Renewable energies, also known as “green energies” or “clean energies”, are generated from unlimited natural sources, which are available with no time limit or replenish quicker than the proportion they are consumed. We are talking about:
- Solar energy
- Wind energy
- Hydro energy
- Tidal energy
- Geothermal energy.
- Biomass energy
We often speak of renewable energies as opposed to fossil fuel energies because fossil fuels’ stocks are limited and non-renewable in the human timescale. The most known examples of these resources are coal, oil or natural gas.
Renewable energy has many environmental and economic benefits when compared to fossil fuel energy. Clean energy can generate power that produces no greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, reduces air pollution, and diversifies energy supply, reducing dependence on imported fuels. But is renewable energy enough to achieve climate change targets?
RENEWABLE ENERGY VS CLIMATE CHANGE
According to Ellen MacArthur Foundation report, switching to renewable energy is crucial to address climate change. It can lead to a 55% reduction in greenhouse emissions, but it is not enough. The remaining 45% of emissions are generated by the way we make and use products, produce food and manage land. And although renewable energy underpins the circular economy transition to achieve targets on climate, we must change the way we design and use goods.
While the renewable energy sector grows with excellent perspectives, this doesn’t mean that clean energies have zero impact. Even though they have a much lower environmental impact than fossil fuels, there is still a fundamental technical barrier: energy storage.
As Dr Amrit Chandan, CEO of lithium-ion battery technology company Aceleron, explains: “Renewables are intermittent, meaning that they need the support of batteries to store clean energy for use when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing. Battery storage is vital.”
By 2030, there could be 11 million tonnes of lithium-ion battery waste from electric vehicles alone. These, combined with the growth of renewable energy for utilities and other battery-driven devices, add to a large and growing problem that needs to be addressed.
The way batteries are designed will define their environmental impact for generations to come. It is crucial to create a circular economy for batteries that prevent a solution to generate another ecological crisis in the form of e-waste.
Collaborations across industries and between businesses and policymakers are essential to ensure that batteries are used to their full potential and rethink battery ownership. Applying circular principles to batteries ensures valuable and finite materials like lithium are circulated in the economy, making the energy transition and meeting net zero emissions targets.
It might seem tricky and overwhelming how a solution can always pose another problem. But the circular economy is here to teach us that it is all about collaboration and collective effort.
*sources: Ellen MacArthur Foundation