The concept of sustainable energy, which is also sometimes referred to as ’alternate energy’ comes under the wider concept of sustainable development which includes four major interconnected domains such as Ecology, Economics, Politics and Culture.
As we know, our planet is witnessing a huge increase in the population every year. With the increase in the number of consumers, the need for basic resources is also facing a hike in demand. As the population growth has a huge impact on the energy resources of the Earth, we have been witnessing an increase in the usage of fossil fuels and other similar non-renewable sources of energy, and this trend has proven to pose threat to our planet. Thus, there is a need to use energy resources in a judicious way such that the resources are not under threat of depletion, for the future generations.
The practice of using energy in a way, in which it meets the demands of the present generation without compromising on the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs, is known as ‘Sustainable Energy’. It is observed that energy is a significant contributor to climate change, accounting for almost 60% of net greenhouse gas emissions in the world. According to the UN, 13% of the population still lacks access to modern electricity, and around 3 billion people still rely on traditional modes of production of energy, like wood, charcoal or animal waste. Thus, the nations of the world have identified the need to increase the share and employment of renewable energy resources so as to bring up sustainable development in the energy sector.
Sustainable forms of energy
One of the major steps towards diverting to the practice of sustainable energy use is about finding renewable sources of energy, which will not ever get completely used up, or depleted. Sustainability can be obtained in the energy sector only by improving energy conservation, increasing energy efficiency and by employing renewable forms of energy into use.
There are different sources that are identified to support sustainability. Some of them are:
- Solar Energy – Solar energy, which manifests itself in the forms of light and heat, is considered to be the best form of sustainable energy. The use of solar energy has been encouraged by the world nations lately. The energy dissipated from the Sun is converted to solar power with the help of devices such as Photovoltaics or Concentrated Solar Power. The cost of installing Solar Panels for domestic use has seen a significant decrease in the last decade, thereby making it affordable to the common man. Solar energy is widely considered to be the future of energy.
Some of the major solar power plant projects in India are Pavagada Solar Park (Karnataka), Bhadla Solar Park (Rajasthan) and Charanka Solar Park (Gujarat).
- Wind Energy – Wind is a naturally available sustainable source of energy which can be used to produce large amounts of power. The kinetic energy in the wind is converted to mechanical power by wind turbines. As it’s a clean fuel source, wind energy doesn’t raise the threat of pollution to the planet, and this makes it a totally sustainable form of energy. Although the domestic use of wind power in regions with favourable wind currents are theoretically possible, the huge initial and maintenance costs of employing devices like wind turbines still are constraints to the maximum domestic reach of wind power. Muppandal Wind farm in Kanyakumari and Jaisalmer Wind Park in Jaisalmer are two of the major wind power plants of India.
- Geothermal Energy – The heat coming from beneath the surface of the earth can be converted to useful forms of energy by the installation of geothermal power stations. Geothermal energy is an environmentally friendly, renewable source of energy. However, it can only be harnessed in areas that have high seismic activity and are prone to volcanoes, and this feature prevents the wide-scale usage employment of geothermal energy. There are geothermal power plants in Tattapani of Chhattisgarh and Puga in Jammu&Kashmir, in India.
- Ocean Energy – Ocean Energy refers to all forms of renewable energy derived from the sea. The three major forms of ocean energy are wave energy, tidal energy and ocean thermal energy. All of these are renewable forms of energy. Wave energy refers to the conversion of the energy within ocean waves into electrical energy. Tidal energy puts into use both the potential energy that results from the height difference between high and low tides and kinetic energy arising from the flowing currents, by converting them into suitable, usable forms of energy. Generation of ocean thermal energy involves the conversion of the temperature difference between the surface of the ocean and deeper water into energy.
- Hydroelectric Power – The energy of the moving water of water bodies such as rivers and waterfalls can be converted into usable forms of energy. It is one of the most widely used renewable sources of energy production, and hydroelectric power plants have been established around the world on a large scale. In hydroelectric power plants, electricity is produced from generators that are driven by turbines that are responsible for the conversion of the potential energy of the fast-flowing water currents into mechanical energy. Sardar Sarovar in the river Narmada and Nathpa Jhakri in river Sutlej are two of the hydropower plants of India.
- Bio-energy which is derived from biomass is also considered as a sustainable form of energy. Although carbon dioxide gas is produced from biomass, bio-energy is considered a clean option as the vegetation planted in order to supply biomass balances the release of carbon dioxide into the air.
Developing sustainable forms of energy production will definitely help the countries to increase their energy security, reduce the adverse impacts of different non-renewable sources of energy on the environment, lower its carbon intensity and so-on, a lot of barriers still lie ahead on the way to achieving complete employment of sustainable energy sources into practice, for a lot of countries like India. Different political and economic barriers, geographical barriers, social barriers, technical barriers, cultural barriers, market-related barriers, ecological barriers and so-on have to be tackled wisely by the administration to lead a country on the path to achieving maximum sustainability in the use of energy resources.