Developing Renewable Energy Infrastructure
Climate change is one of the most significant global concerns that has become increasingly visible in the last few decades. Rising global temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, loss of Arctic ice cover, and the displacement of human and environmental populations are some of the adverse impacts of climate change that threaten our planet’s health. While there is much debate around the causes and effects of climate change, what is clear is that reducing the harmful emissions associated with energy production is essential to mitigating its disastrous effects.
Renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydropower, offer an alternative to conventional energy sources that generate greenhouse gases. To reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released by traditional energy generation, and so slow down the harmful impacts of climate change, nations and businesses need to transition to renewable energy sources. This shift to renewable energy sources is dependent upon the development of renewable energy infrastructure.
Developing renewable energy infrastructure
Renewable energy infrastructure refers to the system of infrastructure components – such as land, equipment, and policies – required to convert, transmit, and store renewable energy for use on a local, regional, or national level. In order to tap into the potential of renewable energy sources, governments and businesses must invest in the infrastructure necessary to access, transport, and manage the utilizing renewable energy.
The development of renewable energy infrastructure is essential for driving the switch away from traditional energy sources and towards clean energy systems. As part of the infrastructure process, renewable energy resources need to be identified and located. Locations with abundant renewable energy sources are prioritized, and effective policies are needed to ensure that they are developed properly. Additionally, investment must be secured to finance and fund the necessary equipment and development of the renewable energy sites. Locating, permitting, and engineering clean energy sites can be lengthy and costly processes – all of which require thoughtful planning and the support of local communities, businesses and governments.
It’s also important to consider ongoing policy and technology innovation that can help to make renewable energy affordable and available. To ensure a successful transition, key stakeholders must be part of an organized and comprehensive plan to deploy renewable energy on a larger scale, as well as to secure the public’s trust in the transition.
Utilities and clean energy investments
Utilities are often central players in the process of developing renewable energy infrastructure. Recognizing the role they must play as traditional energy providers, utilities often lead the way in investing in long-term clean energy solutions.
In the US, many utilities are setting renewable energy goals and committing to exceed them. Xcel Energy, a major energy provider in the US, recently announced a commitment to reduce carbon emissions 100% by 2050, with an 80% reduction goal by 2030. This significant reduction will lead to increasing investments in solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro-power infrastructure. To achieve their ambitious targets, Xcel has announced plans to invest $25 billion dollars over the next 10 years in clean energy projects.
Other US based power companies, such as Duke Energy, are also taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. Duke has adopted a Clean Energy Vision, which includes an ambitious goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, and a 30% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. This plan includes investments in traditional and renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies, along with renewable energy infrastructure.
Government investments in renewable energy
In addition to private investment, government investment in renewable energy infrastructure is required to accelerate the global shift away from traditional energy sources. The US federal government has invested in a number of projects to spur innovation and development in the renewable energy sector.
In 2015, the US Congress passed the Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Act, which included a number of initiatives to promote the growth and adoption of clean energy sources. This included grants and funding for research and development of renewable energy generation, storage and distribution technologies, support for small businesses, tax incentives for individuals and businesses using renewable energy, and loan programs to help fund renewable energy projects.
The Department of Energy Renewable Energy Storage Initiative (RESI) is another example of federal investment in renewable energy infrastructure. Established in 2018, the RESI program includes grants and loans for renewable energy storage projects, including funding for research and development, as well as for projects that leverage existing infrastructure. The RESI program also provides incentives for states to develop policies that support private investment in renewable energy infrastructure.
Financing renewable energy infrastructure
The development of renewable energy infrastructure is often hindered by the high costs associated with these projects. To finance these large-scale energy projects, a range of capital sources – such as public, private and philanthropic – may be needed. Governments often provide incentives or subsidies to attract private funding for renewable energy projects, reduce the overall cost of projects, and make them more economically viable.
An increasingly popular way to finance renewable energy infrastructure is through green bonds. Primarily offered by governments and large companies, green bonds are used to fund projects that have a positive environmental impact, and may include the development of renewable energy projects. Governments, businesses, and organizations can also raise funds through crowdfunding and other online platforms, which can offer an accessible method of financing renewable energy infrastructure.
Public support for renewable energy
In addition to financial investments, public support is an essential factor in developing renewable energy infrastructure. As a powerful voice in the energy industry, citizens can drive change by voting for policies that promote renewable energy projects and programs, as well as by supporting businesses and organizations that are committed to transitioning away from traditional energy sources.
In addition to advocating for renewable energy, it’s important for citizens to take personal accountability for their consumption patterns and to use energy more efficiently. This includes purchasing renewable energy from your local energy provider and making energy efficiency changes in your home or business.
Climate change is a critical global concern that will require major changes in order to be addressed. As a major driver of environmental degradation, the switch to renewable energy is essential to improving the health and stability of our planet. Developing renewable energy infrastructure is at the heart of transitioning to clean energy sources, and requires investment from governments, businesses, and citizens alike. By committing to renewable energy and investing in clean energy infrastructure, we can move closer to a sustainable future.