Renewable Energy vs. Traditional Energy: The Real Cost

What’s the bottom line?  This is one of the biggest questions we come across when discussing renewable energy. How much does it cost? Is renewable energy more or less affordable than traditional energy from fossil fuels?

We’ve already covered that renewable energy is far superior to traditional, fossil fuel energy when it comes to sustainability; and yet, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that only about 10% of the world’s energy is produced from renewable sources. One of the driving factors of this is cost.

Why Renewable Energy Can Be Costly

With respect to renewable energy technologies, one of the biggest hurdles is the price tag – which can be jaw-dropping in some cases. Pricey solar panels and wind turbines can make traditional energy sources from fossil fuels – which are significantly cheaper – appealing to businesses looking out for their bottom line. At the moment, there is a rather large, upfront capital cost associated with many renewable energies. It’s important to remember, however, that similar costs and hiccups are associated with any kind of new technology.

Remember when DVD players cost hundreds of dollars? Nowadays, you can find them on eBay for $19.99. It is safe to assume that, as time goes on and more and more renewable technologies emerge, the price tag will come down.

Additionally, renewable energy sources are often unpredictable and reliant upon geographical location and weather. For example, solar power requires sunlight – so a cloudy day will result in less energy production. This unpredictability is sometimes enough to dissuade investors.

While price is a factor working against renewable energy, every day, scientists are developing and improving new technologies that make renewables a more affordable (and therefore more realistic) option.

Why Renewable Energy is Worth It

In the long run, renewable energy is the way of the future.

Fossil fuels will run out – this fact is undisputed. Scientists and experts predict that we will deplete the Earth’s fossil fuel reserves in as few as 50 years. Investing now in renewables is one way to ensure a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable future.

In addition, renewable energy facilities require less maintenance than traditional energy generators, generally speaking. Many renewable energy facilities are somewhat autonomous – they run on their own without requiring much upkeep. This helps to cut costs on labor and maintenance.

When it comes to cost, perhaps it is more appropriate to think of what the planet can afford. The question isn’t “can we afford to invest in renewable energy?” The real question is “can we afford not to?”

Resources:

http://www.energyfactcheck.org/

http://www.solarschools.net/resources/stuff/advantages_and_disadvantages.aspx

http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=527&t=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/business/energy-environment/29renew.html?_r=0

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