It is agreed by many that fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas have no place in the future of energy. Therefore, because of current worries about the environment, renewable energy seems to be the direction we are headed. But changing the source of energy is not as easy as one would think, so what exactly can be expected for energy in the future?
Once, energy was almost only obtained from oil, but currently there are already many types of renewable energy sources being used such as solar or wind energy and every day we see more and more news about new projects involving renewable energy sources, it is only expected to continue that way, to the point where the world can live on almost just renewable energy, at least that’s the goal.
According to The International Energy Agency’s report “Renewable 2020”, it is expected that renewable energy capacity will grow by 50% between 2019 and 2024 and solar, wind, and hydropower projects are starting to show up more and more, at the fastest rate in 4 years. This favors the argument that renewable energy is the future of energy. By 2024, the IEA expects that renewable energy will make up 30% of the world’s electricity.
One of the main problems in developing renewable energy sources is the uncertainty, the sun is not always shining for solar energy and wind isn’t always blowing for wind energy. Moreover, the batteries necessary to store the energy when it is unavailable are not cheap and currently they do not even have enough power to hold as much energy as it would take to fill in for the times when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. Besides the batteries, the prices of installation for the energy sources are also very expensive, even the cheapest ones like solar still cost at least twice what it costs for a gas-fired plant for the same amount of energy produced. Considering the amount of energy the world consumes, this price variance does not always seem an investment worth making and many investors see renewable energy as a high risk comparing to fossil fuel plants, which have lower installation costs. Even if prices were more reasonable, the adjustment to different energy sources always takes some time, we have been living on fossil fuels for a long time now and that industry is very strong and is deep in the roots of our economy.
Another problem besides the price is the how much land it takes for a little amount of energy produced, for example, solar and wind energy require about 40 to 50 times more space than coal and 90 to 100 times more space than gas. So, this factor plus the costs and the not yet ready technology makes it more challenging to fully embrace renewable energy.
Another big challenge for renewable energy is the lack of policies or incentives to develop this technology even further. On this note, with the recent problems in the energy market caused by the invasion of Ukraine (the high prices of oil and natural gas), we can hope than maybe this will serve as an incentive to invest in other energy sources. As a matter of fact, the EU is considering loosening its environmental regulations in order to replace Russian fossil fuels with renewable energy.
But let ́s see what it’s currently being done to try to make the future of energy cleaner: a good example is the TuNur project, which consists of a power plant with a 2.250MW solar CSP located in the Sahara Desert. This project is expected to be completed by the end of this year, with a production capacity of 10 MW, and to start its exploitation at the end of 2023. With a cable connecting Tunisia to Italy, this power plant is planned to distribute renewable energy to multiple European countries as well as help the industrial development of Tunisia and North Africa’s solar energy. When completed, this project will be a huge step towards the goal of a cleaner future.
With all this said, the future of energy seems bright, and even though these sources of energy seem expensive and require a lot of technology we don’t yet have, it’s definitely the path we’re taking and many advances are being made in order to make them cheaper and more accessible so that we may become a cleaner world living on renewable energy. Therefore, I can say with almost all certainty than renewable energy is the future of energy.