Renewable energy sources are green, but the technologies that are used to transform them into usable energy; are they always environmental-friendly?
Let’s understand what is green electricity?
Green electricity means the production of electricity from sources that do not cause any impact to the environment during the entire transformation process. It is quite understandable that some sources will cause a little more impact than the others, so in that sense, some are greener than the others.
The complete life cycle of renewable energy technologies should be taken into account including how much energy is required to produce them, transport or install them, or maintain and dispose of them. So, an environmental accounting of quantifying the overall environmental impact of renewable energy technologies can help to analyse if a source is really green. Some analysts rely on the Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment (EIO-LCA) method, which helps to estimate the materials and energy source that are required for, and the environmental emissions resulting from activities in the economy. So, for example for green electricity, the life cycle assessments of electricity generation would consider the plant construction, power plant raw materials extraction, fuel extraction, fuel processing, fuel combustion, fuel delivery, electricity transmission, and other upstream and downstream processes in order to draw the complete picture of the energy and emissions that are required to produce and deliver a unit of electricity.
In order to track and support compliance of a cleaner generation mix, a Renewable Energy Credit (REC) is correlated to the renewable sources like wind or solar. And, the renewable energy sources include wind power, which can be harnessed by wind turbines to provide electricity. Alternatively, the other sources used are solar power, hydropower, tidal power, wave power, geothermal, landfill gas, biomass, or waste incineration.
In the context of whether green energy is actually all green, Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak had earlier stated he was all for wind power and solar. He had added that if one does not have control over the type of energy, then it was equivalent to the pollution. Many researchers have reviewed a multitude of life cycle assessment studies to analyse the greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from electricity generation technologies. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had found that the total GHG emissions from renewable energy technologies were lesser than from natural gas, oil, and coal electricity.
Meanwhile, many people are becoming aware of renewable electricity. The quest for green energy will continue to push the limits of achieving a net-zero emissions goal in near future.