Climate change is an important issue worldwide with many countries launching relentless campaigns to abate its effects. One solution that may slow down this phenomenon is by lowering the amount of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere that occurs when people burn fossil fuels such as coal, gas and oil. As an alternative to these sources, many industrial, commercial and residential properties are being encouraged to adopt renewable energy solutions.
Renewable energy is defined as usable energy that can be replenished. It is mainly derived from natural sources like the sun, wind, rivers, tides, hot springs and biomass. The types of renewable energy are solar energy, wind energy, hydro power, geothermal energy, biomass energy, and biofuels.
In 2015, only 12.5% of energy consumed worldwide came from renewable energy sources, a small number compared to almost 80% of energy sourced from fossil fuels.
Energy consumption in buildings is continuously rising on a global scale. In the UK alone, buildings are responsible for more than 40% of energy consumed. This has prompted the government to enforce regulations that aim to lower energy use, thus also lowering CO2 emissions.
Effective April 2018, non-domestic properties in the UK have to meet Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards. This initiative stipulates that buildings in England and Wales must have an Energy Performance Certificate or EPC rating of at least E, with A being the highest grade and G being the lowest. Because of this development, many property owners are exploring renewable energy in order to improve the energy efficiency in their buildings. While it is definitely a significant method to achieve sustainability, setting up a renewable energy source will of course have its advantages and disadvantages.
With only a minimal portion of global energy consumption being sourced from renewable sources, the potential in this sector is still very high. Property owners can take advantage of renewable energy solutions in their construction projects by employing sustainable building services that will offer solid recommendations on what solutions will deliver the maximum economic, social and environmental benefits.
Here are some of the major advantages of renewable energy.
Probably the best thing about renewable energy is that there is an infinite source. Since these types of energy are powered by natural sources in the environment, they will never ever run out. People can use renewable energy continuously and the source will replenish itself. For example, with solar energy, it does not matter how many solar panels are used in buildings or skyscrapers because there will be unlimited supply as long as the sun keeps on shining. This is what makes it sustainable.
Fossil fuel supply, on the other hand, is finite. This means that it will run out and will not last forever. As the term “fossil” implies, these fuels began to form hundreds of millions of years ago. With the rise of industrialisation and technology, man started to consume an incredible amount of the discovered fossil fuel sources in just over 200 years, compared to earlier years of civilisation that did not consume much of these fuels.
According to estimates, oil and gas reserves will run out by 2052, while coal will run out in 2088. Even if new reserves are discovered, they will not last forever, especially as newly discovered ones are much smaller than previously found.
The obvious positive effect of using renewable energy is to the environment. Renewable energy is clean energy with no direct impact to the Earth. The carbon emissions produced by solar and wind energy, the two most common sources of renewable energy in the UK, are amazingly low and insignificant. In contrast, excessive use of fossil fuels is the major cause of why the CO2 levels in the atmosphere is very high.
Applying a renewable energy solution is a great way to increase a property’s energy efficiency rating. For new and existing buildings, this will ensure that they will be able to meet minimum MEES requirements and could also benefit on an economic level.
According to a study, having a high EPC rating can increase a property’s value. Based on property prices in England, it has been found that there is a noticeable correlation between a stronger EPC rating and a higher property price. A property owner that raises its property rating from EPC G to A could potentially increase the value of the said property by as much as 14%.
The world’s supply of fossil fuels are only controlled by a handful of countries. This is the reason why these energy sources are so expensive. Renewable energy sources are total game changers because it can lead to energy independence.
For many buildings, electricity costs can amount to a large chunk of a property’s utility expenses. By self-generating electricity, these expenses can be converted into savings that can be routed to other areas. The cost of renewable energy is also more stable than fossil fuel costs. For example, solar panels normally last for more than 25 years which means owners can protect themselves from rising energy expenses for a lengthy period of time.
While very commendable, renewable energy is not without its disadvantages. These are often the bottlenecks that delay people from embracing this solution. While the positive effects greatly supersedes these disadvantages, it is still useful to discuss these factors. Here are two of the top roadblocks that are commonly encountered when it comes to renewable energy.
The technology required to generate renewable energy is typically more expensive than traditional generators. This is often a significant factor why many properties are still not actively implementing use of solar panels or wind turbines.
One unfortunate reality is that not all buildings can choose to make use of renewable energy as these sources tend to be location-specific. For example, installing solar panels requires ground or roof space with adequate sun exposure; while wind power usually only works in open areas that meet the required wind conditions.
There is still a long way to go in the global community’s effort to combat climate change. Implementing sustainable practices in the building and construction industry is just one way that can considerably make an impact. This can be achieved by adopting renewable energy options that can provide both financial and environmental benefits to society.