Sustainable energy – a load of hot air?
The uses of renewable/sustainable energy:
Renewable energy promises sustainable development. Our reliance on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs is only short term. Supplies of coal, oil and natural
gas are limited and renewable alternatives have been used for some time, albeit on a relatively small scale. Hydroelectric power (HEP), solar, tidal and wind
power are sustainable options. They share similar advantages (do not give out carbon dioxide) over the use of fossil fuels, but are not without their
opponents. The recent surge in the use of biofuels also appears at first to offer this possibility, but there is debate about this.
Biofuels: the use of living things such as crops like maize to produce ethanol (an alcohol-based fuel) or biogas from animal waste. It is the use of crops that has become especially important.
factors: wind farms in this country need to be based in exposed areas such as
out to sea or on hillsides and generally away from people.
You need to know about one type of renewable energy in detail. We studied wind
energy and specifically that at Lambrigg in Cumbria.
Facts about Lambrigg wind farm in Cumbria
§ The land is 260m high and near the top of the ridge –strong winds throughout the
§ In the path of the prevailing NW winds
§ Built on Moorland and the farmer can continue to graze his sheep
§ Existing connection to the national grid was close by – thus reducing
§ It is next to junction 37 of the M6 on the A684 – building costs were reduced
§ It is not in the National Park so there were less objections to the wind
§ The turbines are built just below the ridge thus reducing their visual
§ Over 1km from away from the nearest house
§ Any noise is drowned out by the M6
Advantages of wind energy
It is safe – no harmful pollutants
Minimal effect on local ecosystems
Winds are stronger in winter which is good as the highest demand for electricity is now
Set-up is relatively expensive but running costs are low
Wind-farms provide a source of income for farmers who have wind turbines on their land
Disadvantages of wind energy
Wind does not blow all the time
Turbines can spoil the scenic views and affect wildlife
Not particularly efficient
Interrupt radio and TV broadcasts
Reduce local property value
Tackling Climate Change
The importance of international directives
As well as ensuring the supplies of energy resources in the long term, there is also a need to care for the environment. Air pollution knows no bounds; it does not stop at international borders and therefore cooperation is needed is needed between countries worldwide if issues relating to air quality and global warming are to be effectively addressed. The Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 marked the first real international attempt to reduce emissions. Richer countries agreed there would be no increase in emissions.
The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 went further, with an agreement by industrialised countries to reduce greenhouse gases emission to 5% below 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012.
EU countries as a whole should show an 8% reduction, but individual countries have their own targets. The treaty became legally binding in 2005, when enough countries responsible for 55% of the total emissions had signed. The USA has declined to sign the agreement but Australia signed in November 2007, bringing the total number of countries to 181. The poorer nations, including those with many industries, do not have to reduce their emissions.
The Bali Conference in December 2007 sought to establish new targets to replace those agreed at Kyoto. No figure was decided, only a recognition that there would need
to be ‘deep cuts in global emissions’. The USA agreed to support the Bali ‘roadmap’, designed to lead the way into the future.
This is a system with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Companies buy credits that allow them t emit a certain amount of carbon. The idea is that the cost of buying the credits will encourage them to produce fewer carbon emissions. Carbon credits can also be bought or sold if companies produce more, or fewer, emissions than they
The phrase ‘think, globally, act locally’ indicates the need for individuals and groups to seek to reduce pollution and to take responsibility for this. Reducing the use of
resources not only increases their life, it also reduces pollution and energy in production. We can seek to size the initiative by conservation and recycling,
and therefore reducing waste and the need for landfill.
Conservation can involve simple things like turning off lights and appliances when they are not being used, filing a kettle with only the water that is needed rather than to
the top and buying reusable carrier bags rather than accepting free plastic bags.
Local authorities provide a variety of recycling container for paper, cans, glass, plastic, cardboard and garden waste, and many encourage
composting in an attempt to reduce waste thrown into bins. This in turn reduces the amount that is put into landfill.