It’s undoubted that a radical change in the way we produce energy is needed. But creating a society powered solely with renewable energy may be an unrealistic aspiration and the scientific community remains in contention about the reality of such a prospect. Many believe that we will have to supplement sustainable sources with a portfolio of low carbon strategies like nuclear energy or coal mining accompanied by carbon capture initiatives.
The primary boundary to reaching 100% renewable society is that we do not yet the technology allowing it. While renewable sources have been the oldest source of energy, their use on a mass-industrial level is fairly novel. We do not yet have all the technologies that might allow us to electrify transport, heating and industry in a way that is merely practical, never mind competitive with non-sustainable energy sources. However, there is reason to be optimistic. Renewable energy is the fastest growing energy source in America and increasingly investment is pouring into green companies and initiatives. In years to come, new powerful technologies and key research into tidal and wave energy may shed some light on the path to a society powered entirely by sustainable energy.
Some countries have already asserted faith in this possibility. Germany, and many other countries have vowed to switch to 100% renewable energy by 2050 and a wealth of research deems that many more countries could do the same. Critical to this possibility is geographical connectedness. Many of the boundaries posed by a reliance on solar power and wind energy is the difficulty of storing such large amounts of energy. For instance, a sophisticated collection of renewable energy super grids could be strategically placed throughout the US, Canada and Mexico, allowing energy to be distributed depending on population and demand. This interconnectedness could be a means of overcoming the need for cumbersome storage facilities that have obstructed talks of widespread solar and wind energy use.
In the UK, 2020 saw the country have a record coal-free run that came to an end after more than two-months, making it the longest period since the industrial revolution the country has not used electricity produced using the fossil fuel. The total coal-free period lasted 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes.
While it is certain the world is moving towards a greener future, the absolute use of renewable energy remains an uncertain reality with many political, scientific and ideological boundaries to overcome.
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