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Fossil fuels to renewable energy: The cost of switching

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Fossil fuels to renewable energy: The cost of switching

Until recently, the world relied on fossil fuels to provide almost all our energy. As we’ve started to understand the threat that pollution and climate change pose to our way of life, the development of alternative clean and renewable energy sources has accelerated.

This acceleration has now reached such a level that the possibility that the world could phase out the use of coal, natural gas, and crude oil is not just real – it’s inevitable.

While the reduction in the use of fossil fuels might be desirable for environmental reasons, can we afford it just yet? What is the true cost of renewable energy? Let’s take a closer look.

Is renewable energy cost-effective?

As you can imagine, the question “is renewable energy cost-effective?” isn’t simple to answer. Do we mean cost for the consumer, production, development, what is spent on infrastructure, or even cost to the planet?

The thing is, pinning down figures can be difficult to do; the numbers often depend on whom you ask. For example, there are still those who deny climate change or even that fossil fuels are finite. They will produce statistics “proving” that clean energy sources are way too expensive.

Then there are climate activists who will massage the numbers and, perhaps, give an equally biased result.

For pragmatists, the answer is, “whatever the cost, can we afford not to?”

It is a fact that fossil fuels are running out and whether the supplies last 50 years, 100 years or 150 years, it doesn’t change the fact that our way of life will change dramatically if there’s no fuel for electricity or gas.

Similarly, many people around the world have started to see significant changes in the weather, no longer getting snow in the winter and seeing record-breaking temperatures and dry spells in the summers. If we don’t do something soon, the world’s climate will change significantly for the worse.

Is renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels?

According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), in 2019, the energy produced from renewable sources was comparable in price to that of fossil fuels.

In an article by Dominic Dudley in Forbes, it was further explained that the cost of electricity from developing new fossil fuel plants ranges from $0.05/kWh to $0.15/kWh. By comparison, hydroelectric power comes in at an average of $0.05/kWh, onshore wind, solar voltaic, biomass, and geothermal below $0.10/kWh and offshore wind at $0.13/kWh.

More to the point, the cost of clean energy sources is falling year-on-year and will continue to do so as infrastructure develops.

How much will it cost to switch to renewable energy?

As a country, it will of course cost a significant amount to build the new infrastructure required to power the country from renewable energy sources. Many people may argue that the cost is too high, but let’s unwrap that idea a bit more:

  • Many of these costs will be money that would otherwise have been spent on fossil fuel exploration, extraction, and the conversion to electricity
  • Costs for households will fall significantly
  • We’ll see a dramatic cut in emissions would greatly reduce the numbers suffering from respiratory problems
  • There will be less damage caused to our forests, grassland, and farmland from acid rain
  • Thousands of jobs will be created by the infrastructure
  • There would be no oil spillages threatening our coasts and wildlife, no smog, and the chance to slow and stop climate change
  • Building renewable infrastructure not only benefits local economies by creating jobs, but it lasts for decades before it needs replacing – meaning it produces energy essentially for free once it’s paid off the original build money.

So, how much will it cost you, as an individual, to switch to renewable energy? Find out in our next article.

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