Sustainability Column: The Renewable Transition

Matt Froelich, Maroon-News Staff

The other day, I read an article that stated that there would be a 100 percent transition to renewable energy by 139 countries by the year 2050. With the threat of climate change reaching the point of no return, the goal of using only renewable energy for our energy demand is idealistic, but it is also a necessity. The challenge to create a world independent of coal so that we can avoid future dire effects of climate change is a must. 

But how would a change like this be possible? We live in a world that is starting to implement renewables, but is still very much dependent on oil and coal as our main energy supplier. 

For renewable energy to truly catch on, it would require the cost of production to continue to decline. Fortunately, with the continued increase in investment in wind and solar power, the overall cost of installing renewable energy has decreased. In fact, The Independent has reported that the price of adding the infrastructure to produce 161 gigawatts of power cost an astounding 23 percent less in 2016 than it would have cost back in 2015. This would imply that with the continued decrease in price, it would make the transition to renewable energy more economical for both governments and businesses.

Interestingly enough, the article discusses how if we make this transition to renewable energy, the total demand for energy would decrease. This is because the energy  that would be needed to drill for oil would become non-existent. With oil becoming more and more difficult to extract, as we are having to focus more on deep offshore drilling, we could eliminate the energy needed as well as the environmental risks associated with oil. 

Ideally, renewable energy could also lead to energy independence between countries. If all countries could produce enough energy for their usage, the conflicts that arise due to oil would be eliminated. 

The complications of this shift are going to make a transition of any significance difficult. The grid is a major source of this problem, since the technology which allows for the transportation and storage of renewable energy is complex. But it is likely that with improved technology, we will soon be able to have the capacity where this will not be an issue. 

I think that it is important to believe that we are taking steps in the right direction. We are seeing higher rates in investment of renewables, electric cars are becoming more common and people are hopefully being more mindful of the effects of climate change. Unfortunately, the pace at which we are progressing might not be enough, and with our pullout from the Paris Climate Agreement, the Trump administration clearly does not see the importance of moving towards a more sustainable society. For this reason, we must pressure the government to start taking the appropriate steps towards making the United States more progressive in its use of renewables before it is too late.    

Contact Matt Froelich at [email protected].