One of the most pressing issues of the 21st Century is climate change, and its main driver is high carbon energy usage. To halt the apocalyptic effects of greenhouse gas emissions, we must adopt clean power alternatives.
There are four main sections of study of why a nation would want to move towards renewable energy sources for the power sector.
To initiate the change to renewable power, political support for the cause is the first barrier. A nation's interest in clean power can be assessed by analyzing its political economy. Political economy is the study of how the economic systems of a country, the national conditions that impact production and trade, interact with its laws customs and government, and the resulting distribution of national income and wealth. To help organize this information in the context of clean power, E3G has developed the Political Economy Mapping Methodology tool. This tool inspects the discourse surrounding climate and energy issues, exposes key obstacles and tensions in the political and economic system, and identifies strategic opportunities to initiate a change. Through this external projection, a country's national conditions can be used to map a clean economy approach.
Besides internal motivators, international forces like climate diplomacy and foreign policies act motivators to move towards clean power. For example, with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement 189 parties have agreed to take steps to keep global climate change below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In this way, countries can be pressured to move towards clean power in order to maintain foreign policy and prestige.
Energy policy is often framed as a "trilemma" between energy security, its cost, and its environmental impact. The first objective is to ensure that energy is available when people want it, defined by the International Energy Agency as “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price”. To achieve reliable system of renewable energy, a country needs to have the equipment to harness the energy the infrastructure to efficiently distribute and use it. The second objective is to keep the cost as low as possible. As innovation continues in renewable energy, solar and wind power prices are falling and they are becoming competitive with coal, gas, and oil. The third objective is to limit the impact of energy production and consumption in the environment. High carbon energy sources require the burning of fossil fuels which lead to environment-harming greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, renewable energy significantly reduces carbon emissions in the energy supply chain and thereby is much more environmentally conscious. A country's relative focus in these three areas defines its energy policy and ability to move to a renewable power system.
The Energy Policy Trilemma
The challenge in this section of clean power is that delivering SDG7 will require significant investment.In 2015 the UN adopted the sustainable development goals, or SDGs. Among these, SDG number 7 established that access to modern clean energy is fundamental for human development. Delivering universal access is a challenge because the vast majority of people without service are either remote, poor, or both. This provides a great opportunity for renewable energy sources to expand access and simultaneously transition to low carbon systems. The cheapest way to expand energy access is by installing new low-carbon generation capacity, both on- and off-grid. Renewables are the most important electricity generation technologies in the expansion of decentralized energy solutions (IEA, 2017). Solar and wind energy are now cheaper than traditional fossil fuels. Developing nations have an opportunity to leapfrog carbon-intensive fossil fuels (IRENA, 2018). Essentially, there is now a window of opportunity to achieve the twin goals of eliminating energy poverty and mitigating climate change, by promoting decentralized renewable energy generation in less developed countries.
All other SDGs are heavily impacted by access to energy
The main cause of climate change is the greenhouse effect in which potent greenhouse gases create an insulating blanket around the Earth, trapping in the solar radiation from the sun. Human activities, in particular fossil fuel combustion, are adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere: carbon dioxide is now at a higher level than for 3 million years. Although it is true that natural factors and variability can cause an increase in greenhouse gases, they do not account for how in 2015 CO2 concentrations passed 400 ppm, more than 40% higher than its pre-industrial value of 275 ppm. The effects of these greenhouse gases are devastating for our planet. Immediate impacts include extreme events like hurricanes and heatwaves causing mortality as well as land and capital damages. Long term impacts include rising sea levels with the potential to submerge human cities, increasing food shortages due to insufficient agricultural yields, worsening air pollution, and the loss of ecosystems and biodiversity. To prevent these disastrous propositions from becoming a reality, we must transition to low power energy systems as soon as possible.
Evidence that climate change is happening now
Renewable energy sources are the power of the modern world. They need to be implemented to advance the human race now and to ensure a sustainable world for future. Decarbonization in today's world is not a suggestion, it is a sheer necessity to save our people and our environment.