What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is the energy generated from natural sources, that is constantly renewed. The most common examples include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and hydropower. Renewable energy is in contrast with non-renewable sources such as fossil fuels.

Short history of renewable energy

While renewable energy is often thought of as a new technology, harnessing nature’s power has long been used for heating, transportation, lighting, and more. Wind has powered boats to sail the seas and windmills to grind grain. The sun has provided warmth during the day and helped kindle fires to last into the evening. But over the past 500 years or so, humans increasingly turned to cheaper, dirtier energy sources such as coal and frocked gas. Now that we have increasingly innovative and less-expensive ways to capture and retain wind and solar energy, renewable energy is becoming a more important power source. The expansion of renewable energy is also happening at scales large and small, from rooftop solar panels on homes that can sell power back to the grid to giant offshore wind farms. Even some entire rural communities rely on renewable energy for heating and lighting.

Benefits of Renewable Energy Use

1. Improved public health

The air and water pollution emitted by coal and natural gas plants is linked with breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and a host of other serious problems. The pollution affects everyone: one Harvard University study estimated the life cycle costs and public health effects of coal to be an estimated $74.6 billion every year. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems generate electricity with no associated air pollution emissions. Geothermal systems emit some air pollutants, though total air emissions are generally much lower than those of coal- and natural gas-fired power plants. Also, wind and solar energy don`t require water to operate and thus do not pollute water resources or strain supplies by competing with agriculture, drinking water, or other important water needs. In contrast, fossil fuels can have a significant impact on water resources: both coal mining and natural gas drilling can pollute many sources of drinking water, and all thermal power plants, including those powered by coal, gas, and oil, withdraw and consume water for cooling.

2. Less global warming

Human activity is overloading our atmosphere with carbon dioxide and other global warming emissions. These gases act like a blanket, trapping heat. The result is a web of significant and harmful impacts, from stronger, more frequent storms, to drought, sea level rise, and extinction. Renewable electricity generation from biomass can have a wide range of global warming emissions depending on the resource and whether or not it is sustainably sourced and harvested.

3. Inexhaustible energy

Strong winds, sunny skies, abundant plant matter, heat from the earth, and fast-moving water can each provide a vast and constantly replenished supply of energy. A relatively small fraction of electricity currently comes from these sources, but that could change: studies have repeatedly shown that renewable energy can provide a significant share of future electricity needs, even after accounting for potential constraints.

Renewable energy law

Renewable energy law is a particular kind of energy law, and relates primarily to the transactional legal and policy issues that surround the development, implementation, and commercialization of renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind, geothermal and tidal. Renewable energy, (RE) law also relates to the land use, siting, and finance issues encountered by developers of renewable energy projects.

While renewable energy systems are better for the environment and produce less emissions than conventional energy sources, many of these sources still face difficulties in being deployed at a large scale including, technological barriers, high start-up capital costs, and intermittency challenges. Renewable energy projects can very easily soak up time and money – paying attention to some of the key legal issues can save on both.