makes us that much more energy secure. The progress in electricity is encouraging, but growth is not yet strong enough in renewable heat and transport to meet the government's objectives.
  • If you told me that innovation had been frozen and we just have today's technologies, will the world run the climate change experiment? You bet we will. We will not deny India coal plants; we will run the scary experiment of heating up the atmosphere and seeing what happens. The only reason I'm optimistic about this problem is because of innovation. . . . I want to tilt the odds in our favor by driving innovation at an unnaturally high pace, or more than its current business-as-usual course. I see that as the only thing. I want to call up India someday and say, "Here's a source of energy that is cheaper than your coal plants, and by the way, from a global pollution and local pollution point of view, it's also better."
  • We have long supported a carbon tax as the best policy of those being considered. Replacing the hodge-podge of current, largely ineffective regulations with a revenue-neutral carbon tax would ensure a uniform and predictable cost of carbon across the economy. It would allow market forces to drive solutions. It would maximize transparency, reduce administrative complexity, promote global participation and easily adjust to future developments in our understanding of climate science as well as the policy consequences of these actions.
"The next big act belongs to the engineers. Energy transformation for climate safety is our twenty-first-century moonshot." - Jeffrey Sachs, development economist. (Pictured above is Thomas Edison, considered one of the greatest inventors and engineers of all time.)
  • The transition to renewable energy can be greatly accelerated if the world’s governments finally bring the engineers to the fore... I was recently on a panel with three economists and a senior business-sector engineer. After the economists spoke... the engineer spoke succinctly and wisely. “I don’t really understand what you economists were just speaking about, but I do have a suggestion... Tell us engineers the desired ‘specs’ and the timeline, and we’ll get the job done.” This is not bravado.... The next big act belongs to the engineers. Energy transformation for climate safety is our twenty-first-century moonshot.
"A carbon tax will send a powerful price signal that harnesses the invisible hand of the marketplace to steer economic actors towards a low-carbon future." - "Economists’ Statement on Carbon Dividends" signed by more than 3,500 economists, including every living former chair of the US Federal Reserve (pictured, from left to right: Janet Yellen, Alan Greenspan, Ben Bernanke and Paul Volcker).

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