The importance of switching to renewable energy and other sustainable energy changes
For the third article in our Sustainability Series we are going to be talking all about green energy.
New houses, new commercial buildings, are being built all the time. All of these houses and buildings need electricity, gas, and water. Have you ever thought about where all of this comes from? Where the energy provided to your own home comes from? Have you taken into consideration the expense at which our environment has to pay for it all? And I’m not talking about money here.
In 2018, approximately 90% of global CO2 emissions came from something called ‘fossil fuels’. Fossil fuels (coal, gas, oil) are the resources used to power your homes and are major contributors to climate change and the degradation of our environment. These fossil fuels release carbon dioxide (CO2, the gas most responsible for global warming) when they are burned and will run out by 2060 if we continue with the same rates of consumption as we are today. We will live to see this.
Today, we are going to be discussing the importance of renewable energy sources, as well as raising your awareness of the importance of switching to green energy. First things first:
What is ‘green energy’?
Green energy, or renewable energy, is energy from a source that is not depleted when used. This includes solar, wind, and tidal power. This means that no matter how much energy we take away and ‘use’, it will never ‘run out’. Methods of ‘collecting’ renewable energy include solar panels, wind turbines, hydropower dams, and tidal barrages. (You can learn more about different types of renewable energy sources by visiting the websites linked at the end of this article.)
Did you know that the average household uses 8-10 kWh* of energy per day? This is equivalent to about 3-4kg of carbon per day (and as we know, carbon emissions are what’s causing our current climate catastrophe). To put this in perspective, your average bag of sugar weighs 1kg. So, you’re carrying 4 bags of sugar around with you all day, every day, adding more bags with each passing day.
*The kilowatt-hour (kWh) is a unit of energy, commonly used by energy providers as a billing unit for energy consumption. You’ve probably seen this on your bills.
And that’s just from electricity! The average household uses 33-38 kWh of gas per day, which is about 14-16kg of carbon per day. Using our sugar analogy, that’s like carrying 14-16 bags of sugar around with you all day, every day. Add this to all the bags of sugar you’re already carrying from your electricity usage and that’s 20 bags of sugar – 20kg of carbon PER DAY! And that carbon usage doesn’t go back to zero at the end of the day. That’s a lot of emissions.
To learn more about carbon emissions, where they come from, and what your daily habits do to contribute to these emissions, visit Climate Concepts UK by clicking on this link: Concept 3 – Climate Concepts (climateconceptsuk.org)
So what can we do to change?
There are several different approaches to developing more sustainable energy habits, and we are going to be going over a few today.
First of all, switch to a green energy provider. A green energy provider is an energy providing service that utilises renewable sources of energy to power your home. A green tariff will mean that most or all of the energy you buy will be ‘matched’ by purchases of renewable energy that your energy provider makes on your behalf. When you choose a renewable energy tariff, your supplier ensures that the same amount of electricity used in your home is put into the grid from renewable sources. The more people buy green energy, the greater the demand, so the more renewable energy projects will be started in order to meet this demand.
Benefits of switching to a green energy provider include:
- Reducing your carbon emissions
- A variety of renewable energy sources to choose from
- Better customer service (as companies are smaller)
- Cheaper tariffs than fossil fuels
That’s right, green energy providers can save you money. Not only is green energy usually cheaper than fossil fuels, but depending on where you live, your country might also offer financial incentives for switching to green energy (aka making it more affordable). Your wallet will thank you as well as the planet.
Alternatively, you can install your own renewable energy providers. You can ‘generate’ your own renewable energy from the comforts of your own home. There are many options you can choose from when it comes to providing your own renewable energy to your home, and we’ll go over a couple with you now. The most common option is solar panels.
Solar panels harness the sun’s rays and use that solar energy to power your house. You can also choose to have excess energy stored in a battery, meaning that your house can still be powered when there’s no sun. Some systems will also allow you to sell your extra energy to the grid, allowing you to earn from your solar panels.
Another, slightly less common method, is the installation of an air source heat pump. Air source heat pumps absorb the heat from the outside air via a fluid. When this fluid is compressed, it gets warmer, and transfers that thermal energy to the heating and hot water circuits in your house. Unlike gas boilers, heat pumps deliver heat at low temperatures over longer periods of time, aiming to keep the house at a constant temperature (this is both more energy and money efficient).
Additionally, make an effort to reduce your energy consumption. Reducing your energy consumption is really simple and quick to do, and it will help you to save on your energy bills. I’m sure you’re already aware of some of these changes, but let’s go over a few of them.
- Shut down your devices. Instead of leaving your TV or computer on ‘standby’, shut them off completely. Computers are some of the biggest ‘energy-suckers’ in homes and offices, ‘using up’ loads of electricity even whilst they’re not in use. It takes only a couple of seconds to shut a device down completely, and it will save you a lot of money on your bills.
- Swap to LED bulbs – there are so many benefits to switching to LED bulbs. They have a longer product-life, they make more efficient use of energy, they’re brighter, they radiate less heat than regular bulbs, they’re more reliable, and they don’t take a long time to ‘warm up’.
- Turn off your lights. The lights don’t need to be on in a room that you’re not using, and extra lights don’t need to be switched on when you don’t need them. Making a habit of turning off any and all lights when you leave a room is a great way to reduce your energy consumption. The same goes for turning off any devices e.g. microwaves, computers, printers, anything on ‘standby’.
- Install your energy meter somewhere visible. By simply being able to see how much energy your house is utilising, you can reduce your energy consumption. Studies show that houses that have their electricity and gas meters somewhere really obvious in the house use less electricity and gas than households who have their meters in the garage or basement, for example.
Last but not least, educate yourself and those around you. Learning as much as you can about renewable energy and green energy providers will help you to make the best decision possible for you, but you’ll also be able to raise awareness to those around you in a correct and concise way. Let others know just how simple and beneficial (for the planet and for them) it is to switch to green and renewable energy. Word-of-mouth can be the most powerful form of raising awareness. Remember, the more demand, the most renewable energy sources will be utilised.
No change is too small to make a difference.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to learn more about green energy providers and the importance of switching to renewable energy. I hope that this article was useful for you and provided you with valuable information to consider. Before we go, let’s go over the changes we can make to more sustainable energy habits:
- Switch to a green energy provider
- Install renewable energy systems yourself
- Reduce your energy consumption
I hope that you take these changes into account the next time you’re thinking of switching energy providers, see a house with solar panels, or are about to run yourself a bath. Thank you for joining us on our third Sustainability Series article, and we look forward to seeing you again next week, with our next one! To read the other articles in our Sustainability Series, click HERE.
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