In 2015 all 193 United Nations member countries agreed to increase the amount of energy derived from renewables by 2030. Since then, progress has been steady but slow. Globally, just under 30 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources.
While many developed countries were making significant headway in the shift to renewable energy sources, no nation is on track to reaching the UN goals by 2030. However, the growing energy crisis has caused many nations to significantly increase their investments in renewables and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
Causes of the Energy Crisis
The global energy crisis is based on predictable and unanticipated factors. The rapid modernization of the developing world means that billions more people will require electricity in the coming years. Some sources predict energy demands could increase by 50 percent. Because fossil fuel sources are finite, traditional energy sources cannot support the growing population.
Even without all of these additional energy consumers, the modern lifestyle in developed countries is straining the existing power grid. At the current rate of consumption, oil, gas, and coal reserves will be exhausted within the next hundred years.
Further, climate change is bringing more intense weather patterns and higher temperatures. As a result, people are using energy-heavy air conditioners and heating systems for longer periods of the year. This means that current fossil fuel reserves will run out faster.
Traditional energy sources rely on an international network of miners, refiners, and distributors. Disruptions in the supply chain or political issues can severely affect availability and prices.
In 2020 the COVID pandemic restricted international travel and caused entire economies to shut down. This reduced energy demand and drove many oil and gas suppliers out of business. Then, in 2022, Russia, a major energy supplier, invaded Ukraine. The resulting conflict led to the European Union accelerating its transition to renewable energy. The cost of traditional energy skyrocketed. Oil increased by more than 60 percent, while gas prices rose four-fold within 12 months.
Additionally, fossil fuel infrastructure is aging rapidly. This limits the possible output of traditional energy and restricts supply. Outdated infrastructure is also less energy efficient and releases additional carbon emissions.
Without major upgrades, the fossil fuel industry will not be able to reach carbon neutrality. This reduces government and private investment and further destabilizes costs.
Clean energy sources have the potential to mitigate the current energy crisis and prevent similar crises in the future.
Clean Energy Can Stabilize Energy Sources
Traditional energy sources are highly vulnerable to market and condition changes. This causes volatility in the price and availability. Countries dependent on oil or gas imports can face serious economic crises if exporting nations cannot or will not deliver fossil fuels.
Additionally, the limited supply of fossil fuels prevents suppliers from offering cost-saving decades-long purchasing agreements. Since green energy sources such as thermal, solar, wind, and biogas are inexhaustible, buyers can secure long-term contracts that keep energy costs low.
Many countries have also increased the cost and administrative burdens of fossil fuel production to comply with UN energy goals. This has increased the risk of investing in fossil fuels and increased volatility in the market.
Renewables also enable countries to produce their own energy and reduce their reliance on the international market. While infrastructure is a significant hurdle, especially for lower-income countries, the cost of building and maintaining renewable energy generators is steadily decreasing.
Clean Energy Helps Diversify Energy Sources
Oil and gas deposits are likely to be found within specific geographic areas. As a result, most fossil fuels come from the same handful of nations. This lack of diversity exposes the market to socio-political tensions and price fluctuations. A 2021 report by the Energy Council found that investments in renewable energy buffered economies against price shocks from volatile energy prices.
Unlike fossil fuels, every nation on Earth has conditions to support at least one type of fossil fuel. Additionally, renewable sources can be significantly diverse within a single nation. For example, Denmark produces solar, biogas, and wind power. This ensures that a sizable percentage of the country’s energy supply is green, no matter the weather or season.
Clean Energy Supports Conservation Efforts
The combination of growing demand and dwindling resources will cause the price of fossil fuels to increase over time. While the cost of fossil fuels has not fallen over the past century, renewable prices have dropped by around 10 percent year-over-year. Nations that switch to renewable sources can save trillions of dollars over the next 30 years.
Clean energy technology also improves energy conservation by ensuring that production keeps up with demand. The World Economic Forum estimates that most developed nations can derive 80 percent of their energy needs from renewables by 2030. By the same calculation, renewables could meet 100 percent of demand by 2050.